Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Male Gaze

The most surprising aspect of the male gaze for me, was that in our society it is hardly noticed, much less addressed. I most enjoyed the TED talk by Caroline Heldman, a presentation that emphasized objectified women in the media. Since social media and technology consume so much of our lives, advertisers easily target women on many different platforms like the internet and television. I think the biggest truth highlighted in her presentation was the idea of lies vs. reality. Not only is the role of a sex object not empowering, it is also unjustified. Perfect-bodied women are portrayed in the media as objects for sexual pleasure, an unrealistic way of thinking. Women do not have these flawless appearances and are not made to be objects that are acted upon by men. I couldn't help but ask myself why society has allowed this progression of sexual objectification towards women.

As Heldman later explains, both males and females are trained to view women in this degrading light. Sports nights and other prime time television often feature advertisements geared towards a male audience. In order to attract the attention required to fund such ads, advertisers put women in roles of objects to allow men to feel powerful and in control. Until this presentation and that of Ms. Struck, I had never truly noticed just how demeaning it is to be a women that is sexually objectified. At a young age girls are taught to accept this role and to serve their male counterparts in a sexual way. Portraying women as beer bottles, tables, and products in a vending machine rob women of their identities, personalities, and often times, even their faces. So how then do we empower young girls to choose any career and to be successful when they are not treated as equals in the movies they see and in the advertisements that clutter their news feeds? Laura Mulvey also highlighted the inequity in filmmaking by showing that women are proven to have fewer major roles. Women are greatly influenced by models and other females portrayed in the media and these objectifications are creating a harmful self image.

Ms. Struck summarized a small aspect of our nation's history: the role of women and how it has evolved. It was very interesting to me that women in historical artwork were portrayed as both virgins and sexual objects. Even though women were objectified long ago, it was not nearly to the extent of what we see now in the media. I was surprised that nobody mentioned the expectations of a female in the 19th century vs. now. Under the influence of the Catholic Church, many women were virgins until marriage and motherhood. Now it seems to me as though the expectations are reversed: if a woman is not sexually active at a young age she is often criticized. I believe this expectation goes hand-in-hand with sexual objectification. Women and girls are objectified for their bodies because the media portrays it as natural, and both women and men are accustomed to this role of women in society.

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