[Unit 10: Female Objectification] Initial Research

After a long week of stress, confusion and feeling so uninspired I took a few days of off trying to force a theme and to force ideas to be formed. I had a tutorial with my teacher which massively helped, she suggested multiple paths to explore within female objectification and gave me a few books to read. I lightly read those books to inform myself about the history of female art and researched online to broaden my knowledge about female objectification on the topics she suggested (the male gaze, etc). I now feel so inspired and have exciting ideas in my mind, I also have a slight idea of the direction I want to travel in and the topics I want to touch on.

The Male Gaze

“The male gaze is the way in which the visual arts and literature depict the world and women from a masculine point of view, presenting women as objects of male pleasure. The phrase male gaze was coined by feminist film critic Laura Mulvey in 1975.”

“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”

A lot of men think they have entitlement to all of the privileges to view and touch women, to discuss and exploit their bodies without consequence. Thinking that if you buy a woman a drink she owes you something.

MEDIA

[The term ‘male gaze’ originates from LAURA MULVERY’S essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”] In film women are typically shown as objects/prizes, rather than possessors like men – the camera is commonly from the male point of view.               JOHN BERGER studied the European Nude (magazine), and found the female is put on display directly to the viewer and almost always tailored to heterosexual male pleasure in mind.

The female also becomes part of what is being sold. The message (current and past), has always been “buy the product, get the girl” (for the men), or “buy the product, become the girl” (for women).                                                                                                                                   The male viewer is almost always the target audience. “Men do the looking and women are to be looked at.”                                                                                                                                   The gaze can be separated into three categories:

  1. How men look at women
  2. How women look at themselves
  3. How women look at other women

DISNEY PRINCESSES

The characters are created through the male gaze: small waists, revealing girly clothing, dolled up faces, polite and obedient, etc.                                                                                                   They’re only happy when they find a male and fall in love, highlighting how men are the root to women’s happiness.                                                                                                                           The men (princes), are portrayed as being brave and being the heroes (especially in older films), and women are shown as helpless and weak, waiting to be rescued – teaching young girls to not strive in life but to wait to be saved from their prince.

WOMEN OF COLOUR

Many felt unattractive and unworthy of a white male’s attention when they were younger. Develops from when white people had overriding power and black people were classed as property – blacks were denied their right to gaze.

Oppositional Gaze: a political rebellion and resistance against the repression of black people’s right to a gaze; this is how independent black cinemas developed.

SLUT SHAMING

“The action of fact of stigmatizing a woman for engaging in behaviour judged to be promiscuous or sexually provocative.” Being labelled a sexually out-of-control female. Men are congratulated on this kind of behaviour and women are shamed for it.

No matter what a woman wears it is assumed that those clothes are worn for the gazers. Women get evaluated and analysed depending on what she’s wearing: easy, snooty, bitch, etc.

  • Tart
  • Whore
  • Tramp
  • Prostitute
  • Hooker
  • Wench
  • Bitch
  • Floozy

People assume the woman (the ‘slut’), has low moral standards and would sleep with anyone and anything.                                                                                                                                   In the 1400s the word ‘slut’ referred to a woman who was dirty, untidy or generally disgusting. Another early term for ‘slut’ was kitchen maid.

DEROGATORY TERMS

Pussy                         

  • a general term for vagina, but also used against men to insult them saying they’re weak – nothing is more offensive to men than saying they’re anything relatively linked to women
  • male specific

Bitch

  • refers to a women who doesn’t know her place or is rude
  • an old insult
  • used on men to suggest weakness or girly behaviour
  • Old English term for female dog

Slut

  • tends to be only used against women
  • refers to a woman in modern day who has a lot of sexual partners

Cunt

  • a word so harsh 18th and 19th century writers referred to it as “the monosyllable”
  • another word for vagina but much harsher and fiercer
  • still regarded as the most shocking word in the English language

RECLAIMING DEROGATORY TERMS

“In sociology and cultural studies, re-appropriation or reclamation is the cultural process by which a group reclaims terms or artefacts that were previously used in a way disparaging of that group.”

EVE ENSLER’s vagina monologue “Reclaiming Cunt” spells out every letter and encourages the audience to see the word as beautiful, powerful and sexy rather than disgusting, degrading and ugly. In this performance, the audience were encouraged to chant the word back at her.

VOYERISM

“The practice of gaining sexual pleasure from watching others when they are naked or engaged in sexual activity.”                                                                                                                         “This is a practice in which an individual derives sexual pleasure from observing other people.”

The person observing the other does not directly interact with them, they also try to stay hidden. “up-skirting” is an act where a person looks under another’s clothing and gains sexual pleasure from it. “down-blousing” is an act of looking down a person’s top (typically when a person is bending over), and gaining sexual pleasure from it.

Main elements of voyeuristic behaviour:

  • Watching people through their windows
  • Viewing online videos/pictures of people/a person who don’t know they’re being looked at
  • Up-skirting/down-blousing
  • Webcam sites that watch unsuspecting/unaware people
  • Hidden cameras in people’s houses or public bathrooms

FREE THE NIPPLE

“Free the nipple is a global campaign of change, focused on the equality, empowerment and freedom of all human beings. Free the nipple has become a premiere voice for gender equality, utilizing all forms of modern media, to raise awareness and effect change on various social issues and injustices. We believe that all human beings are created equal.”

The mission behind free the nipple is to raise awareness and affect change in areas of the inequality of men and women that are still being experienced in the world today.                 In 2012 a feature film was titled “free the nipple” which followed Lina Esco and a small group of women in their effort to raise awareness on this issue. The film quickly sparked what has become an international movement that seeks equality, empowerment and freedom of all human beings.

Esmay Wagemans got around Instagram’s censorship rules by creating a latex cast of her chest a fabricating a top and posted a photograph of herself wearing it. “A great deal of my art projects are about the female body, so I had struggles promoting my projects online due to the naked censorship policy on Instagram and Facebook, I wanted to create a ‘problem-solving’ product which wouldn’t break the Instagram guidelines, but would still give me the opportunity to show the naked body. This is where we designed the first latex suit.”

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