Gender identity and Representation
Notes from the lecture
In this lecture we have begun to delve deeper into the understanding of gender, how it is represented in media and the change in gender roles over time. It is important to understand, when discussing gender, that: someone's 'sex' refers to the characteristics that are biologically defined, whereas someone's 'gender' is based on socially constructed features. It is widely recognise that there are variations in how people experience gender based upon self-perception and expression. Non-binary refers to a spectrum of identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine, and the term Transgender or trans is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned at birth.
Laura Mulvey Reading
Conduct a review of Laura Mulvey’s essay – Visual Pleasure & Narrative Cinema. Key points?
If you can point to the critical 'framework' that she uses, pull out some of her key arguments (and limitations) then you are doing well.
Laura Mulvey - My review
Within this essay Laura Mulvey discusses women's role in 'Hollywood cinema', it is important to note that at the time of writing, there were no female directors and the majority of people on a film crew were male, as well as the target audience being men - it was a very patriarchal time.
Mulvey begins her essay by discussing 'The paradox of Phallocentricism', this is the ideology that the male sex organ is the central element of the social world and a symbol of male dominance. I think one of Mulvey's limitations in this piece is referring to 'the castrated woman' as this links to Freuds opinion that women are envious of the male sex organ and wish they had one. However, the actual word 'phallocentricism' was coined by the welsh psychoanalyst Alfred Ernest Jones, who even though a friend of Freud, disagreed with his theory and argued that his belief of women being envious of the male sex organ revealed more about Frued's 'penis based paranoia' than it did about women's so called 'penis envy'.
However, it can be inferred from Mulvey's writing that because a woman lacks a penis she must make up for the fact and spend her whole life being an object for men to project their fantasises on to. This is where the 'male gaze' comes in, in film the male gaze occurs when the audience 'sees a woman' from the perspective of the heterosexual male. The camera will purposefully zoom in on the curves of a woman's body, breaking it up into segments and the scene will be set in slow motion. This is to emphasize that she is only the sum of her sexualized parts. Furthering the dehumanization of women, denying them individual identity and relegating them to the status of objects to be admired only for their physical appearance. Although the woman's appearance in film is vital, she has no real importance, her only addition to the story line is how she makes a man act or feel. Mulvey argues, that this behaviour, presented through film, encourages women to objectify other women through the eyes of a male. This links to the quote from John Berger's 'Ways of seeing', "Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The Surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed is female. Thus she turns herself into an object of vision: a sight." The males gaze theory links to the hegemonic ideology, which is a political or social dominance within our society and therefore, for a woman to survive in that kind of society she finds herself taking on (consciously or unconsciously) the role of the object.
Mulvey also explores scopophilia, which is the “pleasure in looking”. This is when the audience sit in a room and observes the people on the screen who are unaware that they are being watched, for pleasure. This gives the spectator the power to 'directly possess' the female character, as she falls in love with the main male protagonist, she becomes his property and through scopophilia the property of the audience too.
Overall, Laura Mulvey’s theory explores women’s rights and how the female body is represented through the media, which refers to the ways the audience view the characters on the screen. Although I hope we have come a long way since the time of Mulvey's writing there is still evidence of the male gaze being used in film to this day and there is still a lack of female directors, writers and producers and behind the camera roles. Even powerful females characters are more likely to be objectified compared to their male counterparts. The article below includes facts and figures about the objectification of women in movies today, it also talks about society becoming so desensitized to the male gaze that we don't even realize were seeing it as it is so ingrained in our viewing experience, as well as the advertising used to promote it.
The Male Gaze Still Dominates In Movies Around The World, New Study Shows | HuffPost UK (huffingtonpost.co.uk)
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