Berger gendered looking relations

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  • In Ways of Seeing , a highly influential book based on a BBC television series, John Berger observed that ‘according to usage and conventions which are at last being questioned but have by no means been overcome - men act and women appear . Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at’ (Berger 1972, 45, 47). Berger argues that in European art from the Renaissance onwards women were depicted as being ‘aware of being seen by a [male] spectator’ ( ibid. , 49), Berger adds that at least from the seventeenth century, paintings of female nudes reflected the woman’s submission to ‘the owner of both woman and painting’ ( ibid. , 52). He noted that ‘almost all post-Renaissance European sexual imagery is frontal - either literally or metaphorically - because the sexual protagonist is the spectator-owner looking at it’ ( ibid. , 56). He advanced the idea that the realistic, ‘highly tactile’ depiction of things in oil paintings and later in colour photography (in particular where they were portrayed as ‘within touching distance’), represented a desire to possess the things (or the lifestyle) depicted ( ibid. , 83ff). This also applied to women depicted in this way ( ibid. , 92). Writing in 1972, Berger insisted that women were still ‘depicted in a different way to men - because the "ideal" spectator is always assumed to be male and the image of the woman is designed to flatter him’ ( ibid. , 64). In 1996 Jib Fowles still felt able to insist that ‘in advertising males gaze, and females are gazed at’ (Fowles 1996, 204). And Paul Messaris notes that female models in ads addressed to women ‘treat the lens as a substitute for the eye of an imaginary male onlooker,’ adding that ‘it could be argued that when women look at these ads, they are actually seeing themselves as a man might see them’ (Messaris 1997, 41). Such ads ‘appear to imply a male point of view, even though the intended viewer is often a woman. So the women who look at these ads are being invited to identify both with the person being viewed and with an implicit, opposite-sex viewer’ ( ibid. , 44). We may note that within this dominant representational tradition the spectator is typically assumed not simply to be male but also to be heterosexual, over the age of puberty and often also white .
  • modiglian
  • “ The implication of a male gaze was often depicted quite literally in the history of painting with a woman whose body is turned toward the (presumably male) viewer, but whose head is turned to gaze into a mirror.”
  • "Woman" is a creation of the masculine gaze. Before we can see how women thought of themselves and of their relations with men, we must find out how they were seen by men. The masculine conception of woman gave rise to idealizations and norms that strongly influenced the behavior of women, who lacked the power to challenge the male view of their sex.
  • Men look at the woman – she knows and enjoys it
  • Squeeze Here Please
  • Berger gendered looking relations

    1. 1. Gendered Looking Relations Gender Studies G205 Week 10 John Berger – Ways of Seeing
    2. 3. John Berger, Ways of Seeing (1972) <ul><li>Written by a British novelist, art critic, and painter </li></ul><ul><li>Based on a highly influential BBC mini-series </li></ul><ul><li>Examines the operation of ideology in Western art history and visual culture </li></ul>
    3. 4. John Berger on Gendered Looking Relations <ul><li>“ One might simplify this by saying: men act and women appear . Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object – and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.” (p. 47) </li></ul>
    4. 5. Ways of Seein g, Lecture <ul><li>In Ways of Seeing , a highly influential book based on a BBC television series, John Berger observed that ‘according to usage and conventions which are at last being questioned but have by no means been overcome - men act and women appear . Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at’ (Berger 1972, 45, 47). Berger argues that in European art from the Renaissance onwards women were depicted as being ‘aware of being seen by a [male] spectator’ ( ibid. , 49). </li></ul>
    5. 6. Ways of Seeing <ul><li>Berger adds that at least from the seventeenth century, paintings of female nudes reflected the woman’s submission to ‘the owner of both woman and painting’ ( ibid. , 52). He noted that ‘almost all post-Renaissance European sexual imagery is frontal - either literally or metaphorically - because the sexual protagonist is the spectator-owner looking at it’ ( ibid. , 56). He advanced the idea that the realistic, ‘highly tactile’ depiction of things in oil paintings and later in colour photography (in particular where they were portrayed as ‘within touching distance’), represented a desire to possess the things (or the lifestyle) depicted ( ibid. , 83ff). This also applied to women depicted in this way ( ibid. , 92). </li></ul>
    6. 7. Ways of Seeing, John Berger <ul><li>Writing in 1972, Berger insisted that women were still ‘depicted in a different way to men - because the &quot;ideal&quot; spectator is always assumed to be male and the image of the woman is designed to flatter him’ ( ibid. , 64). In 1996 Jib Fowles still felt able to insist that ‘in advertising males gaze, and females are gazed at’ (Fowles 1996, 204). And Paul Messaris notes that female models in ads addressed to women ‘treat the lens as a substitute for the eye of an imaginary male onlooker,’ adding that ‘it could be argued that when women look at these ads, they are actually seeing themselves as a man might see them’ (Messaris 1997, 41). Such ads ‘appear to imply a male point of view, even though the intended viewer is often a woman. So the women who look at these ads are being invited to identify both with the person being viewed and with an implicit, opposite-sex viewer’ ( ibid. , 44). </li></ul><ul><li>We may note that within this dominant representational tradition the spectator is typically assumed not simply to be male but also to be heterosexual, over the age of puberty and often also white . </li></ul>
    7. 10. The Naked vs. the Nude
    8. 11. Bronzino, Allegory of Time and Love (c. 1500s) and Hans von Aachen, Baccus, Ceres and Cupid (c. 1500s)
    9. 12. Courbet, Woman with a Parrot (1866)
    10. 13. Titian, Venus with a Mirror (c. 1555)
    11. 14. Tintoretto, Susanna and the Elders (c. 1555) and Thomas Hart Benton, Persephone (1938-39)
    12. 15. Rubens, The Judgment of Paris (c. 1638) and Miss America 2002: Katie Harman
    13. 16. The Gaze <ul><li>Common definition </li></ul><ul><li>to look or stare, often with eagerness, fantasy or desire </li></ul><ul><li>The Gaze in Visual Culture Studies </li></ul><ul><li>“ the gaze is not the act of looking itself, but the viewing relationship characteristic of a particular set of social circumstances ” (Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright) </li></ul><ul><li>“ to gaze implies more than to look at - it signifies a psychological relationship of power, in which the gazer is superior to the object of the gaze ” (Jonathon Schroeder) </li></ul><ul><li>Many types of “Gazes” </li></ul><ul><li>colonial, racial, gendered, medical, juridical </li></ul><ul><li>What links them together is notion that looking is not an “innocent” practice. </li></ul><ul><li>Through “looking,” people/groups/institutions exert power, claim possession, enact their gender and sexuality, gain pleasure, and live out un/conscious fantasy. </li></ul>
    14. 17. The Male Gaze

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