Thursday, 31 October 2013


"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 themsleves being looked at" - Berger, 1972, Ways of Seeing

Women were said to bring around the gaze.

Hans Memling
'Vanity' 1484

The painting reflects the pleasure of the man painting a woman, but gives her a mirror to look at herself, concluding that it's okay to look at her. In 1485 there was a statue placed by the church reflecting women as witches, and showing that women could be killed for being so. This shows the position of women in society at the time.

Mirrors have been used in fashion photography too, showing the gaze. This gives us a position as a viewer to view the photo in which ever manner is deemed correct at the time, without any interruptions or uses.

Alexandre Cabanel 
'Bring on Venus' 

The subject here has no interference with her gaze. The position she is lying in shows the openness of her sexuality.

Sophie Dahl for YSL. The body positions here show reference to the two pantings above with sexuality, the gaze and the position of the hands. The way she is positioned leaves the audience gazing back at her. The image has been flipped to show different angles enhancing and reducing sexual appeal.


The subject was a prostitute opposed to a figure of feminity such as Venus. Manet is celebratng the powerful, female figure showing jewelrry on her hands and the position of her hands, which shows sexuality as well as modesty. The male figure shown is refleting her gaze.

'Le Grand Odalisque' 

The image below shows a body position reflected in an advert below. This shows a more modest view of the female body, which is replicated below, asking "do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum'?

Jeff Wall
'Picture for Women'

The male gaze is shown here whilst the women remains in a stationary position  By her looking at the mirror/camera it directs the gaze of the image whilst the male cuts into the image of the scene.

Coward, R.

The camera in contemporary media has been put to use an an extension of the male gaze at women on the street.

"The profusion of images which characterises contemporary society could be seen as an obsessive distancing of women"

- Objectification

In 1991, Eva Herzigova shows no gaze which means the viewer can look at her body. The first advert like this at the time, was placed on billboards and stopped traffic as a result.

Objectification can also be seen with male models and imagery. Often males are shown as asleep or with their eyes shut allowing us to gaze over him as a viewer. This is not as common as female objectification however has become popular with time.

There are examples where the male body is objectified in a similar way.
The issue of male objectification is often raised in gender classes that I have taught. I have heard many men and women suggest that men are now equally objectified in popular culture. Many a people have focused on the Lucky Vanos ads of years past as a sign of advertisers recognizing the desire of women to objectify men in our society. But what is really happening in advertising? Can men be objectified as women? If so, in what frequency is objectification present in ads? The Ads: Consider the number of ads presented in this male trope as compared to other examples of female objectification. It is interesting that when I first began the Web site many years ago, the number of ads in this exhibit were small. Today, there are nearly 60 such ads.
Dr Scott A Lucas (

Where did the gaze come from?

Laura Mulvey did not undertake empirical studies of actual filmgoers, but declared her intention to make ‘political use’ of Freudian psychoanalytic theory (in a version influenced by Jacques Lacan) in a study of cinematic spectatorship in narrative Hollywood cinema.

She found that when being filmed, certain parts of the female body were shot closer than others, reflecting the narrative and act as reactive and passive parts of the film.

Mulvey notes that Freud had referred to (infantile) scopophilia - the pleasure involved in looking at other people’s bodies as (particularly, erotic) objects. 
In the darkness of the cinema auditorium it is notable that one may look without being seen either by those on screen by other members of the audience. 
Mulvey argues that various features of cinema viewing conditions facilitate for the viewer both the voyeuristic process of objectification of female characters and also the narcissistic process of identification with an ‘ideal ego’ seen on the screen. She declares that in patriarchal society ‘pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female’ (Mulvey 1992, 27). 

Artemisia Gentileschi, 
"Judith Beheading Holofernes"
Featured in Griselda Pollocks 'Old Mistresses'
Much of her work is about making women recognised by repositioning the not o

Two women are trying to cut off a man's head on a bed. Artemisia Gentileschi's Judith Beheading Holofernes shows a famous Biblical assassination. The sword-woman is Judith, a Jewish lady. The other woman is her maid, Abra. Their victim is Holofernes, the Assyrian general.

Judith has got into his tent and got him deeply drunk. To judge from his naked body in the sheets and from her slipped dress, she's got him into bed too, before he passed out and they could get to work. Gentileschi pays attention to her story.

And now the drunk man has woken in the middle of their attack. Candlelight reveals the tight, desperate wrestling of limbs. Judith, she with the blade, is keeping herself at arm's length, partly, as her pursed, slightly averted face suggests, out of a revulsion from the disgusting though necessary job (how many heads has she cut off before?); partly to stay out of the fight, so far as this is possible, because both her hands are needed for leverage, grasping his head by the hair, pushing the blade through his neck.

Abra meanwhile tries to hold him down. Her calm and beautiful face is directly above him, looking straight down on to him. Her efficient hospital gestures restrain his thrashing body. They indicate her perfect managing indifference to this creature's battle for life. But both women are ruthless. Judith is disposing of a rat. Abra is drowning kittens.

There is plenty of sensation to enjoy, the blood-stained sheets, the flesh. But Gentileschi's emphasis is on how hard it is, how long it can take, to kill someone. She stresses the hows and difficulties. The strain and strength in Judith's parallel arms, driving the sword through spine and gristle, is evident. The visual confusion of plunging arms and gripping hands – whose is whose? – mimics Abra's trouble keeping control of the man, holding one arm down while another breaks free.

This violence, in other words, is violent. This outcome is clear, probably imminent, the cut is almost through, the head will come free. But that's not how the picture makes you feel. There is no sense of a clean gesture, a chop. They're in the thick of it, the carving blade still in the neck, their bodies tangled with his like lovers. The killers are intimately implicated in their murder.

This killing isn't pictured as a heroic deed, a sword raised to strike, a head raised as a trophy. It's an ongoing business, which never seems to end. Muori, dannato! Muori!, as Tosca cries in the opera: Die, damned one! And in this painting, the struggle continues.

Cindy Sherman, 1977-79

The photograph is taken more portrait than with the model laying down, creating a softer gaze with the body position, facial expression and with her hand raised up to the side of her face. No reflective gaze.
Barbra Kruger
Women artists whose work challenges the male gaze.

Reference to voilence, it's not violent but challenges the idea of looking at the female body with the word 'hit' being used.

Sarah Lucas
Eating a Banana

Reflecting the male gaze with sexuality and aggression.

Sarah Lucas
Self Portrait with Fried Eggs

Reflects the idea of the male gaze and being 'flat chested' opposed to looking overtly feminine.

Caroline Lucas was asked to stick to the dress code if she wished to continue the debate.

Green MP Caroline Lucas has been told to cover up a T-shirt displaying the slogan "No More Page Three" in large lettering during a Commons debate.
She wore the white T-shirt at the start of a debate on media sexism.
Chairman of the session, Labour's Jimmy Hood, interrupted her and told her to "put her jacket back on" and comply with Westminster's dress code.
Ms Lucas picked up a copy of The Sun and waved Page Three, but said she would comply with the ruling.
She added: "It does strike me as a certain irony that this T-shirt is regarded as an inappropriate thing to be wearing in this House, whereas apparently it is appropriate for this kind of newspaper to be available to buy in eight different outlets on the Palace of Westminster estate."
During the debate, the MP for Brighton Pavilion argued The Sun newspaper's Page Three, which features topless models, should be consigned to the "rubbish bin where it belongs". 

Lucy-Ann Holmes, who founded a campaign to end the publication of topless "Page 3 Girls" in The Sun newspaper last year, told the BBC that while she had also received death threats, she had not been subject to the level of "sustained attack" experienced by Ms Criado-Perez.

"I'd say it's a constant undercurrent, when women write about feminist issues or are exposed in a lot of media for speaking out about sexism they tend to get a barrage of abuse and threats," she said. (

Campaign to represent women on British Currency opposed to using Winston Churchill.

Elizabeth (Betsy) Fry (21 May 1780 – 12 October 1845), née Gurney, was an English prison reformer, social reformer and, as a Quaker, a Christian philanthropist. She has sometimes been referred to as the "angel of prisons".
Fry was a major driving force behind new legislation to make the treatment of prisoners more humane, and she was supported in her efforts by the reigning monarch. Since 2001, she has been depicted on the Bank of England £5 note.

Criado-Perez argued that as the Equality Act 2010 commits public institutions to end discrimination.

She received up to 50 threats a day via Twitter including threats to rape and murder.
Although she reported the abuse police lost evidence and she was forced to delete her account.

Caroline Criado-Perez (born 1984) is a British journalist and feminist activist. She has been involved in high profile campaigns for women to gain better representation in the British media.

Mary Beard- eminent classicist, The Guardian's Hadley Freeman, the Independent's Grace Dent and Time magazine's Catherine Mayer all said they had received identical bomb threats on Wednesday.

As a result they now use the 'report abuse button'

With the removal of Liz Fry from the British currency, it also appears women are trying to be pushed out of history. For example, above shows the British win which everyone was waiting for, whilst a female won several years ago (seen below).

Social Networking is used to perpetuate the male gaze/ the gaze of the media. 

The body is broken into fragments-could be any female.

Plays on teenagers body consciousness, potentially carrying those  perceptions into adult life.

Socia Networking allows the male gaze to form opinion and force on the women of today's society.

Facebook normalises voyeurism.
Male or female posting doesn’t matter.
One hundred and 93 thousand young people ‘like’ or relate to this image.
Media and male gaze are one , as Rosalind Coward says in ‘The Look’

Paparazzi images steal shots for personal financial gain.
The publication of these shots creates a market for their passive consumption (mags and newspapers).
We contribute to the perpetuation of this cycle buy buying the mags, we create the market for our own voyeuristic pleasure.
Our desire is to see the mask of celebrity lifted, and ordinary life exposed.. This is thought to be what ultimately what killed Princess Diana.

Everything which happens to the character of Truman, proves to be a scam, and a set-up, staged to show his life as he grows up. 

Big Brother and other reality-style shows, reflect the gaze in the wort way possible, showing ourselves as the peeping tom. Encapsulates the way men and women want to be looked at due to the gaze.

Male females to gaze upon.
Chair is designed for maximum exposure
Voyeurism becomes everyday
Original idea was that all would be exposed but ten years on we accept that the programme is edited.
Fantasy that they cannot see us but they are constantly picturing themselves, in mirrors etc and speculating about how the public wil percieve them (they are professionally aware of this)
They know the premise of the show and the viewing figures.
They effuse to be looked at ness.
Ultimate passive viewing experience.  

From Thinking Photography.
As the next generation of image makers, the power of representation lies with you. Alternatives /challenges to the Gaze.