The “Male Gaze” and “The Oppositional Gaze”

The gaze is an engendered way of seeing. The gaze creates a sense of anxiety which comes with the idea that one can be viewed. this implies that the subject loses a degree of power upon realizing that he or she is a visible object.

The “male gaze” on the other hand, is the objectification of the female by the heterosexual male. This gaze is very often  portrayed in Hollywood films and various forms of advertisement across media, where the heterosexual male has total control of the camera and the female is objectified. This gaze also occurs when the audience is able to view the male’s perspective from his camera placement on the female’s body, for example a shot showing her cleavage or other body parts that will show the woman as an object of desire or fantasy for both the characters in the film as well as the audience. Laura Mulvey in her article, states that the man emerges as the dominant power within the created film fantasy while the woman is passive to the active gaze from the man. Women constantly struggles with her role or function and has to adjust to the way she is viewed,since according to Laura Mulvey women look at themselves through the eyes of men.

According to Belhook, the oppositional gaze is the ability to manipulate one’s gaze in the face of structures of domination that would contain it and open up the possibility of agency. The gaze has been a site of resistance for colonized black people globally. The oppositional gaze developed out of the attempt to repress black people’s right to gaze. This repression created an overwhelming desire in blacks to look, and to be rebellious and defiant in their gaze. The gaze also developed  in the black women were portrayed in films like Amos and Andy. She became the scapegoat in order to soften the image of the black man. She was seen in a negative light , which was funny to all expect women who could identify with that portrayal. The oppositional gaze developed so that women wouldn’t feel ashamed but could look and scrutinize whatever material boldly and critically without being fearful.

Media’s portrayal of women of color, still create the need for the oppositional gaze. One would think that over time society would have changed dramatically eliminating the stereotypes that shows black women as less that the even average white woman. The portrayal of women of color as video” vixens” and maids are very deliberate choices. This has heightened an awareness in me as a woman of color, and has caused me to realize that the oppositional still exist and will not go anywhere anytime soon.


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