Thursday, September 19, 2013

I always feel like somebody's watching me

What is the male gaze, you ask?

There ya go.

The male gaze is Mr. Thicke telling you that you're a good girl, and he knows you want it. It's the otherwise unassuming man on the corner hollering at you to smile. The gaze makes humans into hyper-self-concious objects. "Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at....a woman is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself." (Berger,46)

They say it's a man's world; and the mainstream media definitely subscribes to that ideal. Laura Mulvey introduces the "sexually imbalanced" dynamic of the active male/passive female in media. She argues that woman are to be looked at and displayed for strong visual and erotic impact, ultimately working against the story line of a film. This is because men are the ones behind the camera, and in the seats of the theatre. It's being made by men, sold to men.  The woman on screen serves as as "erotic object for the characters with the story...and for the spectator within the auditorium."(Mulvey,838) 
Man is, as Mulvey describes it, the "bearer of the look."

This all ready damaging gaze only gets worse when it comes to race. Bell hooks argues that there has been a "violent erasure of black womanhood" in cinema. (Hooks, 119) On top of all ready catering to a male gaze, mainstream media make it a priority to nurture the white gaze as well. In popular media, black women, if represented at all, are depicted as undesirable, and inferior. Hooks wants black women to see past this and not accept the stereotypes that black women are confined to. 

The male gaze does not only live in media, it lives in the streets, homes, schools; the list goes on. Berger writes "to be born a women has been to be born, within an allotted and confined space, into the keeping of men." Unwelcomed catcalls, stares, even physical aggression is something that women have to deal with on a daily basis. And as we discussed in class, rarely does it actually enhance confidence, contrary to most mens delusion. In mine and many women's experience it only causes a hyper awareness and consciousness of your exterior. It's a constant reminder that theres a watchful eye on us, and it's unsettling. 


This interview with actor Dustin Hoffman struck a chord with me when I first saw it. It's a man basically having an epiphany, coming the closest he can to understanding the pressure and objectification women have to face for just being born women. He walked in a women's shoes, literally, and felt the weight and scrutiny of the male gaze, which he himself had been an active participator in. 

“You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female’.”

 -Erin McKean


  1. That video is pretty good. It's unfortunate that "walking a mile" is what it takes to realize what it's like to be treated like a woman. Unfortunately, I don't know that I agree with his idea of being "born" as a woman since it's very cis-centric.

  2. Gotta love Dustin Hoffman. Also I absolutely hate that Robin Thyck song. Same goes for that Daftpunk/ Pharrell song "up all night". It erks me when they come on the radio or i hear people signing them, especially kids.

    1. I think lyrics need to be owned or perhaps questioned to fit ones point of view. I personally like The Pharrell song and its intention.

      At first he is suggestive and perhaps sexual but is objectifying or classifying?

      She's up all night to the sun
      I'm up all night to get some
      She's up all night for good fun
      I'm up all night to get lucky

      Then he combines both genders as a union of sexual innuendoes:

      We're up all night to the sun
      We're up all night to get some
      We're up all night for good fun
      We're up all night to get lucky (x5)

      Can we own our sexuality ?