Saturday, 9 November 2013

Study Task 4: The Gaze

Using the text Coward, R. 'The Look', write one critical analysis of a media image (advert / TV commercial / publicity poster / magazine cover / news story) which, in your opinion, constructs a particular type of gender sterotype, or reflects the dominant patriarchal concepts of gender, critiqued in the lecture 'The Gaze & the Media' (31/10/13). Use at least five quotes, referenced according to the Harvard system, in support of your argument.

The image shown above is the front cover of a magazine called 'Self'. The magazine cover has outlined a general insight to the topics and content of this magazine. It is arguable however, that the main focus is on the photograph of Beyonce. The juxtaposition of the text and image automatically encourages readers to refer the written content such as eating healthier and exercising more to looking like Beyonce. 

The reasons for doing this put simply; to attract female readers into buying the magazine, as inspiration to 'better' themselves. The male gaze plays an important role in all of this however. Coward, R states: "Women in the flesh, often feel embarrassed, irritated or downright angered by men's persistent gaze. But not wanting to risk male attention turning to male aggression, women avert their eyes and hurry on their way. Those women on the billboards, though; they look back. Those fantasy women stare off the walls with a look of urgent availability." From this in can be suggested that Coward is implying that the women in advertisement form, appear to be aware of the male gaze, but more importantly, encouraging it. 

The women's gaze, whether it be in a photograph, painting, illustration or form of advertisement, can suggest a lot about the intentions meant for the viewer. Referring back to Coward's comment on 'fantasy women', it can be argued that there are two types of women; those who are attempting to follow the current trends and behaviour of their fantasy idols, and those who are portrayed as the fantasy idol. Coward supports this by explaining women: '…cultivate their looks, make themselves all the more appealing and siren-like, and lure men…' This then places the man in the role of a 'hunter' seeking out his ideal woman and looking as much as he pleases. 

While this magazine is evidently aimed towards women, it could be argued the key target audience is in fact men. The female figure used on the front of magazines often holds a gaze that looks directly at the observer. The confident gaze, engaging directly with the viewer gives a sense of control from the women's point of view. However, the role of male approval is also considered, as many women find it hard to feel confident in reality. It can be suggested that men tend to prefer the women on magazines such as the example used above, because they feel comfortable to look at the woman (in this case beyonce). As she is in photograph form, men automatically feel less guilty about looking at the female. Coward 

Another observation is that society appears to be male-dominant. Coward explains: 'Perhaps this sex-at-a-distance is the only complete secure relation which men can have with women. Perhaps other forms of contact are too unsettling.' This point summarises the ironic nature of male and female politics with regards to the gaze. Men and women both appear to admire and view a sense of fantasy which has been staged (predominantly for men). Current media appears to welcome the male gaze, through the consent of women. These women come from the same society as those who feel angered and disapproving of the male gaze. 

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