Last week I linked to the first episode of the 1972 BBC documentary, Ways of Seeing (thanks again to Christina W.). The second episode, partially embedded below offers an art historian’s perspective on the objectification of women in European art and advertising, starting with paintings of nude women. “To be naked,” he argues, “is to be oneself. To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognized for oneself. A nude has to be seen as an object in order to be a nude… they are there to feed an appetite, not to have any of their own.”
And there’s a very provocative statement about hair and hairlessness (down there) in the midst.
Parts One and Two of Four:Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Hans Bakker — July 25, 2010
It is amazing to see this again, after so many years. I remember well feeling that John Berger was making important observations. Now, so many years later, it seems dated. His own hair style and shirt fashion make it clear that all of this is from another era. There is both a grain of truth in it, and yet also a kind of extreme polarization. We are much more famiiar today with male nudes in art and in advertising. While there is much truth in the notion of the male gaze, it is nevertheless also true that there is a female gaze. I think the broader theory should be the notion of a semiotic self, a concept that encompasses Cooley's looking glass self, but nevertheless also goes beyond it. The true "Self" can come out either naked or nude, as the painting by Rembrandt tends to show, at least to some extent.
Jacob — July 25, 2010
I don't think it's dated at all... as it is about a disection of the ways of seeing... it refers to 60s phenomina, but I think those "ways of seeing" can be applied to a great deal today, on the internet etc... He is however yes polar in saying women are treated 100% differently... there is actually, I would agree, a great deal of overlap now, and probably even then... you're right about that. But it does help to make the arguments clearer.
Also just a teeny bit of a correction to the post! John Berger isn't really an art historian, he approached art and art criticism as a painter and I really think this is quite important in the way he addresses the stuff. He's a trained and practising painter and distinguishes himself in interviews from art historians deliberately, saying art historians are trained to see things one way, but because of his training he sees them in another.
sam — July 25, 2010
Dated? The fashion, yes, but the statements he's making? I don't think so. He never denies that there are male nudes to be found in European oil paintings. Instead, what he's commenting on is the way they are portrayed....even today, when you see an image of naked, sexualized male in the media, the theme behind it is never one of narcissism or sexual passivity; instead, we see virile, muscular men who are more often than not in the process of exerting masculine energy. They exemplify power, even if they are simultaneously being objectified. If the man in the image is looking in the mirror, or back at the spectator, he seems to be saying, "I KNOW I am handsome and masculine," rather than the blank female stare which is devoid of energy or personality, merely asking to be judged by the spectator. In fact, one of the few places I have ever seen a man portrayed in a passive way is in gay pornography, and always the receptive, more "feminine" partner. For the most part, I would argue that images of naked men (barring some of gay male erotica) are FOR men and MADE BY men, for the sake of celebrating masculine power.
tree — July 26, 2010
"down there"? seriously?
psyche&musings — July 26, 2010
From a Grecian standpoint, to be "naked" is to be objectified by the other, and is not nudity. (The dictionary of course will use naked:nude, as though they were interchangeable). Nudity is reminiscent of innocence, while nakedness is a rape of identity. Nakedness is an unwilling exposition of the body, while nudity is the state or fact of the body unclothed- au natural, if you will. It's interesting to me that Mr. Berger believes that a model may be synthesized as an artist's cornucopia, "...they are there to feed an appetite, not to have any of their own.”. As if to say that the model is reason enough for the profusion of wealth, power, and resources -- the "body of work", oeuvre, via a "work of art" by an artist.
lily — July 28, 2010
I love how the last video cuts off as soon as the women were about to give their input. Oh irony...
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ioana — November 21, 2012
does anybody know how i can find this photo: a woman, possibly asian, black hair, glasses, a sexy librarian look reads a magazine I think. She sits with legs spread, pubic hair showing and has bruised knees. I think she has a shirt on, and high heels? i think it's an art photo or a commercial, i am not sure