Tuesday, June 24, 2008
what the fuck am I looking at?
As a young girl I grappled with this thing of gender identification and remember one day actively attempting to change the way in which I walked.
One morning as I swaggered along to the bus stop, I practiced walking in my perceived version of a 'feminine' gait and manner. Forever being referred to by old men in the street as 'son', it had never bothered me before. In Scotland old men always give you a wee nod followed with a jaunty, 'You aw right son?' or hen? Though in my case it was always 'son'.
This was fine and dandy until one day I realised that my tomboy days where over. Now I needed to 'act' like a girl. To 'act' in a 'feminine' manner. I straightened myself up, walked with my knees closer together, took shorter strides; head-up and shoulders back.
Needless to say it felt altogether weird and in a voice pitched higher than my usual fog-horn, I approached an old man and said,
"d'you ken what the time is mister?"
'Aye, it's ten-past-nine son.'
The need of human beings to transcend "the personal" is no less profound
than the need to be a person, an individual.
SUSAN SONTAG, "The Pornographic Imagination," 1967
Is it possible, I wonder, to dispel the concept of the male gaze?
Is it possible for us to look at one another not, from the viewpoint of our entrenched ideas, our learned differences in gender; 'female distress and male valour', but, from the view-point of our similarities as human beings?
Normative constructs of 'femininity' derivative of mans idealised representation of the woman, looks at the dichotomy between woman as wife/mother/domestic goddess and adultress/object/prostitute. Laura Mulvey, in her study on looking within the realm of cinema, contextualizes this notion calling it 'the male gaze'.
Mulvey's psychoanalytical essay, 'Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema'(1975), theorizes that the woman depicted in cinema, is constructed as spectacle and symptom and is according to Mulvey, 'the passive object of an active and powerful male gaze'.
I am looking at myself in context to historical representations of women within the visual arts. By looking at how the woman has been represented historically and by investigating the paradigm of the male gaze concept, I have communicated through the language of signifiers and codes in an attempt to subvert past/present representations of the woman.
Echoing ambiguity and altogether absent from feminine or decorative qualities, the subject, the woman, is neither elegant or fashionable. She is indeed stripped from commonly perceived codes of 'womanliness' and thus cannot be reduced to a decorative, beautiful spectacle and object.
GERTRUDE STEIN, "Sacred Emily", 1913.