Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Male Gaze and Women in Film

            For me, the most interesting material of those we read and saw this week was the Ted talk by Caroline Heldman. What struck me most was the extensive list of the negative effects of self-objectification. The list’s range from lowered self-esteem to lower GPA was very interesting to me. It seemed clear that the objectification of women was having an enormously negative effect on women. I would be curious to see her research that supported her assertion that objectification had gone up since the 60s and 70s. From a purely anecdotal perspective, it seems that many outward expressions of sexism have gone down since the 60s and 70s, and I would be curious to see how objectification fits in with the greater theme. At the same time, I could see what she meant in the proliferation of ads and the need for advertisers to cut through the clutter by exaggerating previous advertising norms. I also found her list of the seven ways to identify sexual objectification very interesting and a useful sounding tool.
            Mrs. Struck’s presentation was also very interesting. I thought she made great use of art history to show the evolution or lack thereof of the presentation of women in art. Her descriptions of women as forced into the categories of slut, earth mother, and virgin was also very interesting to me. I can see that women are often forced into these categories, especially in shorter and/or older pieces of art, advertising, and literature. One possible reason for shorter pieces relying more on these images might be that it can allow the creator to easily establish a character with little to no real information.
            Finally, I did not particularly enjoy Laura Mulvey’s paper. While I agreed with many of her assertions, such as the idea that women are far less active than men in movies, I thought that she had very little empirical evidence. In article entirely about the portrayal of women in films, she cited only eight films and no other original research. Furthermore, what evidence she did have relied largely on the theories of Sigmund Freud. While Freud may have been brilliant, he was also a cocaine addict whose theories are often viewed as extraordinarily outdated and based on little empirical evidence. On the whole, I thought that these factors took away from Laura Mulvey’s greater points, which I generally agreed with. I certainly feel that women are too often sexualized and objectified in films, especially when compared with men. I also agreed with her point that the male gaze, and the male point of view, are often those adopted by society and entertainment as a whole, something that I cannot imagine is good for women. Overall, I found this set of articles and the presentation very interesting, if occasionally flawed.

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