Sunday, September 22, 2013

Intentions Behind the Stare

          Humans classify and objectifies the different things they see in order to differentiate the dissimilarities between them.  And a gaze is a signal of action of one's desires upon the targeted object; the male gaze is an engendered form of the gaze that views from a phallocentric perspective that objectives women as a "sight" (Berger) pertaining to the "primal scene" (Mulvey).  I believe not only the male gaze has become pervasive in popular culture, but any intent look at women from a man as well, due to how the mass media has portrayed the male perspective when viewing women.
          In order to understand the reason behind the shared circumstance between a general gaze and the male gaze in popular culture, it is necessary to comprehend the constituent elements that defines a gaze.  A gaze is intrusive because of its power of conveying a desire is placed upon the stared object, but the desire itself is not what makes the surveyed anxious, it is the intention behind the desire.  Humans fear uncertainties and the unknowns, and when the intention of the stare is obscured, the one being inspected becomes indeterminate of the proper response to follow.  The severity of intrusiveness of a gaze is determined by the "promise of power" that the gazer "embodies", hence the difference between the degree of offensiveness when gazed by a child and an adult (Berger).  The credibility of a child fulfilling the intention behind the gaze is low compared to an adult.
          The male gaze has become pervasive in popular culture because it has become the prevalent perspective for viewers in the mass media originated from a patriarchal society.  In order for men to classify and accept women in a patriarchal society, they must "confront" the differences in the female sex or establish a "fetish" for them; in which the popular culture has proceeded with the latter (Mulvey).  This enables agencies to take advantage and further their own agendas through the usage of the media by appealing to the fetish with the male gaze.  Despite the differences between an indiscriminate gaze and the male gaze, the effect on women has become the same when the male gaze became cognizant in the mass media.  With the male gaze becoming the normalcy in movies, games, magazines, etc, it has also become the base case for men's gaze on women.  With the intention of the gaze unclear, women subconsciously interpret the intention behind the stare the same as of the male gaze because of the amount of exposure they are surrounded with it.
          The oppositional gaze is another form of a gaze but with the intention made clear: "resistance, challenges to authority" (Hooks).  The oppositional gaze was developed due to "racial negation" and "cinema negation" of African American women in the media (Hooks).  Oppressed by white supremacy, African Americans dared not to stare back at white people for they were punished for showing signs of defiance towards the ruling class.  However, with the access to cinemas, African Americans had the privilege of staring at white people without the fear of penalty.  Although changes began to occur in racial power structures, the absence of representation and connectivity of black women in the media stirred public awareness.  Awareness that eventually led to the oppositional gaze of black women by viewing the media, but refusing to "identify" with the women being portrayed with neither a victimized or perpetrator's perspective.  Doing so undermines the power constructs of the media has over black women since the media's sphere of influence only affects those that identify with whatever the media illustrates.
          With new methods of exhibiting power for women such as the oppositional gaze arise, the power distribution between genders changes.  The property of the male gaze is no longer engendered, which females also have the privilege of becoming the "active" instead of remaining the "passive" (Mulvey).  Men are also objectified as an object of sight in today's society and these growth of social constructs also expands the boundaries in which the mass media can take advantage and exercise their influence.  It is imperative to view the media created by agencies critically lest we become subservient to manipulations that only conforms to their designs.

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