What a Gaze!

Posted: August 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

The last and final article I have chosen to write a blog on is the one entitled “Through the looking Glass? Sexual Agency and Subjectification Online” by Feona Attwood. This article discusses the gazes in which women tend to be seen, while paying more attention to how they are seen through technology. However, what set s this article apart from other articles read in this class is that it does not necessarily place women in this whole victim role we have become so accustomed to seeing. In the article we are also introduced to Laura Mulvey’s work of narrative cinema which looks at how women on screen fulfill the needs and desires of the men in society; while at the same time looking at the ways women are automatically turned into objects of display when they are seen through these male gazes.

What I found to be the most interesting thing about this article was this whole idea of how women are seen as some sort of agents of change through pornographic sites. I found this to be interesting due to the fact that a majority of the time when we speak about women in this context it is often times associated with some form of negativity. As women we read articles and always talk about how women are subjected to sexual kinds of activity which ultimately strips them of their intelligence and their ability to be taken seriously by not only the men of society but by our fellow women. This article provides us with examples of how women are agents through online pornographic sites. Almost as if to say that we as women are not forced to be seen in the masculine gaze but that we choose to be seen in this gaze, not one that is sexual, but rather one that gives us power through something we tend to be degraded by; our sexuality and our ability to enjoy it in the same way that men do. Sites such as Altporn, Blue Blood, Gothic Sluts, NakkdNerds and Super Cult along with SuicideGirls are the sites that are mentioned in this article and in many ways come off as being sites that allow for the women who take part in them to be seen as agents. The one site that is mentioned in this article that I feel completely destroys this fight against women being hypersexualized was a site mentioned by the name of “EroticRed.com” which is also a porn site that features female models that come in all shapes in sizes on their period. While reading this, the one question that came to mind for me was how we as women can continue to complain about how we are not taken as seriously as we should be, when we have websites such as these that promotes women in nothing but a sexual manner? If something as natural as menstruation can be given some sort of sexual gaze who are we to complain that everything we do is sexualized? As mentioned in this article these sites are managed by women, so technically a complaint about how we are seen is invalid if fellow women see us in the same light that men do. Is the mere fact that these sites are run by women what sets them apart and suddenly makes this “gaze” one that can now be accepted?

I believe a perfect example of how the gaze is manipulated into looking like it is one that comes from a female perspective can be seen in the ever so popular show entitled “America’s next top model”. In this clip we are shown the contestants being judged by the way they walk, the way they talk, the way they dress and their overall ability to capture this essence of beauty these judges are looking for. It is my opinion that this show is one that attempts to get viewers thinking that they are looking at these wannabe models through the gaze of a highly respected female Tyra Banks. In actuality the beauty of these females is judged by a panel of judges who view beauty through what I believe is still the male gaze. I feel as though by placing a female (Tyra Banks) in this role of being “in charge” we as the viewers are less likely to think that a male gaze is one that exists on the show. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sP0CiZzlzUY

Karen A.

  1. There have been various debates and concerns in regards to women’s agency, sexuality and oppression. A main concern in particular is the notion of women being highly objectified or sexualized in the media or communication technologies. However, could this sexualization of women turn into a source of agency or power? Could we as women use our sexuality to our advantage? As Karen had discussed, this article had an interesting twist to it in illustrating the ways in which many women had used their sexuality to change certain discourses and also aid in awareness of certain causes. Marj Kibby argued that while the internet offers the opportunity of creating a genderless self, there are contexts of computer mediated communication where women seemed to be insisting on ‘their right to present a sense of self constituted, at least in part, through their experience of inhabiting a gendered, sexed body.’

    An organization that definitely stood out to me in the article was one called ‘Fuck for Forest.’ This is an ‘erotic non-profit organization’ that relies on members’ donated images and uses porn to ‘save the forests!’ I found it rather interesting how this organization used something that is usually seen as a disadvantage for women-being their sexuality-to their advantage. There are also many other sites that use such alternative takes on presenting sexuality and many of them are dominated or run by women. Some of these sites are spaces that challenge many feminist critiques of pornography being that porn subordinates women, makes them passive or objectified, or subjects them to conventional standards of beauty or norms. Many of the sites such as SuicideGirls eroticize ‘deviant’ femininity which challenge the dominant norms of femininity and could possibly give others a different outlook on femininity as it differs from the dominant, engraved norm that everyone hears about and presented its models as active and intelligent. Pin-up display is combined with models’ journal entries dealing with various issues such as sexual harrassment; discussion groups on feminism and women’s sexuality help change perceptions of women as being passive objects of a gaze when displaying their bodies, to actors, artists or activists. It is interesting how the article discusses the body as something that ‘is read, interpreted, concealed, and made meaningful’ in continuous processes of communication and social interactions. There are various ways in which the body can be interpreted or perceived by others through its ‘performance.’ Do you think that using women’s sexuality or specifically porn as a source of agency or power is a good thing or feel that this enhances or perpetuates negative perceptions or portrayals of women?

    Karen raised an interesting question when she asked if the gaze that primarily men see us in could be accepted due to the mere fact that many sites that represent women in a sexual way are managed by women. I am curious to know what other women think of this as a complaint on the portrayal of women could be viewed as invalid since some women see us in the same light that men do. I find that the views to this question could be all over the place as I see both positives and negatives coming from using sexuality to our advantage. It could be seen as a source of agency in raising awareness to certain phenomenon but I find that it could also perpetuate norms on women as just being sexual objects. I was rather confused with what I thought about it as I read the article to be quite honest. What do you guys think?

    -Mundeep Dhaliwal

  2. RE: What a Gaze!

    In Karen’s blog post about the “male gaze” and how women are seen sexual objects, I disagree that women are being degraded because of their sexuality. Women in the past history have always been forbidden to discuss or show any sexuality in public. For example, it used to be the social condemnation when a girl/woman is showing too much skin. Now we see girls and women baring more in public and we complain that they are dressing slutty. Although women have traditionally been used and seen as sexual objects for the male fantasy, I believe that now with the technologies that is accessible to women and girls, we have the ability to portray ourselves however we choose. We have the freedom and rights to flaunt our sexuality, whether online or in public as long as we are comfortable with it. These women that participate in sharing their sexuality are doing so on their own accord. No one is forcing them and they have the ability to stop if they wanted to. Even with the models on “America’s Next Top Models”, they are auditioning for a spot on the show because they want the fame and fortune. These women/girls do not go on the show just to be a male sexual fantasy, although they cannot help it if guys do drool over them. Many girls/women are proud to show their sexuality in public because they feel that they are controlling their body and images.

    I’ve attached a link to an article about the recent America’s Next Top Model’s cycle. One of the girls does not fit the typical pretty girl persona but was considered a frontrunner and a favourite among the judges.


    ~Tina V.

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