There is merit to the point Laura Mulvey brings forth in her argument that the male gaze seeks, and gives pleasure to, women as icons to-be-looked-at as a symbolic presence, and that woman are bearers of the meaning and not necessarily makers of the meaning. As objects, rather than creators, women are, and more less always have been, at least from a cinematic perspective, targeted for an audience – men, which may even give meaning to the roots of their oppression.

In a world where women are simply ‘pleasure objects’ for men, the root of gaze means analyzing visual culture from an audience’s perspective. And it’s somewhat difficult to spot, especially for the untrained eye, because it’s been around longer than any of us.

I myself noticed the male gaze long before the term was brought to my attention, but discarded it as nothing more than societal norms, and not just here in Canada but everywhere I’ve travel – which is a fairly vast area. But why is this gazing the norm? Can we really blame it all on men and Hollywood, or are women equally responsible for our current state of affairs?

I realize some may not like the idea that women may need to take a look at themselves before jumping to the conclusion that the male gaze is the creation of and therefore the fault of men and only men, but what I’m getting at is something on a more personal note.

The other day a couple old friends of mine showed up out of the blue to visit. And after catching up and spending some time with one of their new daughters, they departed on a very casual note. But for reasons beyond me, since then one of them has been sending me nude photos – one after another. I have not been reciprocating or enticing her in any way shape or form, yet they continue to roll in. So, my question is: is this the product of a generation that has been raised to comply with men’s wants and desires, or on the flip side, are men the target of what women want? At this point, I’d settle for something in the middle.

Interesting enough to note is Jill Soloway’s female gaze. She begins by explaining things from the beginning – 5000 years ago; the roots of our roots, by bringing light to the book The Alphabet versus the Goddess and how our language was an invention of left-brained thinkers – men; which was specifically problematic to goddess culture, prioritizing male thinking while destroying goddess thinking. And thus, giving way to our current socio-economic civilization.

She suggests moving forward with a story about how an artist can not just be an artist, but must also be a politician; explaining that rich people don’t want to spend their money, so they must be convinced by a believable story about the art before they will buy a piece. What’s needed is awareness, not constant ongoing complaining about the way things are, but constructive forward thinking ideas to challenge conventional norms, and as more women begin to fill executive drivers seats – as lead decision-makers – printed and scripted material will change, and then so will the subconscious, at least within organizational settings.

This, however, requires deeper consideration, because we are not going to change the ways of the past by simply reversing the roles as if to say it’s now our turn with female gaze ads like this:

My mother is a midwife and informs me that many of the houses she visits the woman are the breadwinners, but also recognizes that the past is another story altogether. A friend of mine is also a stay at home dad, and although this is becoming more common and less of a taboo, the healing process is slow and sometimes it takes a while to see beyond the damage caused. Likewise, the pain can spill over to others who are not like-minded – the ally – and does no more than delay the healing process, because the revolution could be right in front of us but completely missed because of the tainted perspective.

So, rather than creating a new generation of gazers – both male and female – let’s be present in the moment. These images are only hitting the rewind or auto-replay button. yet, if we stay in the present we are open to new behaviors, and then when the shift does happen we will be ready for it instead of this pointing fingers that so many of us are all too tired of already.

2 Comments

  1. Sandee Tranfield

    I see it more as a lens as opposed to a gaze. And for who’s responsible, we’re all responsible. Our cultures are mainly patriarchal and we frame our essence around that patriarchal value system. The power over as evidenced in a few of the photos. To see a womyn in power doesn’t negate the attempt at inequality. But power over sells, and naked or half naked attractive people sell products, bottom line of the capitalist society we’ve created. To escape the singular gaze or lens either male or female, we need to eliminate this power over, power hungry and rework the system, for equality.
    As to the old friend sending you photos perhaps it’s because of a variety of reasons; societal expectations, as you said, “a product of a generation that has been raised to comply with man’s wants and desires”, or a desire to rekindle or commence a relationship, that holds promise to a young mother saddled with the demands of parenthood or perhaps you did lead her on,unintentionally by her interpretation of some communication exchanged.
    As you say, as womyn start to fill executive positions our print and scripted material will change but only if the womyn can facilitate the change by changing the patriarchal to matriarchal ways of thought. This is probably embedded in our collective consciousness we just need to let it surface and that may take some time or it may not as the world seems to be ready for a huge shift. The people want their power back and through taking their power back equality and understanding will become the norm and the processes may take longer but the decisions will be more beneficial to the people and not our capitalist society.
    The gaze or lens through which we see the world needs to consider the essence of beings as all being equal

    • you pack a lot of punch in your 3 paragraphs there. Well spoken words I might add.

      I really don’t think I was leading my friend on, and the fact that she arrived out of blue after years of no communication before sending nudes suggests more…I believe.

      The people do want their power back. Did you see the recent protest in Romania? 500,000 in attendance. Amazing. They’re all too tired of the greedy and controlling elite and they’ve had enough. Us westerners could and should learn a lot European nations. They seem to put up with a lot less and good on them for it.

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