Ways Of Seeing/The Male Gaze

The “male gaze” is the concept in which the white man–as the highest being on the social totem pole—looks at the woman and the woman being the object to be looked at, becomes the ideal of whatever the man wants her to be. This idea of the “male gaze” is most prominent in pop culture.

The invention of softwares such as Photoshop makes it that much easier for men to push for a specific image of the woman. The age of Kate Moss for example—that bonny, strung-out-on-drugs look—ran ramped in the 90s. “Heroin Chic” it was called, and within and without the fashion industry, this look was appealing to young women. The pushing of the idea that skinny women are more attractive than curvier women is an idea that we are still fighting this very day.

In ‘Ways of Seeing’ Berger uses the example of Adam and Eve realizing that they were naked after eating from the tree of knowledge. This example, among others, has been used for so long as a ploy to keep women subservient to men; it’s been used to make sure that women remain the object to be looked at and men to be the maker of that object.

Every once in a while, moments happen that remind me that we have a long way to go in our society. In a recent conversation with a friend of mine, I posed the question, “If you and your future wife are both working 9-5 shifts, and you get home at the same time, who is the one responsible for making dinner?”

“She is,” he nonchalantly replied.

“But why?” I pressed on, because in my mind, both parties would be coming home from a hard day at work, I saw no reason for the said wife to be the one who has to spend an additional hour or so on the stove.

“She’s the woman.” He simply replied. I then realized that no matter how far we think we have come, we still have a long way to go. The discussion turned into a two hour long debate, in which he pulled out the Bible and pointed out a famous verse which states wives are to be subservient to their husbands (Colossians 3:18).

While I am a devout Christian I feel as though this verse and many like it, have been used it to justify the exploitation of women. The nude painting, “Susannah & The Elders,” mentioned by Berger, is yet another biblical story which asserts that wrong or right, the male is to be the looker and the woman is to be looked at (Berger, pg.50).


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