Understanding Visual Culture- Exercise 20- Gendering the Gaze

To begin with, we were asked to read Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema by Laura Mulvey in the course reader, making notes as we read.

I found the article really interesting to read and it made me think about why women often appear nude in paintings and photographs, this is something I have wondered about for quite some time as I feel that it is very one-sided in favour of the masculine. Once I had read the article, I realised that it is more about showing the passive nature of women as men are unable to bear this burden.

Once we had finished analysing the article, we were asked to watch the Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo and see how it “stands up” to Mulvey’s analysis. I found the film quite enjoyable and after reading Mulvey’s article, it helped me to understand and clearly see the points she raises.

  • when we first see Scottie interacting with a female character, Midge is very passive and tries to convince Scottie that he should settle down and live with his vertigo whereas Scottie is very determined that he will rid himself of it and looks at ways to do so. This links into the theory that women are very passive whereas men are very active.
  • Voyeurism Scottie follows Madeleine as he is instructed, however, he begins to enjoy following her and once she has died he obsessively watches and follows other women hoping to find one like Madeleine.
  • Fetishistic fascination- Due to Scottie’s obsession with Madeleine, when he meets Judy he pays for her to have new clothes, her hair dyed and made up to resemble Madeleine. Once he sees Judy in her completely new look, this arouses him.
  • Scopophilia (pleasure in looking)- This links in to one of my previous points that Scottie takes great pleasure in following Madeleine and watching Judy. As Mulvey describes at the extreme of this is obsessive voyeurs and peeping Toms. There are a few points within the film where Scottie is watching Madeleine (one example would be when she is in the flower shop) and the way he looks shows him as a peeping Tom.
  • Representation of women- Throughout the film, women are represented very glamorous, pure and perfect, almost like a vision of the perfect woman. They are also shown as very passive and open to persuasion.
  •  The gaze- Throughout the whole film we see things from Scottie’s perspective i.e. the male view of women as sexual objects. It is only when Judy has a flashback that we see a women’s view or perspective.
  • While reading Mulvey’s article, it made me think about the types of characters women are usually seen as. From my notes and compared with Vertigo, I found that there were some similarities i.e. the woman is the love interest, women are potentially the “bad guy”, they are used to derail or manipulate the hero and they need to be saved or rescued.

Our next task, was to look at the portrayal of women in contemporary black music videos. When I first started looking at this and looking for images to represent my points, I found this article from The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/aug/08/sexism-and-racism-permeate-music-videos-new-report  which I found very useful. I have decided to focus more on rappers music videos for ease. I found that in the videos and the lyrics of the songs women are often seen as sexual objects that come and go throughout daily life, much like Mulvey implies that in films women are merely a distraction to the main plotline and disappear once they have served their purpose. There is often an imbalance between the men and the women such as the women are mostly wearing next to nothing whereas the men are fully clothed and men are idolised for having numerous sexual partners or being surrounded by women whereas women are seen as having loose morals and are not to be associated with. Lastly, men discuss within the lyrics how they will dominate women and they have to accept it.

photo 2 photo 4 (1) photo 5

Lastly, we had to look at Manet’s Olympia and discuss the gaze and characters within and without the image. I think that this image is a stark contrast to the opinions of Mulvey. First and foremost, the image is geared towards a male audience. However, the woman lying has a number of items that identify her as a prostitute, thus making her the dominant person within the image and the woman behind, servant or maid, is very passive. The lying woman is very open with her body language and by looking directly at the viewer, she is almost trying to entice or tempt the viewer. As she is quite a dominant character, she is showing men what they can have but as a prostitute she has the final say as to who and when they can have her. The servant on the other hand almost fades into the background and is barely seen by the viewer which helps to add to the representation of her being passive. She also appears to be being ignored by the other character.




About kunsworthphotography

I am currently studying towards a BA (Hons) in Photography with OCA and I have 2 children, Evie(4 years old) and Connor(3 years old)
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One Response to Understanding Visual Culture- Exercise 20- Gendering the Gaze

  1. Pingback: Landscape- Exercise 4.4- Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men | kunsworthphotography's Blog

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