By Adele Cooke
She’s that girl. The one with the coy smile, the pouty lips and baby-doll eyes. Holding a well-positioned object or posed away from the camera she’s wearing little, if anything at all. No this is not the opening of a porn film, this is a perfume advert. Coco Chanel to be precise. And you, as the viewer get to watch her get her kit off every second of the day. There is no watershed for exposing the female body. She’s gazing at you from cinemas, late-night television or over your morning cereal. And you, as the viewer see her solely through the male gaze.
From reading her Wikipedia page, I think Laura Mulvey has a point. The concepts of the “voyeuristic” or “fetishistic” depictions of men hold up. In her essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema Mulvey illustrated the way that the male gaze categorises women solely as an image to be looked at and a source of fetish, or an object of male pleasure. More often than not these women are shown through one of three perspectives; the person behind the camera, the characters in the piece or the spectator. Women become objects, without a voice or a perspective, and are often reduced to the sum of their parts, with a close up of cleavage, behind or legs.
The male, on the other hand, is frequently presented stalking the female. Men become voyeurs, perverts and nymphomaniacs. Women seemingly become their prey. Look no further than the Dior Poison, Calvin Klein Euphoria or Paco Rabanne One Million if you don’t believe me. But it’s not just in perfume adverts that this is happening. You don’t have to look much further to see the male gaze is everywhere. From The Godfather to Inferno, Easy A to Clueless, the male gaze has pervaded every channel of the media, and we have allowed it to become the norm. Why are we surprised women in the entertainment industry feel they are objectified, marginalised and side lined, if this is how women are depicted in all forms of mass media? It’s time to acknowledge and amend if we want to see positive change moving forward.
Once you notice it, the male gaze is impossible to ignore. The question is, why are we still overlooking it?
Photograph: Holly Murphy