Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Inverted Male Gaze

Cover of 'Men's Health' Magazine

What happens when the Male Gaze is inverted? According to ‘Negotiating masculinities: Advertising and the Inversion of the Male Gaze’, lifestyle magazine advertising has caused men to gaze upon images of their own bodies. This is a crucial element to this subject as it is incredibly current. The importance of male beauty is rapidly increasing, it is not just women being judged by their appearance. 

The Male Gaze in Fine Art

"Judgement of Paris" by Ivo Saliger

The Male Gaze Theory was coined around 1975, however Western fine art for hundreds of years has portrayed men as viewers and women as viewed.

The Male Gaze in Advertising

Pictures of women in poses compared to men in the same poses, appear completely different. Women being more attractive to the viewer. In Western cultures it is normal for women to be pictured  in poses that would seem odd if posed by men.  Women are often posed tilting their heads or bodies. Does this suggest submissiveness? Poses often include putting a finger to a mouth or touching the face in a childlike way. Is this a mild form of pedophilia? Does advertising condone the perversions of pedophilia? 

Very accomplished women will strike submissive poses. Something that would not happen with men. Are they demonstrating their control over the gaze? Are they just trying to appear feminine and attractive? What is 'feminine'? 

Victoria Beckham in a Marc Jacobs advertisement 

“Most women make less money and have less power than most men, and the message that goes out to women without power is that to got some, you need to gain control of a male view of women - which means to get power through male power, rather than your own” (Callender, Chipetz, Hintlian and Streeter, 2005, online)

Does the Male Gaze in advertising reinforce unbalanced male chauvinistic view of women as sex objects? Young beautiful women are used, even when advertising products that are for a mixed gender consumer group. Do advertisements that stereotype women using unusually beautiful models, uphold a male chauvinistic system? Does this lead to women competing against women for sexual power? 

Jimmy Choo Advertisement 

“Men ‘act’ and women ‘appear’. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.” (Berger, 1977, p.47) 

It can be argued that a models’ beauty does not undermine their intellectual capacity and the use of female models empowers women. High-profile models represent a successful role model which other women wish to emulate. Also because the media focus and immense effort on portraying women in a certain light shows how important women as consumers are. 

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Reasons for the Shift in Male Gaze

So what are the reasons for this change in Male Gaze that I have highlighted in my previous posts. Does this shift appeal because of simple, direct emotions that are easy to predict in the audience reaction? Following the idea that sexuality sells, does having Angelina Jolie in a movie guarantee people will pay to go see it? 

When seeing Jolie a viewer (typically a heterosexual male) will react immediately in lust. This is a pure desire for the sexual act and is temporary. Contrasting this, a viewer seeing Bacall will be inspired in a complex way depending on the context and their experiences and ideas.

People in society today seem to be insecure and require constant reassurance and self-reinforcement. They do not like change, possibly they think there is nothing there to change.  So is lusting attractive as it is self-reassuring in a way?

Angelina Jolie exuding lust

Opposite to this, falling in love with a beautiful, complex woman like Lauren Bacall, risks change as the audience develops a kind of relationship with her.

Do people now avoid change? Does society prefer simplicity? Lusting at a sexual image requires little thought and imagination. On the other hand being devoted to a woman like Lauren Bacall invokes thought and possible want to change. 

Soft porn invokes a simple, disposable emotion and reinforces the viewer’s sense of self.

However, is this the male genders actual desire? 

The Shift from Sexy to Sexual

Looking at Lauren Bacall, pictured in the previous post, I can see she is fully covered but making an impact. She is beautiful and her expression is of promise. She oozes sex appeal and inspires love and devotion. The viewer grows a significant attachment to her. The audience is able to fall in love with her from seeing her films, and she can inspire the transformation of the self.

Leading on from this, I have looked at the below image of Angelina Jolie. 

Angelina Jolie

Jolie has cleavage and looks attractive. However, in this image she has a vapidity about her, meaning the viewer has no emotional reaction at any level besides lust. There is little or no emotional involvement with the audience.  

The male gaze on these two women is completely different. On Bacall the gaze is focused on a complex woman, with complex emotions who promises a lifetime of potential interaction and emotional fulfillment.  

The gaze on Jolie pays attention only to the explicitly sexual aspect of women. Ignoring personality, promise, complexity and beauty. 

This shows a shift from sexy to sexual.

Monday, 5 December 2011

The Fall of the Pin-up Girl

I aim to commence this blog researching "The Fall of the Pin-up Girl", over a series of posts sharing my views and opinions. This is a topic that extends far beyond “Pin-up” culture and could more appropriately be named The Rise in Affirmation of the Self.

Firstly so there is no confusion, what do I mean when I say pin-up? Simply a girl or woman whose glamorous qualities make her a suitable subject to be gazed at.
It appears the male gaze in general, has seen a massive change over the past 15-20 years. I have grown up seeing “Top Shelf” soft porn in shops, hyper-realistic pictures of women and highly sexualised female celebrities. Yet whilst maturing I have read about and watched movies starring the most beautiful and sexy women in the 1940s and 1950s. It is obvious there is a substantial shift in male gaze between the two.


Lauren Bacall