資料彙整   /  概念  /  性別研究主要概念:4.Male Voyeurism and Female Spectatorship

Male Voyeurism and Female Spectatorship:
John Berger and Feminist Theorists

Starting Questions: Why are women objects of gaze?  How do women look at men or women (e.g. Pre-Raphaelite women or Images of Women on the Ads)?
What are the possible subject positions in a painting (or any text) and in viewing a painting?  --Foucault

Berger--Ways of Seeing--"Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at." --introduction to the chapter one of Ways of Seeing.

Laura Mulvey--active/male vs. passive/female (psychoanalytic view)

Mary Ann Doane--Female Spectatorship. Other Ways of Seeing --Lynne Pearce

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Foucault''s analysis of "Las Meninas" --major arguments (from Representation pp. 58-60)

  1. The painting tells us something about how representation and the subject work.

  2. Representation is not reflection.

  3. Although painting is "visible," its meaning is as much constructed around what you can''t see as what you can.

  4. A number of substitution or displacement is at work in this painting.  (e.g. The King and the Queen).

  5. Our look ...follows the relationships of looking as represented in the picture.  ..So the spectator (who is also ''subjected'' to the discourse of the painting) is doing two kinds of looking.

    • Looking at the painting from the position outside, in front of, the picture.

    • looking out of the scene, by identifying with the looking being done by the figures in the painting.  Projecting ourselves into the subjects of the painting help us as spectators to see, to ''make sense'' of it.

  6. Meaning is therefore constructed in the dialogue between the painting and the spectator.

  7. Different subject positions in the paintings

    • that of the spectator--identifying with the Sovereign or the infant or the painter?

    • of the painter inside the painting and outside

    • of the King and the Queen inside the painting and outside


Ways of Seeing  by John Berger -- Major Arguments in Chap 1:

  • With the technologies of reproduction, traditional oil paintings are deprived of their original "sacred" contexts (e.g. church, museum).

  • Massive reproduction of art work can lead to its re-contextualization.  Meaning thus can be transmitted and distorted.

  • Paintings are open to manipulation and re-interpretation especially because they are still and silent.

  • contemporary "aura" of traditional art work--its authenticity=its market value

  • paintings, or art work in general, should be treated as words (or signs), but not holy relics.

Major Arguments in Chap 2:

  • nudity is a sign

  • The nude in traditional oil paintings either look at "us" (the spectator-owners in the past) or look at the mirror

  • The nude shows signs of submissiveness (e.g. being languid, passive and thus available).


Lynne Pearce. Women/Image/Text.  NY: Harvester, 1991.
Reading Strategies

1: Feminist Critique: a radical rereading of canonical and popular texts which exposed their sexism, misogyny and pornography, and frequently laid explicit blame on their authors/producers. (3)

    (e.g. 1. Kate Millet''s Sexual Politics (1969) and 2. John Berger''s Ways of Seeing.)

Reading Strategies 2: Symptomatic Reading: The practice of reading texts according to their ''gaps'' and ''absences'' (9).
    or reading for contradictions or the textual unconscious.

    (e.g. 1. Pierre Marcherey''s cracked mirror model--"The text...according to Macherey''s metaphorical model is a cracked surface, discontinuous both with the ''outside world'' and with itself; a site of ''contradictory expressions,'' of eloquent faps and silences'' (10).)
    (e.g. 2  Griselda Pollock on Rossetti: love vs. fear and Othering of PR women
    "she finds that the paintings betray a fear and anxiety about women peculiar to the art of the late nineteenth century: a castration complex that, in its effort to control the ''threat'', sought to make women increasingly non-specific, two-dimensional, rhetorical: ''These were not faces, not portraits, but fantasy''(p. 122).  It is significant that in this analysis Pollock has effectively broken through the rules of production and consumption ..." (14)  ... "''[Astarte Syriaca] raises to a visible level the pressures that motivated and shaped the project of ''Rossetti''--the negotiation of  masculine sexuality in an order in which woman is the sign, not of woman, but of that Other in whose mirror masculinity must define itself (153)''" (15).

Reading Strategies 3: Pleasurable Reading: viewers can take pleasure in images that are ostensibly negative (''ideologically unsound'') (p. 16)
Why do women take pleasure in images of themselves? --1. Transvestism (or double identification), 2. Narcissism

  1. Where women viewers ought to feel alienated and indignant, they are constantly seduced (18). --the female spectator being seduced into viewing images of women through men''s eyes.

  2. Narcissism--According to Simone de Beauvoir''s reading of Freud in The Second Sex, narcissism, like lesbianism, is a psychic phase that all girls must pass through on the road to womanhood.  [For Beauvoir, narcissism is dangerous and psychotic if it persists into adulthood.] ...recent feminists have searched for a more positive and enabling interpretation of narcissism.
    e.g. Rosemary Betterton "How do women look?: The female nude in the work of Suzanne Valadon"
    the narcissistic reflex may be celebrated as a positive sign of female difference; a different way of looking....

  3.  Women need and desire other women to compensate for what they lack themselves.  Women need and desire images of other women for the same reasons.

  4. fascination between women (Jackie Stacey)--something far more complex than either simple sexual desire for, or narcissistic identification with, a female other.  "[Fascination] is a desire to see, to know and to become like an idealized feminine other, in a context where the difference between the two women is repeatedly re-established." (22)


The position of female spectator of traditional Hollywood film: 
passive/female + active/male, masculinisation, masochism, marginality and what else? 

Laura Mulvey the active/male vs. passive/female (1975 essay) 

Men consciously and unconsciously control the production and reception of film, creating images that satisfy their needs and unconscious desires. cinema uses the images of woman to dissipate male castration fears by forms of voyeurism, containing aspects of sadism and fetishism.

"In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness"

male viewers in the audience identify with the male protagonist on the screen, the character who controls both events and "the look"

1. voyeuristic-scopophilic pleasure (sadistic)
--using another person as an object of sexual stimulation through sight

2. fetishistic-scopophilic pleasure 
the position of the spectator in the cinema is blatantly one of repression of their exhibitionism and projection of the repressed desire onto the performer.

Woman as representation signifies castration, inducing voyeuristic or fetishistic mechanisms to circumvent her threat.

  • Mulvey''s 1981 revision: --develop a more mobile position for women  (Cf. 394 "Desperately Seeking Difference"  Jackie Stacey  from Visual Culture: the Reader)

    • Women are forced to oscillate between masculine and feminine identifications

    • In order to identify with active desire, the female spectator must assume an (uncomfortably) masculine position: ''the female spectator''s phantasy of masculinisation is always to some extent at cross purposes with itself, restless in its transvestite clothes.''

Female Spectatorship--  Mary Ann Doane, et al. 

  • Alternative Views: 

Bellour (as discussed by Stacey)--women as complete victim, taking a masochistic position.

Jackie Stacey -- 

  1. p. 391  use a detailed textual analysis to demonstrate that different gendered spectator positions are produced by the film text, contradicting the unified masculine model of spectatorship. 

  2. accept a theory of the masculinisation of the spectator at a textual level, but argue that spectators being different subjectivities to the film according to sexual difference, and therefore respond differently to the visual pleasure offered in the text.

 Rich, B. Ruby--She argued that women''s viewing experience under patriarchy is always dialectical, a process of absorbing and reprocessing (often resisting) what emanates from the screen.

Bergstrom--bisexual responses which would allow for multiple identificatory positions, which could occur either successively or simultaneously.

e.g. Psycho--male voyeurism is thematized. audiences punished for their illicit voyeuristic desire
 --not only women are objects of male voyeuristic gaze, they are also recipients of most of the punishment. e.g. Marion''s sightless eye; Marion''s sister confront the corpse, the focus on the eye sockets of the female corpse, Mother is aware of being stared at --sexual asymmetry in desire and its punishment

Mary Ann Doane --

  1. 1982  women being totally other to patriarchy; 

    • (Stacey  392) . . . the split between seeing and knowing [women''s lack], which enables the boy to disown the difference which is necessary for fetishism, does not occur in girls. 

Spectatorship revolves around questions of proximity and distance. This is especially problematic for the female spectator as she is the image, the object to be viewed. Thus, women are given two options: 

  1. they can masochistically overidentify with female images on the screen (becoming overly involved--a frequent female response to melodrama), 

  2. or they can narcissistically become their own image of desire.--in assuming the image in the most radical way. (54)

  3. "the masquerade"

--excess of femininity--

Joan Rivere "Womanliness ...could be assumed and worn as a mask, both to hide the possession of masculinity and to avert the reprisals expected if she was found to possess it...The masquerade, in flaunting femininity, holds it at a distance." The fact of this distance in part solves the problem of women''s overidentification and transvestism. The masquerade...enables viewers to critique the socially constructed role of the feminine. In film, however, the masquerade often brings its own punishment--e.g. femme fatale in film noir, or any woman who attempts to take over the masculine activity of "looking."


Male voyeurism

Spectatorial desire, in contemporary film theory, is generally delineated as either voyeurism or fetishism, as precisely a pleasure in seeing what is prohibited in relation to the female body. The image orchestrates a gaze, a limit, and its pleasurable transgression. The woman''s beauty, her very desirability, becomes a function of certain practices of imaging--framing, lighting, camera movement, angle. (43)

Female spectator


...a tendency to view the female spectator as the site of an oscillation between a feminine position and a masculine position, invoking the metaphor of the transvestite. Given the structure of cinematic narrative, the woman who identifies with the female character must adopt a passive or masochistic position, while identification with the active hero necessarily entails an acceptance of what Laura Mulvey refers to as a certain "masculinization" of spectatorship. --masquerade and transvestism


Masquerade doubles representation; it is constituted by a hyperbolization of the accoutrements of femininity. ...By destabilizing the image, the masquerade confounds this masculine structure of the look. It effects a defamiliarization of female iconography.


The effectivity of masquerade lies precisely in its potential to manufacture a distance from the image, to generate a problematic within which the image is manipulable, producible, and readable by the woman.


Female Look -- denied in tradition

e.g. Women who wear glasses--e.g. Betti Davis in Now Voyager
removing her glasses, from spectator to spectacle

e.g. Un Regard Oblique 

(source; remote)

  • The photograph displays insistently, in microcosm, the structure of the cinematic inscription of a sexual differentiation in modes of looking. 

    • the woman''s gaze, empty and framed by shop window. 

    • her gaze is encased by two poles defining the masculine axis of vision: 

      • the male gaze is centered, in control--although it is exercised from the margin.

      • fetishistic representation of the nude female body -- insures a masculinization of the spectatorial position. 

    • Women: 

      • It''s not sure what she is looking at, herself or the painting.

      • "On the far left-hand side of the photograph, behind the wall holding the painting of the nude, is the barely detectable painting of a woman imaged differently, in darkness--out of sight for the male, blocked by his fetish." (771) 

"The feminine presence in the photograph, despite a diegetic centering of the female subject of the gaze, is taken over by the picture as object. . .  .The spectator''s pleasure is thus produced through the framing negation of the female gaze." (Doanne Film Theory and Criticism 770) 


Doane "Misrecognition and Identity" 

  1. three kinds of identification: 

    • identification with the representation of a person; --secondary identification, presupposes a disavowal of the two dimensionality of the image and an investment in the reality-status of the diegesis. 

    • identification of particular objects, persons, or actions

    • primary identification (for Metz) -- identifying himself as look.

  2. merging of the primary and secondary identification

    1. (p. 16 Exploration in Film Theories) Freud "''The ego is first and foremost a bodily ego; it is not merely a surface entity, but is itself the projection of a surface.''  In this sense, it is not only the protagonist of a film who initiates the mechanisms of identification, but any represented body on the screen--offering .  . .a reconfirmation of the spectator''s own position and identity. "

Cindy Sherman''s photographs "Untitled Film Still"

function as mirror-masks that reflect back at the viewer his own desire (and the spectator posited by this work is invariably male)--specifically , the masculine desire is to fix the woman in a stable and stabilizing identify. But this is precisely what Sherman''s work denies: for while her photographs are always self-portraits, in them the artist never appears to be the same...while Sherman may pose as a pin-up, she still cannot be pinned down. (Anti-Aesthetics 75)

e.g. Kruger--both the gaze and the art reify

the gaze--objectifies and masters.



Related Links

Notes on ''The Gaze'' by Daniel Chandler

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