Tag Archives: male gaze

What is Privilege?

Privilege is something hard to define and very difficult to detect if you’re in a place of it. I find that in trying to answer what privilege is, it is often much easier to look at experiences one has not had.


In Ellen Jean Samuels’s essay “My Body, My Closet: Invisible Disability and the Limits of Coming-Out Discourse” I was faced with the difficulties of simplifying the intersectional approach to feminist discourse. I’m very used to picking out white privilege and male privilege in the world, but am still a novice at examining heterosexual privilege and able-bodied privilege. So my running list of “have you evers” that signify privilege (the fewer you check, the more privilege you have) was full of items like this:

Samuels, despite her argument that we must be careful in finding broad similarities, caused me to add another broad term to the list:

Have you ever had to come out?

The mere statement “come out” without the preposition “to” is open as it allows for the interpretation of the phrase to apply to one’s personal grappling with an identity they’re not sure they can share with the world (237). Though I may have thought of this as an item on my mental list for heterosexual privilege, I never would have thought of it as something that could cover the experiences of the invisibly disabled or even myself as a racially-ambiguous mixed-race girl.

Samuels, “My Body, My Closet: Invisible Disability and the Limits of Coming-Out Discourse”


Budweiser Black Crown and the Male Gaze

This short video advertisement for a new label of Budweiser beer, titled “Black Crown,” uses women’s body parts to sell its beverage product. The advertisement opens with the camera perspective starting at a woman’s feet, shown walking in strappy black heels. The camera pans up the woman’s slim, shiny legs to reveal the bottom half of her body wearing a shimmering dress while one arm holds two bottles of Budweiser Black Crown. The entirety of the advertisement’s length mimics the heterosexual male gaze, which serves to objectify the female body. The woman portrayed in this advertisement is not portrayed as an individual, but simply as a body or a pair of legs. Drucilla Cornell suggests that any material where “women’s body parts… are exhibited such that women are reduced to those parts” is a form of the subordination of women (Cornell 3). This advertisement reduces a woman to her body parts to draw attention to and sell a beer label.

This advertisement seeks to sell Budweiser Black Crown as a more luxurious beer label. The dressy outfit of the woman portrayed in the advertisement, the sleek packaging of the beer, and the muffled background music in the video all work to create an environment of indulgence to sell the product. Ultimately, the fragmentation of the woman’s body and focus on her legs exemplify how her sexual desire is used to sell Budweiser Black Crown while demonstrating the male gaze for the advertisement’s targeted male viewers.

Cornell, Drucilla. ““Introduction” in Feminism and Pornography.” 2000.

Spark Post: The Selfie

Lately, the feminist blogosphere has grown consumed with the concept of the selfie. Theories abound for its impact on self-esteem, body image and celebrity culture, among other things. At the crux of the discussion lies the question of its merit: are selfies good or bad for women?

On the one hand, they allow girls to assert their existence, claiming their right to “speak” by generating media and proliferating their presence.

On the other hand, the basis of that assertion is their appearances: they’re channeling society’s gaze, reaffirming the idea, as discussed by John Berger, that women exist to be looked at. Yet there still seems to be some subversive agency in women’s ability to control their images through selfies.

Does women’s agency in taking selfies claim a new territory for women? Or does it represent another iteration of the male gaze, as women internalize the societal imperative to value, above all else, their being-looked-at-ness? Can we designate the as selfie definitively detrimental or progressive for women?

Cited: Berger, John. “Ways of Seeing.” From Jones, Amelia, “The Feminism & Visual Culture Reader,” New York: Routledge, 2003

Get caught doing what? Eating lunch? Why would I be eating at a diner in fine jewelry? (Ad Critique)


 A woman must be thin. A woman must be delicate. A woman must be disciplined. “A woman must continually watch herself. She is continually accompanied by her own image of herself… The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female.” (Berger 37-38) And goddammit, a woman must not eat a cheeseburger at a diner. Or at least, if she does, she better look fucking fabulous doing it. This is a billboard I have seen passing between Center City and University City. It is problematic on multiple levels.

This woman is obviously posed, but the text in the ad suggests she has been ambushed. This is a popular advertising technique. It shows how women embody Berger’s idea of being both the surveyed and a surveyor. She is cognizant of the image she is presenting, and according to the text, she knows it’s shameful. As per societal standards, a glamorous model like her surely doesn’t eat, or at least eats something else.

Even further, a woman who is bad (she had to be “caught”) is a woman who is sexy which means she’s asking for attention; she is  posed and looking at the screen after all. As Sut Jhally of Dreamworlds 3 puts it, women in media are portrayed as “desiring the look.”

In approach, this ad models a trope discussed in Jean Kilbourne’s documentary Killing Us Softly 4. Which is: you may have slipped up in your presentation of yourself in this aspect, but you can make up for it by buying this unrelated product! You may be breaking your diet, but at least you can look (sorta) classy in our jewelry!

  • Berger, John. “From Ways of Seeing.” The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. By Amelia Jones. New York: Routledge, 2003. 37-39. Print.
  • Dreamworlds 3: Desire, Sex & Power in Music Video. By Sut Jhally. Media Education Foundation, 2007. Transcript.
  • Killing Us Softly 4. By Jean Kilbourne. Perf. Jean Kilbourne. 20010. DVD.

Big Question: What is oppression?

When society fails to give voice to every one of its members, it oppresses. When society employs inaccurate and offensive representations of minorities, it oppresses. When society endorses one pole of a binary over the other, it oppresses. For example, oppression occurs when woman are treated as objects and “other forms of her self-representation” are “thus silenced” (Cornell 3). Treating women as such “sexually viable commodities” (Cornell 3) undoubtedly discourages them from speaking up. It is similarly oppressive to present black men as eternally violent and threatening: “Historical representations of Black men as beasts have spawned a second set of images” that paints this demographic as “criminals or deviant beings” (Hill Collins 158). The most oppressive act of all, however, is to promote one social group—namely, white males—over all others. This white patriarchal dominance suggests that those unequally represented must “submit to White male authority” (Hill Collins 154) in order to have their voice heard. Most upsettingly, as society continues to tailor to the needs of the white male “gaze” that bell hooks speaks of in “The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators,” it only continues the oppression of those less privileged. hooks’ observation that, “power as domination reproduces itself in different locations” (115) should thus serve as a warning. For not only is oppression the suppression of certain people’s voices, but also it is the perpetuation of control by a select few.

Hill Collins, Patricia. “Booty Call: Sex, Violence, and Images of Black Masculinity.” Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism. New York: Routledge, 2005. 149-80. Print.

hooks, bell. “The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators.” Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston: South End, 1992. 115-31. Print.

Introduction. Feminism and Pornography. Ed. Drucilla Cornell. N.p.: Oxford UP, 2000. 1-15. Print.

Ad Critique: Equinox Fitness’ Surveying and Surveyed Women

In this advertisement, shot by fashion photographer Terry Richardson for Equinox Fitness, a woman is being “filmed” by a man as she spreads her legs and gives a “come hither” look to the viewer. Thus, the woman fulfills her role as both the “surveyor and the surveyed,” for she must “survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to others, and ultimately how she appears to men, is of crucial importance…” (Berger 37). That is, it is not the woman herself who is the central feature of this ad, but rather what the woman represents to the male viewer. She makes direct eye contact with what bell hooks calls the male “gaze” (115) to affirm that her target audience approves of how she is presenting herself. Additionally, the woman in the advertisement is blatantly made a “sexually viable commodity” (Cornell 3), as the brand relies on the fact that female hyper-sexuality will always sell. The advertisement also subtly implants the viewer with the belief that fitness and general maintenance of one’s body lead to “self-containment, self-mastery, [and] control” (Bordo 209)—and in turn, a body like this woman’s that in reality is an “impossible standard” to achieve (Nagy Hesse-Biber 63).  In this way, the advertisement is a definitive representation of the way in which women are portrayed in the media.

Berger, John. “Ways of Seeing.” The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. Ed. Amelia Jones. New York: Routledge, 2003. 37-9. Print.

Bordo, Susan. “Reading the Slender Body.” Unbearable Weight. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. 185-212. Print.

hooks, bell. “The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators.” Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston: South End, 1992. 115-31. Print.

Introduction. Feminism and Pornography. Ed. Drucilla Cornell. N.p.: Oxford UP, 2000. 1-15. Print.

Nagy Hesse-Biber, Sharlene. “Selling the Body Beautiful: Food, Dieting, and Recovery.”The Cult of Thinness. Second ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2007. 61-90. Print.