The male gaze is easily identifiable. Walking down the street, a woman can feel eyes burning into her skin, as she is evaluated as an object. It is an act like a predator on prey. Laura Mulvey in her article “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” defines men’s love of watching women in film as “scopophelia.” They objectify the women on the screen, and sheltered by the darkness of the theatre can watch and interact as the spectator. (Mulvey 836) This gaze is a pervasive form of vision in popular culture as the gaze is easily fixed images (still or moving) and works of art as it could be on real live women. According to John Berger in his article “Ways of Seeing,” the classical nude paintings were created directly by males for the male gaze. (Berger 51) Bodies laid out in the most aesthetically pleasing manner, as well as facial expressions of total submissiveness attracted the spectator to the nude object, looking out of her painting into the real world. (55) Today, pornographic magazines and seductive advertisements lure in the male gaze the same way, continuing the divide between object and observer.
This music video is a prime example of media used to extract the male gaze. Robin Thicke is leering at the women in the video, however, the attention of the dancers is on the viewer, submissively bound to the sexuality of men, not themselves. Exactly the same scenario that Berges outlined in his article about painted nudes. His point about lack of body hair meaning lack of own sexual passion, rendering these women objects of the viewer’s own desire. (55) I personally noted when the smoke was blown in one of the model’s faces that was an expulsion of male sexuality, stemming from the cigarette ad, “blow in her face and she’ll follow you everywhere.” (http://witwisdom.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/ad-old-blow-smoke-in-her-face.jpg) Also the fact that there was no storyline for the women to follow, no role for them to play, literally being the object for the gaze illustrates why I think this is an important piece of modern media to analyze.
The oppositional gaze is the result of African American women being repressed from staring at a young age. It is a look that challenges the subject, their silencer, it looks at images, people and films more critically than the expected viewer. (Hooks 116) The oppositional gaze happens when one is viewing media not intended for their audience. An example of this would be when African Americans would watch the sitcom Amos ‘n Andy a racist portrayal of African American life in the 1950s. Intended for the pleasure of a Caucasian audience to laugh at black hijynx they are removed from. Being the butt of the joke forced African Americans to see the show through a critical lens, sparking a debate in the way each African American perceived each character. In particular the author found the character of Sapphire totally un-relatable while older women felt differently. (120) However, there was no relatability intended, as this show was designed for a totally removed white audience.
The oppositional gaze takes the fun out of watching films and removing oneself for them. Watching the white woman be the desired prize sought after time and again made African American women question their own value. (122-23) Completely losing oneself in film proved to be a good coping mechanism however, Hooks mentioned this reminding me of the immigrant culture of the early 1900s tradition of going to the movies to forget about their lives for a minute and get swept up in Hollywood’s fantastical films.Before these readings, I knew about a great deal about the male gaze, having been forced to be the object of it most days of my life. (The strangest was when wearing a down jacket over a down vest.) I found the Berger article fascinating as studying art history in school we never went into the reason for nudity. When he mentioned that women aren’t simply alone, but with an image of themselves in mind, that truly resonated with me. I remember doing laundry and not thinking of how to look nice for anyone in particular, but to look nice for myself, and to look perfect. It was the mental equivalent of being on my own reality show. These readings really enforce my perception that women’s products are advertised to men, and that this constant nudity is not a liberating nor feminist phenomena. Because of the readings I have now developed the oppositional gaze to the current media, although not removed from it demographically, I am able to critique and analyze what many would blindly ingest (and enjoy)