Monday, 22 October 2012


Hans Memling 'Vanity' - viewer is sexually objectifying the woman, her gaze is being turned back on herself with the mirror she's holding, viewer finds it more comfortable to look at her because she isn't returning the gaze.  Sexual element, fundamentally a topic about power.  

15th century-roughly speaking the nude as a genre of art started to come about, what is represented culturally by this?  All artists at this point were men, society was completely patriarchal.  The people who made and bought art were men, this is painted woman for a man.  At this time the artistic genre called 'the nude' -art historians, also men, writing about how this is classically art and that a woman's form is more delicate and more aesthetic, more worthy of artistic study.  This just disguises a pornographic function.  Aesthetic tradition designed to perpetuate the male 'appreciation' of the woman's naked body.  The woman in the painting looks docile, passive, there to be looked at, nothing else, subservience to the male, you see this occur in fiction, films etc. she is there as a sex object rather than having any other function.  The woman knows that she is the sexual object, knows that she is being looked at, she almost revels in it.  You get this other layer of misogynistic power, a fantasy about male domination, in which you see in contemporary pornography.

Outcome of the same social dynamic, example: Katie Price/Jordan.  If someones presented as stupid they're easily dominated.  Someone who's stupid, who's vein, someone who wants to pleas men.  Society is still patriarchal now.  The same is true now, men control the systems of production, the mechanisms of the media, the same results of the 1400's will occur.

IMAGES FROM 1863:  Manet's 'Olympia &  Cabanel's 'Birth of Venus'
The Salon, gallery/exhibition in France, images had to be approved as art.  One image was approved and another was not, this is all down to the woman looking at the viewer, challenging power/confrontational.
Differences between the two images:
One figure is supposed to be a prostitute, the other is Venus, the God of love.  Venus was classed as real art, tasteful.  Manet's 'Olympia' more akin to the reality of the sexual dynamic.

Titan's 'Venus of Urbino' meeting the gaze in a more passive way. Dog in painting -is mans best friend, cat in Manet's- independent sorts themselves out.  Domestic maid- looking after the kids.  African maid- paid for money.
VUE MAGAZINE (1950's):

  • hypnotism - is your girlfriend is frigid their is something wrong with her
  • reclining pose
  • passive meeting of the gaze
  • 'my hobby is men' - made for men
  • These representations aren't always about sex but social concern and keeping women in their place, the domination of women, keeping males status as higher within society.
Powerful gaze, assertive femininity, 'I am successful and sexy' - seductive to women, wonder bra is attractive to women.

Semi naked woman on display for a man, will obviously disappoint you because she can't cook, she is compensating for not being able to be a domestic slave by being a sexual slave that men can look at, a trap, two femininities represented or commuted by this image and thats either being a wife or a trophy girlfriend.  Male fantasies of domination again.
Its clever because this simultaneously is directed at men and women.  Perpetuates female stereotypes.  Men think they can buy their woman a wonder bra and then turn them into this sexual object.
  • objectification of women 
  • power
  • domination 
  • control
SEXUALITY: Female= submissive/passive Male= dominant/active - socially prescribed ideal

-looking is not a neutral activity
-everything for the male advantage because they control it all, visual culture is controlled by me, TV culture is gendered to the advantage of the male.
-endless fantasy, a power situation
-woman on billboard have power
-people are forced into roles of domination 
-men use these systems of images to make them feel better, to make them feel more powerful, images represent a constant domination of women, women start to feel like they have to look that way otherwise they will be excluded.

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