Saturday, September 21, 2013

Gazing Away

John Berger writes in 'Ways of Seeing' published almost 40 years ago, "Men act, and Women appear." He goes on to say "men watch women, women watch themselves being looked at." Words that stand true even today, and now with media available to everyone, is more evident than ever. Throughout my life, I've always noticed scenes in movies, commercial, and music videos that just had females standing around, barely clothed, doing absolutely nothing. One specific example of this in recent memory is, "We Fly High" by Jim Jones. We all know that Hip-Hop is notorious for objectifying women, but this video sticks out to me, because is features the artist doing push-ups with a model on his back. I believe this is the most literal translation of Berger's quote, she is being used as an inanimate object.

Women watching themselves being looked at is more evident than ever with Social Media today. If you want an example of women objectifying themselves, just do a simple search on Instagram. Anything from #selfie or #goodnight to #sneakerhead will bring up pictures like the one seen below. This is a direct result of Hollywood's influence on the minds of women.

As stated in Laura Mulvey's 'Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema' women are traditionally displayed as an erotic object for the character or an erotic object for the audience. The picture above is a perfect example of this, outside of Hollywood. Whether the woman in the picture wanted to show off her sneakers, or wanted to let her followers know she was going to sleep, the picture does nothing more than submit her body to the male gaze. Because no one goes to sleep in sneakers, or puts their sneakers on first.

When Bell Hooks writes about the male gaze in 'Oppositional Gaze,' she highlights the difficulties of this especially for women of color. She mentions that the first black actors and actresses had such a light complexion that many of the white viewers didn't realize they were black. Although we have made strides towards color equality since this was published, some of these traits are evident today. J. Cole said in a recent interview'

 "Barack Obama would not be President if he were dark skin. You know what I mean? That’s just the truth.  I might not be as successful as I am now if I was dark skin."
A statement like this is hard to argue, when you compare the successes of lighter skinned actors and musicians versus those of a darker tone. The most successful African-American musician, Beyonce, has a lighter complexion than some of the white people I know. And in Hollywood, the light skinned Halle Berry was the first woman of color to win Best Actress for a movie which was arguable more popular for her sex than the actual story line. Jadakiss asks in his 2004 hit, "Why did Halle have to let a white man pop her to get an oscar? " Because the male gaze controls so much of what we see and what we like, thats why.

1 comment:

  1. I think it's interesting that you mention women objectifying themselves. I definitely agree that many women subscribe to patriarchy without even knowing it. But on the other side of it you could argue that women are exhibiting sexual agency and choosing to do whatever they want with their body. If a women is making an active choice to display herself in a sexual manner is it still objectification? It's definitely an important conversation to have.