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(Lecture 9) The Media: is it important in shaping our ideas about gender?. general overview and introduction. how are gendered bodies depicted within the mass media? how might these images of bodies be ‘read’? ‘beauty myth’ – ideal look. lecture outline. the ‘male gaze’- Laura Mulvey
general overview and introduction how are gendered bodies depicted within the mass media? how might these images of bodies be ‘read’? ‘beauty myth’ – ideal look
lecture outline the ‘male gaze’- Laura Mulvey the ‘female gaze’ – e.g. Cagney & Lacey is the media all powerful? Image/beauty industry – e.g. Cher (Bordo) resistance: are bodies active or passive? doing gender: media reinforcement of practices of self care reading texts/bodies
the male gaze • Laura Mulvey (1975) - about cinema • scopophilia – ‘pleasure in looking’ • men look (active) and women are looked at (passive) • women learn to see themselves (& other women) as men see them - through male gaze • women sexually objectify themselves • can only get pleasure by identifying with the male point of view
critique of Mulvey’s thesis? (e.g. Chandler 2000; Betterton 1987) • Mulvey’s account too determinist? • reduces power relations to gender? • are women always passive – adopt the role of spectator? • idea of male spectator drawing on essentialist assumptions – homosexual spectators? • is the ‘gaze’ male?
‘female gaze’?(Gamman and Marshment 1988; Bonner et al 1992) possible for women to look from their own point of view? e.g. Cagney and Lacey; Sex & the City? disrupt dominant meanings, representations and narratives? e.g. ‘watching the detectives’ some argue female gaze – is limited – men still hold key positions in media-related employment?
is the media all powerful? (e.g. McCullagh 2002) media not only institution that produces & shapes meanings, discourses & images of/about gender – e.g. school, medicine, media increasingly important? hypodermic model – do we passively absorb messages? hyperreality (Baudrillard) – appearance & reality not distinct
image/beauty industry(e.g. Bordo in Kemp & Squires 1997: 451-455) image industry has connections to other institutions too e.g. medicine and cosmetic surgery women and their bodies – ‘creative agency’? process of normalisation – overshadowed by a ‘rhetoric of choice’ normalised body = THE body (hegemony)
Bordo – e.g. Cher(see also e.g. Wolf 1990; hooks 1992 –Ch.4; Gimlin 2002) cosmetic surgery – correct ‘beauty imperfections’? Anglo-Saxon beauty ideal? distinctive ‘ethnic’ features – redefined to approximate this ideal others emulate Cher’s looks – but are they all replicating THE beauty norm?
resistance: are bodies active or passive? (1) Foucault initially said that power/knowledge operates to make/on docile bodies ‘panoptic effect’ – shapes thinking and actions - self- regulate in light of norms says we can resist but how?
resistance: are bodies active or passive? (2) (see e.g. Howson 2005) • Foucault later (1988) said we have ‘techniques of the self’ expressed through active practices of care of self/bodies • shift of emphasis away from regulating bodies – towards agency e.g. consumerised - body maintenance – ‘body work’? (Featherstone 1991) - diet and exercise regimes – contradictory both docility and empowering? (e.g. Bordo 1993, Davis 1997)
doing gender: media reinforcement of practices of self care (1) (Epstein& Steinberg 1998) ‘normal’ ways of doing femininity and masculinity reinforced by social discourses and institutions – e.g. media e.g. Oprah Winfrey show – global audience – forum for marginalised groups to be heard? -‘American Dream’ – gendered? - ‘feminine’ means being beautiful, sexually available and caring for self - should be focused on bodily appearance - objectified and passive?
doing gender: media reinforcement of practices of self care (2) increasing care, display, sexualisation of male bodies (see e.g. Nixon 1997; Hall 1997 Ch.5 – ‘exhibiting masculinity’) new representations of masculinity/masculinities? are male bodies portrayed for women or other men to look at?
reading texts/bodies (1) • content analysis - what categories? e.g. ‘sporty’, ‘sexy’ • semiotics - science of signs (see e.g. Hall 1997) • signifier & signified, meaning, context, texts • how are women’s/men’s bodies portrayed? (see pictures – next two slides)
reading texts/bodies (2) • are alternative meanings of femininity/masculinity presented? • do these fall back into binary: feminine – masculine?
summary • critically considered the notion of a ‘male gaze’ and ‘female gaze’ • is ‘normality’ reinforced by representations of feminine and masculine bodies? • if so, how? • illusion of individual choice? • discipline self/body according to the norms of appearance portrayed for success? e.g. woman = passive, man = active?
summary • is resistance possible? • can women be represented as active and men as passive? • can this binary be avoided? • does the media present one (hegemonic) norm to follow? • are people slaves to what the media represents?