Tuesday, December 1, 2009

(Mis)use of the Male Gaze

Sturken and Cartwright describe the gaze as an element of photography constructed by the artist that allows the viewer to "make the subject appear to himself or herself as lacking". Ever since mass media took off, the male gaze has been widely present and dominantly in various works of classical art, advertisments, and films, influencing the way that both male and female viewers position themselves against the subject in question, and, more unconsciously, how they evaluate themselves.

Recently, Newsweek featured Sarah Palin on its cover. On it, Palin is posed with her hands on her hips, wearing shorts and a sweater. The magazine drew heat from both feminists and Palin herself because the photograph depicts Palin not as a "serious politician", but as a mere subject of the male gaze, a role she has consistently had to separate herself from ever since she gained publicity.

This photograph is supposedly taken out of context and was supposed to be used for a magazine titled Runner's World.

All political views aside
, this photograph serves to reduce Palin's legitimacy as a female politician, and does so by manipulating the gaze of the viewer. Elements of the male gaze and binary opposition are used to connote Palin's inadequacy as a successful, strong female worthy of political power. So, while the authors are correct in noting that the male gaze has been more commonly critiqued and abandoned in current media texts, it is still largely present.

More info on the controversy: http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/thegaggle/archive/2009/11/17/official-statement-on-newsweek-s-sarah-palin-cover.aspx


  1. Well, are we supposed to see her as a serious politician now, or as a bestselling author?

  2. I remember seeing this while I was home! I thought it was a joke at first...

  3. Oh this is a good example! Definitely doesn't seem as though the male gaze has been abandoned in current media texts!

  4. That's a great example. By placing Palin on the cover of a serious magazine, she is acknowledged for her political position, but placing her in short shorts accentuating her body, she does not challenge to dominant male ideology because she is still seen as an object.