Gaze Seeing Essay

Pages: 15 (5204 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Sports - Women


Both are posited on nature (or on anatomy in Freud's famous phrase). (p. 22)

This is a set of assumptions that most of us do not accept, that women define themselves as wounded and as men manques. Indeed, an argument has been put forth by a number of feminist scholars that it is men who see themselves and their sexual potential as lacking, since it is within the body of women that new life is nurtured and brought forth.

Horney (1967) has termed this latter dynamic "womb envy" as a way of placing her concept within a model of human sexuality that is analogous with Freud's psychosexual model. While Horney's model has its own limitations, it embraces more cultural and social dynamics than does Mulvey's. Horney argues that men feel anxiety -- often indeed great anxiety -- in the presence of women who are pregnant or nursing. This anxiety prompts men to try to dominate women and so lay claim to the children that their own bodies cannot produce. Horney argues that "men need to disparage women more than women need to disparage men" (p. 36) because women's fertility is far more potent than men's virility.

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Whether one sides more with Mulvey's model original model or with Horney's revision of it, it is essential to acknowledge that buried within each of these models are important assumptions about the dynamic of what occurs within the process of being regarded and appropriated by members of the other sex. For Mulvey, and in this she is in accord with many other scholars, there is the assumption that women are objectified through the action of the male gaze. The reverse of this is not quite as central to Horney's argument, but there is in her model as well the idea that men wish to control women's power through the possession of their bodies.

TOPIC: Essay on Gaze Seeing, Looking, Regarding When Assignment

This desire to possess the body of the Other and so to control it through appropriation can be read as the desire to objectify members of the other sex. This is a tempting logical progression: If we envy something and wish to possess it then does this not mean that we are approaching the object of our envy as, well, an object? McElvaine (2000) argues that this is one possible interpretation of the underlying emotional and psychological dynamic, but that another one is at least as compelling. He writes that envy is in fact something that we are more likely to feel towards other subjects rather than other objects (p. 74).

If we follow this line of reasoning, we are lead to the conclusion that men do not objectify women through their desire to control them. Rather, the envy that men feel about women's bodies (adopting Horney's model for the moment) leads men to acknowledge the fact that women are in fact subjects on their own, and in fact more powerful subjects than are the men themselves. This tacit acknowledgement of women's embodied power is a very different relationship than that between a person and a true object. A man may want to possess a Jaguar (to pick a stereotypical example), but he does not feel the need to exercise control over an inanimate object. Only other subjects need to be controlled.

Owning the Means of Production

Looking back to Foucault's insistence that no analysis of human relations can be made without stepping inside of their lives, it follows that it is impossible to analyze the ways in which power is construed and slanted without understanding the pragmatics of the world. Television shows in general (and Sex and the City in particular) permit a much greater degree of both authority and power to women as producers of images than was accorded in Hollywood's Golden Age. This does not, of course, mean that the show is either more empowering of women or (alternatively) less hierarchical.

The women in Sex and the City do not at first seem to be basing their value system on the kind of woman-as-eternally-wounded-being that Mulvey is modeling, for they are clearly in control of their sexuality in a way that is not addressed or allowed for within Mulvey's neo-Freudian perspective. One never has the sense with the female protagonists that they ever regret being born into female bodies. Yet neither is there a complete sense that they are fully sexualized beings in the sense that their bodies are at their own command. It is impossible to determine to what extent this arises from the fact that the show had a significant amount of female input, how much arises from the larger culture in the years during which it was being made, and how much arises from the particular texture of the narrative of weekly television drama.

This odd sense of a core asexuality within a show that was entirely about sex (at the most obvious levels) may have arisen from the focus on same-sex friendship amongst women who overtly self-identified as heterosexual. As Holland (1999) writes:

Familialism maintains that sexuality operates only in the family [...] the truth is that sexuality is everywhere: the way a bureaucrat fondles his records, a judge administers justice, a business causes money to circulate; the way the burgeoisie fucks the proletariat; and so on. And there is no need to resort to metaphors, any more than for the libido to go by way of metamorphoses. (p. 322).

If sex is indeed everywhere, then it is present in each episode of Sex and the City. But is this in fact true? Is the kind of female friendship that is performed in Sex and the City rooted in sexuality? And would men and women (in general) provide the same answer to this question?

As Leyte (2010) wrote in a commentary contrasting the movie about the characters with the characters as they had appeared in the television series, there is something both appealing and askew in the ways in which the characters related to their own bodies. This suggests that the television show was more aligned with traditional androcentric (if not fully phallocentric) dynamics than were the movies.

My first encounter of the Carrie kind was with the TV series. It seemed to be about four gay men with breasts. The programme was always saturated in a gay sensibility: Samantha's indiscriminate sex with never a hint of any emotional libido; the obsession with anal sex; the bitchy, quick-fire repartee; the lack of angst about cellulite or weight. But the slick city settings, the sassy dialogue and the fabulous footwear won us all over.

I think the real success of the show lies in the fact that our hedonistic heroines gave us permission to be bad. In our hypocritical society, men seem expected to go straight from puberty to adultery, but women are still supposed to be "good." Sex and the City was the first television show to portray the seismic psychological shift made by women since the sexually liberating women's movement. But it's not just about giving good hedonism. Above all else it's a celebration of female friendship.

A 'celebration of friendship' is not an act of objectification. But was the series in fact such a celebration? An important aspect of any analysis of who looks and who is viewed is that audience members are much more likely to become deeply emotionally committed to a character who appears on a series than one who appears in a one-off movie. The producers of the serial could not afford to create too much distance or too much hierarchy (or objectification) between viewer and viewed because such a distance and distancing hierarchy does not permit a satisfying ongoing relationship.

Any analysis of a visual medium depends on assumptions that one makes both about who was the intended audience for the series and how one models the act of reading. Mulvey, for example, seems to be privileging the author in the complex of the process of reading: It is the power of the male director and producer (the authors of a cinematic text) when she argues that these two types of actors determine the dynamic of the act of moviemaking and movie consumption.

Different models of the process of reading privilege different actors in the process, which leads one to ask what other possible power dynamics exist within the process of making films and consuming them. If the director has the power to define the dynamics of appropriation and the making of meaning (the key elements that are contained within the idea of the "gaze"), and the people who make movies are solely men, then there is certainly the temptation to believe that the primary dynamic at play is that these men are using the power that they have over the women in front of the camera to lay claims of ownership. But, as suggested above, the desire to control like the desire to own is not the same as the process of objectification (Ninivaggi,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Gaze Seeing" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Gaze Seeing.  (2010, December 16).  Retrieved December 8, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Gaze Seeing."  16 December 2010.  Web.  8 December 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Gaze Seeing."  December 16, 2010.  Accessed December 8, 2021.