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Discussion Question #3

Part 1.  According Berger, in episode 2 of Ways of Seeing, the main distinction between nakedness and the the nude female form as represented in traditional Western art is that being naked is to be oneself, and the nude, is to be seen naked by others and yet not be recognized for oneself.  A nude, he adds, has to be seen as an object, and in this object the female(s) are not seen naked as they are, but instead naked as you, the observer, see them.  These differences are significant because in the nudes the nakedness is a sight for those who are dressed.  And these differences could also be seen today in nude magazines such as Playboy.  The pictures in these magazines are catered to the sexual desires of the mainly male observers with the seductive and unnatural poses.

Part 2.  According to Berger, these Western works have often depicted and defined men as being dominant and women being subservient and the lesser of the two sexes.  The Creation paintings even depicted women as being guilty for the first sin and subsequently making God rule that women were to obey men.  As a result of this many of these paintings depicted women as always trying to please men with a sort of guilty look on their faces.  And yes these depictions still influence, although a lot less, the roles of men and women in society today.

Part 3.  In the nudes of Western art the mirror became a symbol for vanity of women, picturing herself how men see her.  She sees herself mainly as a sight, which means a sight for men.  The mirror also indicates how beauty was judged in those paintings, in a competitive way.  The prettiest, as seen by men, was illustrated effectively in the painting, The Judgement of Paris, as this painting depicted a beauty contest.  He also discusses the significance of the female gaze in these paintings.  The gaze, whether she is looking at a mirror or out to the audience, is always to see what someone else is thinking of her, mainly men, and is she pleasurable to them.  These same types of gazes and expressions, he adds, can be seen in modern day photographs, like from a female magazine.   These expressions are submissive with a calculating charm to the man she knows is looking at her.  This example clearly shows that even today, women are still looked upon as objects of beauty rather than just themselves.

2 thoughts on “Discussion Question #3

  1. tenzin w paling

    The playboy example you have given does resembles in the context of male spectator. It was sure made to lure and fulfill the sexual appetite of spectators. What I see the difference in playboy magazine is, they lack the submissiveness and sign of subservient to the men. Their expressions has freedom and dynamism unlike the earlier oil paintings. The earlier European oil paintings lean more towards showing the spectator owner’s dominance over women, which is totally absent in magazines like playboy.

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