The Areas Of Feminist Media Studies Film Studies Essay

The 6th chapter of Van Zoonens book Feminist Media Studies, Spectatorship and the Gaze, provides a compelling debut to the country of feminist movie surveies, more specifically, to different issues environing the construct of the Gaze. Van Zoonen draws on the statements of Laura Mulveys work, who used psychoanalytic tools in explicating why adult females are presented in the media as being looked at and work forces as the 1s who act. Van Zoonen stresses the trouble of the advocates of depth psychology to explicate the pleasances of female spectatorship, which, however, can be accounted for by using different positions on media surveies. After discoursing thoughts sing the male regard, Van Zoonen turns her attending to the manner images of work forces are presented in popular media, underscoring the fact that, out of fright that their image could be homosexualised, different methods and narrative codifications are employed in order to do the objectification of male organic structures less apparent. Hence, the traditional perceptual experience of work forces being the 1s who have the power and adult females the 1s who are looked at is still in topographic point in patriarchal civilizations, even though there are marks of seeking to set it aside.

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2. Sketch

adult females are constructed in western popular media as being the inactive object of the male regard, whereas work forces as being the 1s who act ; the psychoanalytical paradigm was employed to explicate this province of facts

Laura Mulvey used depth psychology in her survey of gender media representations as a utile tool in explicating the pleasances of male spectatorship, though neglecting to explicate the independent female pleasance of looking at work forces

‘scopophilia ‘ – the derivation of sexual pleasances merely by looking

‘narcissistic designation ‘ – the desire of work forces to place themselves with other work forces, presented on the screen as flawless characters

the movie industry is linked to patriarchy, harmonizing to Laura Mulvey ; both ‘scopophilia ‘ and ‘narcissistic designation ‘ are achieved by the manner film makers frame the action, including the objectification of adult females – the male regard

fright of emasculation – the injury suffered by male childs when detecting the physical gender differences is diminished by the manner male witnesss take control over adult females ‘s organic structures in the movie industry

one of the jobs of the manner Mulvey employed depth psychology – it equates maleness with being male and muliebrity with being female

Mary Ann Doane contends the impossibleness of change by reversaling the gender functions ( i.e. work forces going feminine and adult females masculine )

no stipulations of voyeurism in adult females – in childhood adult females do non see the distancing from their female parents that male childs do because of the sexual differences

the female witness can go masculinized by placing with the male characters in the movie or narcissistically placing with objectified female characters

unfavorable judgment of the psychoanalytic paradigm: it reinforces the patriarchal norms by excepting the possibility of adult females to derive pleasance from sing media merchandises

Womans derive pleasance by looking at other adult females – the psychoanalytical paradigm and beyond

some argue that the bonding between misss and their female parents creates the pre-conditions of happening pleasance in looking at other adult females

adult females have coexisting latent homosexual and manifest heterosexual desires – Chodorow ‘s theory of female development

Arbuthnot and Seneca assert that the psychoanalytic theory is concerned with male spectatorship and therefore non appropriate to analyze female experiences and motives

Womans derive pleasance by looking at work forces

Christianity quashing the copiousness of bare representations of work forces made the patriarchal order unperceivable, whilst it still is the substrate of most societies

the female regard – which is masculine by definition – looking at the male organic structure is less unsafe than the homosexual regard

narrative and ocular techniques lessen the grade of subjugation of the male organic structure to the regard of the female spectatorship

e.g. gazing back at the spectator, looking up or off from the camera, the text attach toing the images bodying male organic structures and therefore making characters

work forces presented as active ( e.g. marks of physical activity or labor ) and in control, merely go oning to be looked at, non as presenting specifically for being viewed by female or male witnesss

male organic structures presented like romantic objects, non sexual 1s ( e.g. Playgirl )


The three chapters I have chosen – Kaplan ‘s ( 1983 ) , Stacey ‘s ( 1988 ) and Van Zoonen ‘s ( 1994 ) – which do non offer a comprehensive treatment of the issue of the ‘gaze ‘ , draw on the psychoanalytic accounts of the male regard and effort to explicate which are the pleasances derived by female witnesss watching media merchandises. Hence, all writers use Laura Mulvey ‘s and Mary Ann Doane ‘s thoughts as a starting point for their treatment ; Kaplan argues that depth psychology is ‘a utile tool [ … ] [ , but non ] needfully bring outing indispensable ‘truths ‘ about the human mind ‘ ( 1983: 23 ) . She farther argues that it can explicate merely the current structural organisation of society, which, I would reason, is a Marxist position ; in her position, film is seen as a agency of let go ofing the tensenesss created by the industrial society and depth psychology as a necessary agencies to understand the causes of these ( Kaplan, 1983 ) . Stacey ( 1988 ) identifies the spreads in Mulvey ‘s line of statement, more exactly the treatment of the male as an titillating object ( which Van Zoonen analyses ) and of female homosexualism, and exploits the latter to turn to one of the issues tackled in small deepness by Van Zoonen ( 1994 ) : female homosexual pleasance, which has been ignored by surveies within the psychoanalytic model. Stacey ( 1988 ) , like Van Zoonen ( 1994 ) , draws on Mary Ann Doane ‘s thought that adult females ‘s pleasances are non related to fetichism and voyeurism, as work forces ‘s are and farther acknowledges Mulvey ‘s statement harmonizing to which adult females oscillate between male and female designations.

In discoursing possibilities for understanding and explicating the female regard, all three writers argue that the reversal of functions is impossible without losing the specific gender designation ; the female witness becomes masculinized and vice-versa, and therefore the construction remains fundamentally unchanged ( Kaplan, 1983 ) . Stacey ( 1988 ) , as does Van Zoonen ( 1994 ) , rhetorically asks if adult females needfully have to busy feminine places and work forces – masculine 1s. I would propose that ‘masculine ‘ and ‘feminine ‘ really refer to a set of features associated with work forces and adult females severally merely because it has traditionally been thought that they occur more frequently in the specific gender from which their names derive. Hence, they are non intrinsic to work forces or adult females. However, there remains the job that they are in resistance, non on equal footings. Furthermore, if these names which refer to gender and sexual functions would be disregarded, I think it would non be a job for female witnesss to follow an ‘active ‘ ( ‘masculine ‘ ) stance any longer.

Further discoursing the feminine and masculine spectatorships, Stacey ( 1988 ) contends that the subjectivenesss of witnesss should be besides taken into history, even if their point of view is seen as ‘masculine ‘ . Kaplan notes, pulling on Mary Ann Doane ‘s statement, that if trying to confabulate female spectatorship an active function and non masculinizing it, there is the danger of denying pleasance and of ‘disembody [ ing ] their witness ‘ ( Kaplan, 1983: 28 ) . An active chief female character about ever loses her traditional feminine features in so making – ‘ [ … ] of kindness, humaneness, maternalism ‘ ( Kaplan, 1983: 29 ) . The job with this statement is that all these features of ‘femininity ‘ are really constructed in the same manner as constructs like ‘active ‘ , ‘sexually desirable ‘ etc are. Therefore, Kaplan ‘s statement does no justness to the function of the female witness.

The dominant images of adult females, all male concepts, as Kaplan ( 1983 ) emphasizes, are the objects of male fetichism and voyeurism, as all three writers reference. In add-on to Van Zoonen ‘s ( 1994 ) overarching treatment of these Freudian constructs, Kaplan ( 1983 ) points at three male regards in popular media, identified by Laura Mulvey: that of the film-maker, of the movie spectator and of male characters in the movie. Harmonizing to this account of female ‘s place in the movie model, Kaplan argues, ‘the adult male owns the desire and the adult female ‘ ( 1983: 27 ) , whereas female witnesss merely ‘receive and return the regard but can non move upon it ‘ ( 1983: 31 ) . Hence, male and female spectatorships are different in indispensable respects.

All three writers have a feminist point of view in common from whence they look at the representation of adult females in popular media. Stacey ( 1988 ) is likely the most dedicated of all three to the women’s rightist cause, discoursing issues which are tabu for other bookmans ( women’s rightist or non ) : the homosexual female spectatorship. The statements they bring frontward overlap, being complementary in the regard that all offer new information. However, they do non discourse each other ‘s part to the feminist argument chiefly because all three ( Stacey to a lesser grade ) offer an overview of the statements brought frontward by Laura Mulvey and Mary Ann Doane. All three concluded by indicating to the demand of farther discoursing the beginnings of pleasance for female witnesss both in relation to work forces and to other adult females. Furthermore, the job of confusing gender designations with gender in movie surveies has besides been stated as being an issue.


The issues refering the representation of genders in the media is one of the most of import countries of concern for feminist bookmans because of the many premises hidden under what comes across as common-sense. However, this is merely one of the issues in which women’s rightists are interested. Among the general concern with the resources of confabulating adult females a secondary function in patriarchal societies, women’s rightists address issues of work and employment, and of maternity. These two subjects have several links with those raised by Van Zoonen ‘s chapter on the male and female ‘gaze ‘ in popular media.

One of the most apparent crosscutting subjects is that of adult females ‘s passiveness and male activity and control. As we have seen in Van Zoonen ‘s chapter ( 1994 ) , female spectatorship is constructed as being inactive and to be looked at, whilst male witnesss act upon adult females by looking at their objectified organic structures. Witz ( 1993/1997 ) asserts that adult females have traditionally been seen as holding the natural responsibility to make the domestic work, non work forces, and that women’s rightists struggled to find the official acknowledgment of this ‘second occupation ‘ adult females performed. At least since the eighteenth Century, when the Victorian Domestic Ideology constructed adult females as inactive, work forces have had the active function in a household, working in order to gain a pay for the family. Women, on the other side, have been seen as confined to the private domain of life and, therefore, as being inactive since they did non hold an active function in the populace sphere, as work forces did. This manner of seeing adult females as inferior to work forces has survived until the present twenty-four hours, when adult females have besides acceded to work places, and it can be easy seen in the construction of the labor market and in the representation of adult females in the media.

The images of adult females in popular media, as objects of the male regard, are opposed to representations of maternity in different civilizations. Reynolds notes that ‘the ‘good ‘ female parent is infinitely patient, forgiving, nurturing and, most of import of all, unfailing in her love ‘ ( 1996: 41 ) ; this word picture strongly contrasts with the images of adult females as sexualized objects or as secondary characters who merely disrupt the narrative. For kids, female parents are the chief characters of their narratives and are wholly feminine ( whereas the character of a female parent in popular media would be either masculinized or it would be the object of the male regard ) . However, as Reynolds farther argues, the job is that in world ‘mothering [ is ] synonymous with subjection ‘ ( 1996: 42 ) . Furthermore, maternity is linked with depth psychology and the manner boys suffer a injury when they discover their difference from their female parents.

In decision, the chapters I have looked at on different subjects written by women’s rightists portion the same position that adult females are presently oppressed in patriarchal civilizations. Women portion subordination functions in media, at work, in the household etc. However, the hegemony of patriarchate is most apparent in media representations of adult females.


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