John Berger in “Ways of Seeing”, distinguishes “nakedness” from “nudity” in the European tradition, with nakedness simply being the state of having no cloths on and nudity being a form of artistic representation. Berger mentioned in the video that, “Being naked is just being yourself but being nude in the artistic sense of the word is being without cloths for the purpose of being looked at. A naked body has to become an object of a gaze in order to become a nude representation.” Being naked means being without any costume that you put on but being nude means that you become your own costume. Women are there for men to look at, “men act and women appear.” While men do the looking, women watch themselves being looked at.What’s more, he mentioned that women should take care of every action she does because women’s actions are the ways that indicates the way the girl should be observed. On the other hand, men’s actions are not judged by people as women. He won’t even have a bad reputation as a woman can does.
Berger was discussing the difference between male and female presence. His argument was basically power for men is extrinsic while power for women is intrinsic. A man’s presence dependents on what he is capable of doing to you or for you. It depends on his power. If the promise is large and credible his presence is striking. If it is small or incredible, he is found to have little presence. On the other hand, a woman’s presence expresses her own attitude to herself, and defines what can and cannot be done to her. Her presence is manifest in voice, opinions, clothes, friends. John Berger explains the process: To be born a woman is so hard as women are not free to do whatever they want as men due to the society and how they are going to be in people’s eyes. She has a limited space. There are always traditions that she had ro obey and if she didn’t do so, she would be judged. She always has to explain everything to everybody if she did something wrong because how she appears to others, and importantly how she appears to men. Society today even creates this image that men have more power over women, and when the roles are reversed, as displayed in the male nude advertisements, it causes public outrage. It’s true that male nudity is getting the new presence in the modern society and is becoming increasingly more normal, however, one can still assume a few reasons as to why there was an opposition to display of the naked men on the posters. Men also don’t want to be seen as having less power and vulnerability. Female nudity is associated with beauty and erotic. It’s meant to be unthreatening. Male nudity is much more challenging. Society in general is uncomfortable with seeing it in public. At the end, nudity is still not totally accepted.
The male gaze is the act of depicting women and the world from a masculine perspective that sees women as a sexual objects for the pleasure of the male viewer only. John Berger observed that “men act and women appear.” Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.” Mirror was often used as a symbol of the vanity of woman. You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, you put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting Vanity. Therefore, you had depicted for your own pleasure. The real function of a mirror is to make the woman treat herself.