A precursory note on gender ....
Without wanting to cause any offence to the many wonderful people that I have had the pleasure of listening to and working with on my current project I’m going to talk about the way in which marketers have played upon stereotypes with the binary genders for academic purposes. I fully support anybody’s desire to be recognised in the way you want,I am not dismissing or ignoring you by not talking about you in this post I’ve been given the male and female genders to discuss and Need to analyse the way in which they (wrongly in my opinion) do so.
From - https://stylebeats.wordpress.com/2011/01/16/70s-glamour-dg-ss11-ad-campaign/
The happiness of being envied is glamour.
Being envied is a solitary form of reassurance. It depends precisely upon not sharing your experience with those who envy you. You are observed with interest but you do not observe with interest - if you do, you will become less enviable. In this respect the envied are like bureaucrats; the more impersonal they are, the greater the illusion (for themselves and for others) of their power. The power of the glamorous resides in their supposed happiness: the power of the bureaucrat in his supposed authority.” - John Berger, Ways of Seeing
I agree with burgers point here that women are constantly objectified by visual culture. It’s then supported by brands and marketers that are catering to the female audience. The whole system supports the idea that women are to be looked at, that they are trophies of men and the the reason to look pretty is to get a husband or a partner which is absurd.
Artists like Barbara Kruger who were strong critics fighting against these entrenched ideas informed from the male gaze and also touching upon consumerism. I think the two go together as it seems that today's visual culture is dominated by the male gaze and it objectifies women, in turn they are consumed visually.
Marketers often use women to sell there product, ie use this product and get a trophy glamorous wife. Selling the idea that that is the goal, to have an attractive wife or partner and their purpose is to be pretty and to be consumed ( as the partner, mostly as a sexual object,
“In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its phantasy on to the female form which is styled accordingly. 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.”
― Laura Mulvey, Visual And Other Pleasures
There seems to be a positive push forward with some members of the advertising industry pushing for change. Badger ( of Badger and Winters has been campaigning for a change in the way women are used to sell pretty much anything.
In this playful ad it painfully shows how absurd the current status quo is with regards to women represented in visual culture. I thikn we've been hard wired and over whelmed with the amount of images to the point that perhaps we know its wrong but swere just visually exhausted by it and apathy has got the better of us.
Historically women have always been objectified and used to sell products with sexuality. Take Beer for example a product thats primarily marketed at men. Take this ad below for example. We see the man having a break with tools smiling as his ( we assume) wife is pouring him a drink. Tending to him, literally like a waitress. He's not even looking at her and she's doing a task for him. This signifies that in this scene her role is to support her husband. The words in small print also adding anchorage to the power dynamic. "The King' imp[lying the male is in charge and the women is a subject of his.
For reference I decided to use the same brand but from a more recent time and hopefully it will show that the male gaze is still present and how visual culture has become more explicit.
In these image we see 3 attractive women laid on a towel. Wearing swim wear that has the Budweiser branding on that blends into the beach towel below them. The woman in the middle is smiling at the camera and leaning back in a relaxed way. The beach towel sun glasses and swimwear are all signifiers that denote a beach scene. We are culturally accounted to the beach being a fun place, looking at 3 ladies on a beach towel smiling in swimwear connotes a fun and happy place. The combination of the signs and the context ( it being a bear ad) builds the myth that these women are happy, and that their inviting you to look with the centre women staring straight into the camera and smiling it connotes a complicit and agreement to watch. The viewer is welcome. What the marketers are trying to communicate here is, come and drink Budweiser beer. This is the world in which it belongs to. You can be a part of this world where beautiful women are inviting you to be with them on the beach, a place where fun happens and people are more flirty perhaps. One could argue that this is a bad example as beer seems to be enjoyed more by men then women, but on that note beer is advertised to men more than women. Either way the woman is objectified and is their for the viewing pleasure of the intended male gaze.
So another example of the male gaze here. Again maybe not he best example but this ad is selling a product to men by projecting a strong powerful handsome man as someone that uses the product. On the most basic level there saying you should use this after shave to be more like this man. He’s half naked which shows he’s good physical form, indicating that women will find him attractive. The way that the image has been made also plays to the myth of a deepness and being close to nature. Holding a surf board which is a signifier that he surfs ( sounds obvious) but the surfing cub culture has been portrayed with many many cliche ideals of being one with nature and a spirituality, and to bring it back to the gendered ads and male gaze, it’s this closeness to nature and spirituality that is ( or is at least told to us) appealing to women, ( we’re told) that this is a virtuous trait to have and will make you more desirable. The male gaze is rampant throughout visual culture and thankfully more and more artists and agencies are moving past it but I highlighted before this change is long and slow one and I feel that social media and new media are making more difficult then ever to speed things up.