“Male Gaze”The “gaze” is a term that designates how viewers involve with visual media.Originating in film theory and criticism in the 1970s, the gaze discusses tohow we look at visual depictions. These include advertisements, televisionprograms and cinema. What is The Male Gaze Theory?As you just saw, a primary example of the male gaze takes place in themovie “Transformers” from 2007. In the scene actress Megan Fox is shown opening the front hood of a carwhile the cameraemphases in on her body, highlighting her curves.
The cameramoves up and down her body gradually and even shows her from the viewpoint offellow actor, Shia LaBeouf, as if each member of the audience was him. MeganFox is shown as nothing but a sexual body in this scene of the movie. The Male Gaze Theory is a concept used tostudy the way males view and objectify women to their own sexual desire. Themale gaze takes domicile when media reflects a patriarchy society in which theyuse women to provide a pleasurable visual experience for men (Mulvey,1975).
Another take on the theorysuggests that this male gaze view may be less about sex and less about actualhuman sexual activities, than it is about power; male power (Streeter, This isNot Sex).So What..
.One major problem in our society that certainly demands our attention isthe fact that women’s self-esteem is smashed by the gaze that this theory describes.Another issue that is a serious problem in our society is the dominant advantagethat men hold over women. The inferiority of women in today’s society remains aproblem that is only established further by continuing to allow and accept themale gaze. The ways in which women are portrayed in media is what frames theirroles in society today. By placing women in the positions they are dependablyput in today in all forms of media, their inferiority to men is made clear.They are seen as sexual items rather than true human beings. As they continueto be shown and noticed in this way, the self-esteem of many females willcontinue to be compromised.
As long as the male gaze remains a significant partof media and our society, so will the overall inferiority of women. How Does this Theory Explain MediaCommunication?The male gaze is a media statement theory that defines how media texts andvisuals are produced and consumed with a sexual represented portrayal of women.Most men are made to look powerful and in control. All women are made to looksubmissive and represented.
John Berger (1947) once said, “Men ‘act’ and women’appear’. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at,” (p. 47).
This quote has helped us understand exactly what the male gaze is. Forfeminists and women the male gaze can be thought of in three different ways.How men look at women, how women look at themselves and how women look at otherwomen. Western art holds a longtradition of these different ‘looks’ and it continues into modern advertising: inadvertisements and many different movie and T.V.
scenes. The disturbing partabout this theory is that not many people even know about it or what it is, andas audiences to these advertisements and films this gaze encourages males toobjectify women without even knowing they are doing it. Theorists Who Contributed to theMale Gaze The person to coin the term Male Gaze Theory was Laura Mulvey, who is aBritish feminist film theorist, in her 1975 essay, “Visual Pleasure andNarrative Cinema”. The essay emphases onhow Hollywood films reflect a patriarchal society in which men use women toprovide a pleasurable visual experience for themselves. These films portray women as objects ratherthan subjects of matter. When conductingthis study Mulvey identifies three perspectives from the films that function toobjectify women.
These looks include:first, the perspective of the male in the film and how he sees the femalecharacter, the second is the perspective of the audience as they see the femalein the film, and the third perspective is the male audience’s perspective onthe male. The third perspective is themost important because it allows the male audience to step into the shoes ofthe male character allowing them to observe the female as their own sex object,hence the male gaze.This narrative is structured around the masculine gaze. As one section of the article is titled Womanas Image, Man as Bearer of the Look” she discusses that the women in thesefilms are meant to be looked at and displayed as sexual objects within thisform of media which proves her third perspective. The women’s visual appealdistracts the development of the story line and as Budd Boetticher says:What counts is what the heroine provokes, or rather what sherepresents.
She is the one, or rather the loveor fear she motivates in the hero, or else the concern he impressions for her, whomakes him act the way he does. In herself the woman has not the slightest reputation. (Mulvey, 1975, p.11) This quote essentially defines the male gaze theory in terms of theobjectification of the women and the lack of status they portray in these filmsthat Mulvey examined. Like Mulvey, Erving Goffman was alternative theorist who examined the malegaze. Goffman however, concentrated on”reading Images” or in other words, advertisements (Bell and Millic, 2002,p.204). Goffman studied manyadvertisements and his main fight was that men and women are shown asparticipants in “hyper-ritualization” of everyday social scenes where thepeople portrayed in the ads were participating in what the media portrayed aseveryday social scenes, “the common denominator of which was femalesubordination” (Bell and Millic, 2002, p.
204). Goffman was far along quoted in Thomas Streeter’s online web essay inwhich he sums up the work of Goffman and other theorists. Streeter and a team of colleagues discussesGoffman’s main argument in which the male gaze is not just around sex or actualhuman performance but rather power.
Thisdiscussion of power led to the cant effect which was founded by Goffman, . Thecant effect is the way in which women often pose with their heads or bodiesslightly bent at an angle. Goffman privilegesthat the effects of cant is that the, “The resulting configurations can be readas an acceptance of subordination, an expression of integration,submissiveness, and appeasement,” (Goffman p.
46). Additional combination that is often added to cant is that the typical oractress puts a finger in or towards her mouth (Streeter, This is Not Sex). This gives the illusion that the women arechild-like. Another individual thatGoffman was fond of was the pose “recumbent position” (Streeter, Thisis Not Sex). The recumbent position is”one from which bodily defense of oneself can least well be initiated and henceone which renders one very dependent on the benignness of the surround…
Floorsalso are related with the less clean, less pure, less exalted parts of aroom-for example, the place to keep dogs” (Streeter, This is NotSex). More often than men you see womenposed in this position because this is a male dominant society. Goffman did a study called GenderAdvertisements in which he examined different advertisements to see theinfantalization of women. Goffmandistinguished six factors of ‘infantalization’ of women in ads which include:”relative size, the feminine touch, function ranking, the family, theritualization of subordination, and licensed withdrawal (Bell and Millic, 2002,p.
205). Relative size mentions to the extentof the females and the men in the advertisement; if the man appears larger oreven taller than women, it’s a sign of ‘infantalization’ (Bell and Millic,2002, p.204).
The feminine touch refersto the way in which women gently touch or caress objects in advertisementsversus men who are more likely to appear as grasping an object (Bell andMillic, 2002, p.204). When a man and awoman were doing a task together, men were usually the enforcer of the rolewhereas the women played more of a secondary role or if the task was more of afeminine role, the man would have no role at all (Bell and Millic, 2002,p.204). This example refers to thefunction position.
Family figuresportrayed in ads usually represented a ‘mother-daughter bond’ or a ‘father-sonbond’ in which the father-son bond was not as up close and personal as themother-daughter bond portrayed ads which refers to the family classifier (Belland Millic, 2002, p.204). Theritualization of subordination refers to women being portrayed as less seriousthan the men or being under ‘the physical care or safety of men’ (Bell andMillic, 2002, p.205).
And the last organizationis licensed withdrawal which refers to women in ads being given the chance towithdraw from the scene around them because they were under the care of a malewho acted as a additional parent. The defensivepresence of the male allows the women the license to withdraw from the scene (Belland Millic, 2002, p.205).
If women want power, they need to get that powerthrough the gaze of males. These classificationsmake women look helpless and subordinate which is why Goffman emphases more onthe notion of power rather than sex. These poses are overly-used that we barely even notice them anymore,even though they are exceptionally awkward and very unrealistic. This characteristics that Goffman, Streeter,Bell and Millic discuss in their studies brought new insights to media statementbecause it showed how dangerous and influential advertisements and films canbe. Both theorists of the male gaze as well as many of the others we have observed,all focus on the male main society in which women are a subordinatedgroup. Whether one sees a movie, acommercial, or an advertisement in a magazine, the male gaze is everywhere andthe ideas of a patriarchal society and what a woman ‘should’ look alike isbeing engraved into our brains and has desensitized us that this is thenorm. Critics 1975, several theorists have criticized the notion of the male gaze.
John Berger studied the male gaze as well butalso censured the theory by discussing, in his book Ways of Seeing, that mostwomen are responsive of being the object of the male gaze as he states, “Menact and women seem. Men look atwomen. Women watch themselves beinglooked at” (Berger, 1972, p.45). He usesthe example of old Renaissance paintings and how women were painted naked,exclusively for the male viewer and the women were fully aware of posing as asex object. This drives against Mulvey’sargument because as she describes that the gaze is detrimental to women’shealth or self-confidence; Berger argues that obviously women don’t carebecause they are fully alert of their actions. Miriam Hanson also critiques this theory in her article “Pleasure,Ambivalence, Identification: Valentino and Female Spectatorship” (1984) bymentioning that women are just as able as men to view males as objects ofsexual wishes.
In other words, this shouldn’tbe a problem because women are able to ignore the gaze and take a stand. The theory goes both ways, men will objectifywomen and women will objectify men. Another critique done by Bracha Ettinger on the other hand, proposes thematrixial gaze which is defined by “parallel psychic activity fused withneither subject nor object’ (GenderStudies, 2013).
This “trans-subjectivepsychic sphere” depends on a person’s values and experiences (Gender Studies,2013). Ettinger believes that the matrixis “not just to exchange an organ (penis) and its image for another (womb) butto conceive of an alternative to the phallus in terms of structure, mechanism,functions and logic (Gender studies, 2013, as qtd in Ettinger, 1997). Thisgaze appears masculinity with femininity and offers a gender-neutral gaze thatis not one sided and has a more symmetrical power relation.
We hear from some theorists who address the male gaze as males realizingwomen and viewing them as sexual desires for their preference. Then on the other hand, there are criticssaying that women are fully aware of this gaze and have the ability to ignoreit and others say that it is just as easy for women to portray men in themedia, only it’s not as well-known as the male gaze because of our male leadingsociety.How women are signified visuallyin Bollywood cinema.The films I will be focusing on in this study are: Dil To Pagal Ha (The Heart is Crazy) (1997)Mohabbatein (Love Stories) (2000)Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai (It’s My Friend’s Wedding) (2002)Mujhse Dosti Karoge! (Be My Friend) (2002)Hum Tum (You and I) (2004)Aaja Nachle (Come, Let’s Dance) (2007)Laga Chunari Mein Daag (My Veil is Stained) (2007)These films are ones which follow the traditional Bollywood (or any leadingcinema) formula, which is; exposition, development, complication, climax and determination.Bollywood films differ from traditional Hollywood in that there are songs topinpoint each change in narrative structure and to guide the development in anentertaining manner. They celebrate what Bollywood is seen as; a gala ofcolour, song and dance, and merriment. All of the films have happy endings andare what majority of the audience attending a screening of a Bollywood filmwould expect.The women in these films as seen in a viewing of the above films prior tothe start of the study are presented simply and in the manner in which mostcinemas deals with women and contain traits which are the generally acceptedcodes of femininity.
Throughout history, it has been articulated that”truly feminine women do not want careers, higher education, political rights…allthey had to do was devote their lives from earliest girlhood to finding ahusband and bearing children” (Friedan, 1963) and this is the premise offemininity this dissertation will be taking into consideration. In consideringthese films, I aim to provide an insight towards the way in which women arerepresented in majority of Bollywood films because it is generally seen asthough “it is the women who define the boundaries of ‘Indianness”(Sharpe, 2005:67).
I do know that this is not the case all the time and thereare films which do show women as being more than the woman as defined byFriedan. As depicted in fig. 1 (pg 1), the ideal Indian women has beenarticulated through film from the early days of Bollywood, and is one who haswhat is seen as truly feminine abilities,Inmovies like the James Bond Franchise the role of the female characters is significantwhen it comes to the exhibitionist aspect of the filmImages in complicated forms are presently dominating the world of culture,politics, and economy.
The marketing industry is at its greatest now, andcinema has become the most controlling and influential form of entertainment. Inthese two mediums of entertainment, different methods are applied for renderingparticular perspectives, among which one of the most important is the angle ofthe camera. It is the narrator’s vehicle to say and show what she /he wants.Here the question of gaze, more definitely the difference between the male andfemale gaze, comes in. It has been observed that the gaze through which thenarrative is presented in these narratives is basically male. Even in caseswhere the story is sympathetic towards a woman or simply has a direct feministangle, the gaze cannot be proclaimed as “female” since it resorts to theconventions and techniques used by the male gaze. However, the very idea ofgaze is directly connected to the concept of representation itself, somethingwhich is dependent on the norms and conventions of the culture of a particularsociety. Therefore, the question of the possibility of a “female gaze” becomesa complicated one.
“One shouldrefer to the massive sweep of the so-called “item songs” that are freshly beingseen in these films. These songs are visually extravagant, where both thelyrics and choreography are strongly sensuous. … These songs do not have muchconnection to the key plot, but are made to look essential by providing glamourand glitz at the cost of representing the female body”.In theadvertisement industry as well, the same male gaze is evident. Advertisementsthat we see on billboards or on the screen expansively use images of the humanbody, and, in most cases, the female body. Ads of beauty soaps, body lotions,fairness creams, and so on could be some of the best instances. For example, ifwe notice the very familiar and extensively known narrative of beauty soapslike Lux, we can see the voyeuristic basics at work. Lux is an internationalbrand and celebrities from Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot to Bollywoodactresses like Madhuri Dixit and Katrina Kaif made their appearances to promotethe brand.
In one of the ads, we see Katrina Kaif in the bathtub, soapingherself. She attracts the attention of the viewer with a kind of sensualitythat is attached to the actresses of mainstream cinema. Here, too, the viewerbecomes the voyeur who secretly watches the actress engaged in a privateactivity like bathing.A sensitive as wellas conscious viewer of cinema and advertisement must understand this politicsof gaze and react to it accordingly. Cinema is now one of the most powerfulforms of entertainment and also one of the most significant. As a result, whatwe see on screen matters on levels the directors and writers are not alwaysaware of. Therefore, there should be space for an active “female gaze” whichwould extend the vista and create new potentials for cinema by includingsubject matters that need to be addressed and that have long been ignored bymainstream media. Conclusion The media portrays women as sexual substances through many channels.
WhatLaura Mulvey explains through her male gaze theory is that women are the sexualitems that men view and take pleasure in doing so. She makes vibrant in hertheory that men are shown as greater to women in society because of the waywomen are watched at in the media. Fromthe ideas of Mulvey as well as others like Goffman, who examined male gaze in commercials,a common finding was interpreted: the predominant practice of sexualobjectification of women in media frames women’s roles in society.
Women areseen as and accepted as inferior to men in commercials, films, and all other classesof media. How can women be seen as anything but inferior and sexual when themedia alters so much of how we feel and act towards those around us? The Male Gaze Theory and studies that apply the theory to media as well asstudies that examine it in preparation are all important to the connectionbetween media, gender, and power in our society. It makes clear the imagepeople hold of females compared to males in today’s age, still. The sexualobjectification of women in media is clear, and its affects on society and allthose in it is explained by the findings of research done on the theory. Identifyingthat the Male Gaze Theory phenomenon is going on all around us is essential to educatingthe ways our society connects media, gender, and power.
Women don’t justify tobe seen and accepted as inferior to men. And by gathering and sharing thefindings of research done on male gaze, our society has the ability to betteritself.