Creative Korean Advertising #16: The Male Gaze

Diamond Ogilvy Korea Olympus E3 Autofocus( Source: Add Shots )

Given my Feminist pretensions, then usually I’d instinctively feel defensive about my decision to post an ad like this, and in the past this has often prompted me to write lengthy arguments about how, say, exposure of breasts per se shouldn’t be regarded as sexist. But with some notable exceptions (and from which I’ve learned a great deal from), whether through preaching to the converted, most of my readers being men(?), or some other reason, judging by the lack of detracting comments on those occasions then such justifications have probably proved unnecessary.

So, I’ll let it go: readers certainly don’t need me to spell out that on the one hand this ad is definitely objectifying, but on the other that men would behave exactly the same way even if women had achieved complete equality, and can decide for themselves if it’s sexist or not (I’m still happy to discuss that in the comments section though). In the meantime, I’m learning to feel less ashamed about the unabashed grins ads like this put on my face, especially the first ad in this post.

Actually, a much more interesting issue it raises is its directness. Of course objectifying women is hardly new or unique to Korean ads, but I can’t think of any other example that so blatantly incorporates the corresponding (sexual) male gaze into its message, and this makes it more sexual than, say, the sudden spate of couples kissing in Korean advertisements that is making news recently (see here, here, and here). On top of that, it actually went up way back in November 2007 too (see the details here), which raises some interesting questions:

  • How common was it?
  • Where was it posted?
  • Were there any complaints?
  • If so, was it removed from circulation?
  • If not, why have there been no similar ads since?
  • Or perhaps there have been, it’s just that I didn’t notice them?

If any readers can help me with any of those, I’d appreciate it. In the morning, and with apologies for not doing this first, I’ll scour Naver and so on and see if there’s anything in Korean on it.

Update: Unfortunately I couldn’t find anything at all about this ad in Korea, either at Naver or Yahoo! Korea, and which makes me wonder if it was actually released or not? But as for ads featuring the male gaze, I forgot about this one with Han Ye-seul (한예슬) for lingerie company Venus (비너스). From February 2008:

(For all posts in my “Creative Korean Advertising” series, see here)

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55 thoughts on “Creative Korean Advertising #16: The Male Gaze

  1. Hmm, so the selling point of this camera is that you can whip it out (…) and quickly take photos of women who are inadvertently exposing a little too much cleavage … I’m not sure *what* I think …

  2. I’m not sure how original the idea is.. remember the face detection ones? I also can’t tell what it’s selling – obviously a camera, but which one? I assume it’s the one the guy’s holding, but then what is the one in the bottom corner there for?

  3. I find nothing sexist in this – only realism. Men will zoom in on a flashed bit of cleavage, most without even thinking. Women who wear such clothing are aware of this and I daresay use it to their advantage – inadvertently or intentionally. That is just interaction between the sexes and cries of sexism are misplaced, I feel.

    However, I would have found the advertisement funnier if the caption had read “The second fastest autofocus”.

    • Lily, no offense, but I think you misinterpreted the ad, although Lorne’s alternate caption would have made its message much clearer (and, I agree, much funnier too).

      Seamus–In some old threads on this at other sites, some people liked the extra touch of the guy with the phone camera, but seeing as it confused you then perhaps it could have done without it?

      Sure, the face detection ones which I wrote about here, also by Nikon (but by a Singaporean advertising agency), also came to mind when I saw this ad, but they’re selling different cameras and/or technology features.

      But I see your point that this idea may not be all that original, and indeed, although there have definitely been some worldwide firsts in this “Creative Korean Advertising” series, I confess that whenever I write one of these posts in the back of my mind I wonder whether similar ideas haven’t already been done overseas. As I’m sure you’re well aware Koreans are – to be blunt – notorious for plagiarism, and their education system doesn’t exactly encourage creativity.

      Yue–My wife didn’t mind it either, saying that it was just a reflection of reality.

  4. Yeah, I’m another woman who found the ad more amusing than anything else. I think what’s important is that it’s not just using the woman’s cleavage to sell the product – it’s also making gentle fun of the men’s, umm, singular interest in her assets. The lingerie ad, while aimed at women, is actually much more questionable from a feminist standpoint. Particularly the way the male gaze is this actual thing that keeps hitting the girl in the breasts… it’s pretty weird and made me feel a bit uncomfortable to watch. Plus, that bra is ugly as hell. It looks like something I would have designed as a second grader.

    • Naturally I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m offended by the second ad, but I confess, regardless of how strange it sounds as a guy to say this, it did make me feel a little uncomfortable. Mostly because of her expression of sheer delight at 0:06 after having (literally) just received a man’s attention: seriously, it’s like it’s what she lives for. Yes, I realize that getting men’s attention is the whole idea – at least with this particular bra – but it seems overdone, almost as if that segment of the ad was aimed at men rather than women: “Oh Thank you, my prince, for looking at my breasts! I’m so happy!”

  5. hhmm,i think it’s not so much a sexist ad against women as a reflection of reality..and it actually could be interpreted as making fun of men, in that they’re shallow and dumb..so i’d concur with sarah’s comments on the men..

  6. I totally agree with Lorne on this one. Being interested in the opposite sex is far from sexist. Sexism according to the big book of words says it’s about either “prejudice, stereotyping or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex”. I have no idea what kind of prejudice would be applicable on this one, if anyone is stereotyped, I’d say it’s the boys in the picture, and I’d be very interested in hearing why she’d be discriminated.

    I wouldn’t say that it objectifies the woman either. Looking at someone’s cleavage or other point of interest is hardly regarding a person as a non-human object with a single purpose, denying their autonomy or anything else. It simply is natural.

    The post is mis-tagged, by the way. The E-3 is not a Nikon camera, but an Olympus ;)

  7. I cast my vote with other commenters that the ad is not sexist and reflects reality although I wonder if Korean women are comfortable exposing that much cleavage. Up until the time I left Korea in 2001, cleavage was still a no-no. One could show off the form of the breasts in a tight shirt, but rarely did one see actual exposed breast tissue or that sexy center crease, and even then, the woman was usually Western. I know that actresses love to show off their sometimes enhanced chests, but are ordinary Korean women now sporting cleavage also?

    Look how the woman pays no attention to the men who are all paying discreet attention to her. Lorne gets it right. East or west, north or south, women are often strategic in dress, showing of assets and hiding liabilities. A smart woman knows how to look sexy, not slutty, taking into account her age, shape, situation, and local sensibilities.

    I’m still waiting for the right occasion to wear my new 3 1/2-inch heel black satin pumps with an Oriental red and white flower print. If I were in my twenties, I would wear these CFM shoes with a short black or red dress, but alas we MILFs can’t get away with more than one sexy item of clothing, so I’ll pair up the shoes with a knee-length sleeveless black chemise and pearls.

  8. I’m back. While browsing stories at ABC News, I came across this relevant quote from Jessica Alba as spoken to Entertainment Weekly in 2001:

    ”Guys are visually stimulated. They’re easy to manipulate. All you have to do is dress up in a sexy outfit. Girls just have this power over guys. Guys are sort of stupid that way.”

    • BTW, just in case anybody thought otherwise, I didn’t think it was sexist either! In hindsight though, “definitely” objectifying was not quite what I meant: “technically” would probably have been more accurate, as while I don’t think looking at a woman’s breasts is at all objectifying either (provided you still treat and think of the owner as a person of course), it’s still true that it’s not the woman but her breasts that are the focus of the ad.

      Thanks for pointing out my mistake L…blame Seamus! :) Typing “올림푸스” into Naver did quickly yield this and this, but unfortunately that was all I could find. I’m still not at all certain the ad was ever released.

      Sonagi–Certainly standards for celebrities have changed, but 8 years later I’ve still never seen as much exposed cleavage or a crease like that on ordinary Korean women either, and I’ve lived right next to one of Busan’s main nightlife districts for 6 years. Perhaps things might be different up in Hongdae or somewhere(?), but I doubt it.

      BTW, Naturally I like to think I’m smart and sophisticated and now above that sort of thing, but in reality at 33 I’m still just as easily manipulated by a sexy outfit as a 17 year-old. I think the scene in the original French Nikita puts that sentiment best, where she’s learning how to dress and act as a woman towards the end of her more traditional weapons and martial arts training, and that as a female spy she has certain skills her male counterparts lack.

  9. Jessica Alba oversestimates male stupidity in the face of female sexuality because she is empowered with naturally stunning looks capable of stupefying any heterosexual male.

    • Well, I can’t speak for all guys, but I’m not so sure that she is overestimating. While in reality my behavior and outward appearance has probably never changed enough to be noticeable, I’m sometimes surprised at how differently I feel that I’m speaking and acting around attractive women, and despite my intellectual reminder to myself that I’m married, that it’s not like we’re going to hook up, and so that I should just stop being so damn tense already!

      Seriously, I’d be putty in any even moderately attractive woman’s claws, should she choose to take advantage of it. Surely it’s not just me?

      Why yes, I have been married for 6 years, and I do wear my wedding ring to give myself an ego-saving excuse for why women don’t ever seem to notice me. Why do you ask? ;)

  10. I think you’ve done a fantastic job of choosing two adds that straddle the threshold of female objectification. Here are my thoughts on each.

    1. Camera add – first of all, as the brand confucian, I must point out that this add is a complete and utter failure for 2 reasons. First, the brand name is nowhere to be found. I had to google “E-3 Autofocus” to discover the camera manufacturer – which I refuse to reveal here because that would help to further bad marketing. Second, as Lorne so aptly pointed out, the caption not only could have been better (and funnier) if it read “The second fastest auto-focus,” but missing that opportunity was an unforgivable copy error. This not-so ‘creative’ add exemplifies what makes me crazy about English advertising in Asia…please excuse the rant…

    As far as sexism is concerned, it’s a close call, but I’d say the add is safe. The woman definitely seems in control. She understands male biology and is showing just enough cleavage to give her the upper hand.

    2. Brassier add – This add is completely sexist and objectifying. The first line of copy reads “시선을 어디로 꽂힐지 모른다” (You never know from whence their gazes will penetrate). Particularly disturbing is this use of 꽂힌다 (To be stuck, penetrated) and the imagery of men aggressively penetrating her with their gazes represented by hunter’s arrows made of light. Simply disgusting.

  11. Also…the men in the brassier add aren’t being ‘overcome’ or ‘stupified’ by the woman. They are aggressively, animalistically, sexualizing her with their gazes. Not okay.

    • Good to hear from someone with an insider knowledge of the industry, and especially someone who blogs about it too! Seriously, I already have a couple of your posts printed out (as a Generation Xer, albeit the tail end, that’s how I work), and I expect I’ll be referring to your blog pretty regularly from now on.

      In hindsight, I can see how the two ads certainly “straddle threshold of female objectification,” although of course that was entirely by accident on my part (I’m still looking for any other examples explicitly featuring the male gaze so to speak). As for the first, I can definitely understand your criticisms of it, and now realize that however creative the original concept was the execution was seriously flawed. As for the second, agreed and understood also, although personally I wouldn’t go so far as to describe it as “disgusting,” but that’s neither here nor there. I’m especially glad that you translated the accompanying Korean too, which certainly adds to the sexually aggressive overall tone of the ad, and you’ve reminded me that I shouldn’t write about any Korean ad without first translating it also. And I thought I’d learned my lesson after misanalysing this ad too, but apparently my original resolve only lasted for one more post!

  12. Sonagi’s comment: “I cast my vote with other commenters that the ad is not sexist and reflects reality” fails to consider that perhaps the reality we live in is…well…sexist.

    Sonagi goes on to say:
    “Look how the woman pays no attention to the men who are all paying discreet attention to her. Lorne gets it right. East or west, north or south, women are often strategic in dress, showing of assets and hiding liabilities. A smart woman knows how to look sexy, not slutty, taking into account her age, shape, situation, and local sensibilities.”

    This is not feminism. This is not female empowerment. This is complicity in one’s own objectification. Trying to control the results of one’s objectification (so that one looks “sexy” hot vs. “slutty” hot, as Sonagi says, for instance) doesn’t change the conditions under which it occurs. It is, sorry to say, still objectification. The woman is offering herself up as a visual object to be penetrated and owned by the male gaze.

    This doesn’t make a woman empowered, it makes her a female chauvinist.

    So yes, the ad is sexist. It furthers patriarchal power and values by pulling the old switcheroo of making objectification seem like it’s empowering: “Hey…the woman KNOWS! She’s doing it on PURPOSE! So what’s the big deal?”

    To drag my point into absurdity: This is like posting an ad about a house slave who happily *chooses* to work in the house, implying that this is no longer slavery.

  13. @trumoboy:

    Your final analogy is absurd. Slaves didn’t choose where they worked. Apart from a few legal restrictions and professional regulations and expectations, women do have choices about how to dress. Women dress to attract men because they want something from them: companionship, a free meal, good genes, partnership in raising a family. As James has pointed out, women do not spend money on appearance because we are foolish. We invest in our looks because such investments reap benefits in giving us more choices in male partners.

    If I want to show my boobs, I’ll show my boobs, and I don’t give a crap if some anonymous netizen commenter repeats lecture notes from Women’s Studies by telling me that I’ve objectified myself which makes me a female chauvinist.

    My username has changed to the name of my blog.

  14. @Whatsonthemenu re: trumoboy,

    The point was to drag the argument to hyperbolic absurdity – in order to illustrate – Actually nicely done.

    I can’t speak for trumoboy, but the point of my criticism isn’t to lambast women for wearing sexy attire. Whether or not to (tactfully) make use of male biology and attract attention to herself is a choice for every woman to make.

    I take issue with the marketer who thinks it’s okay to objectify a woman so aggressively for commercial purposes – even with her apparent consent. In other words, it’s not so much the cleavage that’s the problem, but the copy and the penetrating symbolism.

  15. James,

    Thanks for the interest in the blog. I stumbled on your blog following your pingback. You have some great stuff here. I’m sure I will reference often!

    And as far as calling the ad discusting…I probably am a little emotional about these things – that’s my nature. Especially when it comes to marketing of poor taste.

  16. The problem with trumoboy’s analogy isn’t hyperbole. It’s that it’s simply not analogous. Women choose their attire. Slaves don’t choose their jobs. It’s not even apples and oranges.

    The image itself seems harmless, but I do find the use of the word “penetration” in the copy offensive in that it does render the woman as a passive object and not active agent of her sexuality.

    Personally, I wouldn’t expose that much flesh even here in the states, even if I were still young enough to look good in that dress because I wouldn’t want the attention such attire would attract.

    I noticed something else while looking again at the ad. Her chest looks strangely disproportioned. If that dress really were that low, her boobs would fall out unless she’s got grandma boobs down to her stomach, which I doubt. I think her chest has been stretched out to create more exposed skin.

  17. I see what you mean about the analogy. I didn’t analyze it that far…and I wasn’t taking my discomfort that far either. Interesting observation on her proportions – although they didn’t look like grandma boobs to me. But I’m not an expert on female anatomy either.

  18. Since you’re still around, Scott, I wanted to disagree with you about this comment:

    “They are aggressively, animalistically, sexualizing her with their gazes. “

    When I look at the picture, I do not see aggression. I see slyness. Men looking at a sexy woman is indeed animal-like because sexual attraction is a characteristic of mammals. Their looks aren’t sexualizing her. She did that by choosing the dress and shoes. I am a heterosexual woman who has absolutely no desire to have sex with her, yet I can see that she is sexy and I would probably check her out in a comparative sort of way.

  19. Dear Whatsonthemenu

    The fact that you’re defending your own complicity in your objectification, that you present yourself as an object to be owned by the gaze doesn’t change the nature of what you’re doing. You’re simply saying: “Yeah that’s what I do. So what?”

    Given that you’ve 1. admitted that you’re doing this–in order to “reap benefits”
    2. This ad encourages women to do what you admit to doing

    Then: how can this image possibly be “harmless?”

    PS Yes, slaves do have a say about whether or not they work in the house. They get to do so by behaving. And if they behave they get to “reap benefits.” If not, they get sent back to the field. So there is an element of agency there.

    PPS Your vitriol towards Women’s Studies is kind of telling, isn’t it?

  20. Sure women get to choose their attire, just like Chinese Americans in the 19th century could choose between working the railroads or the fields.

    Hey, they got to choose right?

  21. Dear Truemoboy

    I think you are taking this far, far too seriously. What is the basis for your anger at this? You have seemingly taken a very militant stance on this perceived sexism and the ties you see to slavery. Would it be fair to say that by your definitions of “objectification” that any time a man looks at a woman he is objectifying her? I would venture that men are more likely to “objectify” a woman they perceive as being unattractive than those that are attractive, however, I have no facts to back up such a claim — it is just my opinion. Where does natural attraction fit in to this? Sex appeal/attraction — from a purely instinctual level — is a biological process and as such cannot be classified as either ‘good or ‘bad’, it just is. Sure there are social pressures regarding it but I find your arguments slanted. Women in Muslim countries who must hide everything but their eyes when they venture out of doors are much more objectified than the woman pictured above, wouldn’t you agree? One would venture that your extremist view is more likely to create a sexless, dull existence and cause more harm than good. The world that you seems to want us to live in IMHO seems to be much more in line with white-jumpsuited conformity and inhibited behaviour ala many crappy sci-fi movies.

    Save your ire for something that is truly objectionable (such as the Muslim women mentioned above), which it seems most of the commentators on this post feel this is not.

  22. “The fact that you’re defending your own complicity in your objectification, that you present yourself as an object to be owned by the gaze doesn’t change the nature of what you’re doing.”

    So gaze establishes ownership? Wow! I’m going run out to Panera first thing tomorrow morning and gaze at the freshly filled pots of coffee. Then I’m going to fill my cup and leave without paying. As soon as the mall opens, I’m going to gaze at some lovely summer dresses and then grab them and walk out the door. Later on, I’ll head to a local used car dealership and gaze at this black BMW before I ask for the title and keys.

    Thanks, truemoboy, you’ve made my day.

    “PS Your vitriol towards Women’s Studies is kind of telling, isn’t it?”

    My vitriol isn’t towards Women’s Studies. It’s towards people who mindlessly spout opinions as facts or truths. Whether or not the ad is sexist or demeans women is a matter of opinion as most commenters on the thread seem to understand.

  23. Dear Whatsonthemenu

    When you say that you dress in a sexually revealing way to “reap benefits”, who exactly are you assuming you’ll be reaping these benefits from?

    You’re making yourself sexually appealing to…whom?

    So through the simple act of getting dressed for a heterosexual male audience, you’re saying: “Hey, you’re the one in power, and I’m going to dress like this for you.”

    How does this not reaffirm a patriarchal power structure?

    It’s not like you’re dressing like a Teletubby to “reap benefits’ from all those toddlers in power.

    Is this a militant stance? It’s simple logic.

  24. When you say that you dress in a sexually revealing way to “reap benefits”, who exactly are you assuming you’ll be reaping these benefits from?

    In an earlier thread, I described myself in a sleeveless black chemise, high heels, and pearls. In the West, this is considered appropriate evening out attire for women and not particularly revealing. I did acknowledge that when I was younger, I wore more revealing clothing. The benefit reaped by looking attractive, whether we are talking about men or women, is evident in the very word “attractive,” as in “being able to attract the opposite sex.”

    You’re making yourself sexually appealing to…whom?

    To heterosexual men mature enough to satisfy the mind of a middle-aged women and fit enough not to require medication before sex.

    “So through the simple act of getting dressed for a heterosexual male audience, you’re saying: “Hey, you’re the one in power, and I’m going to dress like this for you.”

    How does this not reaffirm a patriarchal power structure?

    Sexual attraction is a mutual thing. Both men and women dress and act to attract the other. Both exert power and sometimes give up power. If I were to go to dinner tonight with a man, he, too, would likely spend some time in front of the mirror before our date.

  25. Dear Whatsonthemenu

    I absolutely agree with you here:

    “Sexual attraction is a mutual thing. Both men and women dress and act to attract the other. Both exert power and sometimes give up power. If I were to go to dinner tonight with a man, he, too, would likely spend some time in front of the mirror before our date.”

    Sexual power is give and take.

    The variable that makes self-objectification (and men of course can be guilty of this too) problematic is this: Who holds the social/economic/political power in any given situation?

    If a female employee dresses herself to appeal to a male employer then she has made herself a supplicant in a hotness-for-benefit economy. “Do I look good to you? Will you hook me up?” She’s jockeying for (maybe that’s too strong a word–how about passively seeking?) his approval.

    If a male employee did the same for a female employer then etc.

    Same same!

    The problem here, however is like the difference between bias/prejudice (hate speech, thoughts, etc.) and racism (institutionalized bias/prejudice): Who is in power? Who calls the shots?

    Of course there’s the argument that the supplicant is exerting “sexual” power over his/her boss by “commanding” their attention, but that’s like saying a great basketball player is more powerful than his boss–more popular, sure, more famous, sure, and the boss has to make concessions based on the player’s attractiveness (popularity/performance) but at the end of the day, who’s signing the checks?

    So yeah, this is the reality of our world: sex sells, and we all need to look better to get that extra leg up.

    But why encourage this? Especially you who know how it goes firsthand? Why say that this is OK?

    I hear a lot of (implosively) bitter defeatist arguments when I bring up institutionalized imbalances of power. It seems like the dominant philosophy is: Hey. Just suck it up and roll with the punches.

    OK maybe. But I can complain about it on the internet, can’t I?

  26. Dear Whatsonthemenu,

    You mentioned earlier:

    “So gaze establishes ownership? Wow! I’m going run out to Panera first thing tomorrow morning and gaze at the freshly filled pots of coffee. Then I’m going to fill my cup and leave without paying. As soon as the mall opens, I’m going to gaze at some lovely summer dresses and then grab them and walk out the door. Later on, I’ll head to a local used car dealership and gaze at this black BMW before I ask for the title and keys.”

    While I was browsing through my lecture notes from Women’s Studies 101, I thought of a few topics that I think could facilitate our discussion of “vision and ownership” and “vision and power”. I’m going to go out on a douche-y limb here and name-drop some stuff I know nothing about:

    The work of Walter Benjamin/John Berger. (I’m thinking of Berger’s accessible “Ways of Seeing” in particular)

    Michel Foucault’s work on vision and power. (Maybe his stuff on prisons and the panopticon?)

    The Judeo-Christian myth (or belief if that offends you) in an all-seeing God, all-powerful God who cannot be seen.

    Maggie Hadleigh-West’s short doc/film `War Zone”

    Spatial order and vision at Versailles.

    And of course the interchangeable usage of “see” and “get” in: I see your point. I get your point.

    OK that’s all. Sorry. Didn’t mean to come off like an ass.

    Thanks to James Turnbull for hosting this discussion.

  27. @Lorne

    Wow. I didn’t know I was being militant. The Black Panthers were militant. I’m just a pro-sex feminist loser on the internet who’s scared to talk to real women.

    “Women in Muslim countries who must hide everything but their eyes when they venture out of doors are much more objectified than the woman pictured above, wouldn’t you agree?”

    If objectified means transforming a human being into an object with one’s gaze, then no.

    If objectified means subjected to unequal conditions that run contrary to our beliefs in basic human rights, then yes.

    “One would venture that your extremist view is more likely to create a sexless, dull existence and cause more harm than good. The world that you seems to want us to live in IMHO seems to be much more in line with white-jumpsuited conformity and inhibited behaviour ala many crappy sci-fi movies.”

    What exactly are my views, Lorne? It’s funny that you think they’re extremist because I don’t think I’ve set them out here.

    Furthermore, I like crappy sci-fi movies.

    And, offense of offenses, what’s wrong with white jumpsuits??

    Your attribution of an epically dystopian future to my saying “Objectification is bad” seems to stem from a big misunderstanding of sexual attraction vs. institutionalized sexism. While it was fun to read your slick punchy prose (and really, you’re a great writer–better than me in fact), I think your logic jumped the shark somewhere.

    “Save your ire for something that is truly objectionable (such as the Muslim women mentioned above), which it seems most of the commentators on this post feel this is not.”

    Dude. I have too much ire.

    The Muslim woman’s situation is, sadly, different in degree only, not in kind.

    Why not object to both?

  28. “Who holds the social/economic/political power in any given situation? “

    The three kinds of power should not be lumped together as they are distinct. A few people enjoy all three while many others enjoy a greater amount of one or two kinds. Moreover, listing these three kinds of power ignores other kinds. Let’s go back to the original ad. It doesn’t matter whether any of the men is a CEO or a politician. The woman in the middle does not appear to applying for a job or seeking a political favor. She appears to be exercising sexual power, that is, the ability to attract the opposite sex. One can only speculate as to her motives.

    “The problem here, however is like the difference between bias/prejudice (hate speech, thoughts, etc.) and racism (institutionalized bias/prejudice): Who is in power? Who calls the shots?”

    This seems like a good place to point out that women don’t always dress for men. We often dress for other women. In high school, I spent a large portion of my disposible income on clothes, hair, and makeup, taking cues and comparing outfits with other girls in and out of my social circle. An Arab female feminist noted in an interview that Gulf Arab women enjoyed shedding their niqabs at same-sex gatherings and showing off their latest designer purchases. Women jockey for position among other women and men do the same.

    “So yeah, this is the reality of our world: sex sells, and we all need to look better to get that extra leg up.

    But why encourage this? Especially you who know how it goes firsthand? Why say that this is OK? “

    Implied in your comments is the assumption that using sex to sell is inherently bad. I disagree. Ads should be judged on a case by case basis. Consumers aren’t shy about voicing their objections to offensive advertising, and publishers and corporations listen.

    “Berger’s accessible “Ways of Seeing”

    The message I got from reading excerpts available online is that both the seer and the seen are active agents. Referring back to the ad, the woman chose her outfit. The men are choosing to look. However, the woman initiated the exchange by wearing the dress, so it could be argued that she is more in control or is exerting more power over the men, who are following instinct.

    “Michel Foucault’s work on vision and power”

    I read his text on prisons and light. It is not relevant here because prisoners have little if any control over exposure. The woman in the ad has tremendous control over her exposure, limited only by nudity restrictions.

    “The Judeo-Christian myth “

    As an apostate from Christianity, I’m going to skip over this one.

    “Maggie Hadleigh-West’s short doc/film `War Zone” “

    I don’t know how relevant this is. Men may be more likely to whistle or cat-call a provocatively dressed young woman, but how much more likely? I have been the target of public masturbation on a few occasions and in all cases, I was wearing ordinary clothing.

    Another Arab feminist claimed in an interview that Egyptian women dressed in niqab were subjected to the same degree of verbal and physical harassment as women in Western clothes. I recall seeing a Youtube video in which two Saudi men grabbed and fondled two women covered in niqabs. The women struggled a bit before breaking away. Overlayed on the video was the Quranic quote about women covering themselves to avert men’s gazes and distinguish themselves from non-believers.

    Verbal sexual harassment and violence is a complex problem with complex causes.

    “Spatial order and vision at Versailles.”

    Spatial order was created by people with the visual habits of visitors in mind just as women dress with the visual habits of men in mind. Who is the puppet and who is the puppeter?

  29. When I checked out the references provided, truemoboy, I purposefully sought out the primary sources, rather than commentaries. I just read a UK university analysis of John Berger’s Ways of Seeing. The commenter seemed to think that John Berger concluded after looking at medieval European paintings and modern advertising that men are spectators/ gazers and women passive participants who watch themselves being gazed upon. Either John Berger himself or the commenter thinks or implies that women want to be gazed at by men because they see such images, i.e, if women didn’t see ads showing men looking at women, they wouldn’t feel the desire for men to look at them. Is this correct? Do you agree?

    My perception is that sometimes the opposite is true, especially in an image containing a man and his partner. Back in the 80s, teenage girls’ magazine Seventeen featured an ad for Lane cedar chests. In the ad a young blond woman and a young man were seated in front of a Lane chest filled with wedding trousseau items. The woman beamed appreciatively at the man, who was not looking at the woman. Around that time, the Crown Prince of Luxembourg or some other principality got married. In the wedding portrait, the bride looked at the prince while the prince looked at the camera. In both images, I was put off by the woman’s fixed, admiring attention on a man looking elsewhere. Were the two women owning the men with their gazes? Was there penetration?

    A traditional rule of photography is the 2/3 composition. That is, the primary item of focus should appear off to the side. In a landscape image, the horizon should not cut across the middle but should fall either at the upper 1/3 or lower 1/3. A famous Australian photographer noted for his panographs (panoramic images of landscapes) included in an exhibition a landscape photo in which the horizon cut straight across the middle. A man viewing the exhibition noted that the photograph violated the rule yet the composition worked and was visually appealing. He made this observation directly to the photographer without realizing who he was. “Good thing the photographer didn’t follow the rule,” the Australian chuckled in reply.

    Rules and guidelines are helpful in analyzing, but there is no substitute for individual evaluation and judgment, the highest forms of thinking in Bloom’s taxonomy. Just because John Berger wrote some book about men owning women with their gazes doesn’t mean that every single image showing men looking at attractive women is demeaning to women and keeping them in the chains of patriarchal oppression by reinforcing institutional sexism.

  30. @Trumoboy

    You and feminists with similar arguments like the ones you’ve presented here do not define what objectify means. I suggest you look it up, since “If objectified means subjected to unequal conditions that run contrary to our beliefs in basic human rights, then yes.” is far from what can be seen as an acceptable explanation of the word/phenomenon.

    I really don’t see why feminists of your kind feel such a disgust towards both beauty and sexuality. The feminists that actually have reasonable arguments are called anti-feminists. This is one of the reasons I call myself a humanist if anything when it comes to equality; I don’t like the exclusiveness and almost religious fervor of modern feminism. If you want to objectify attractive women everytime you throw them an admiring gaze, then be my guest. Just don’t go claiming that I do the same, for I know that there’s a lot more than meets the eye, no matter if the woman in question would attract me physically or not.

  31. Dear L

    I ironically defined objectification as “If objectified means subjected to unequal conditions that run contrary to our beliefs in basic human rights, then yes” since Lorne there above seems to think that Muslim women are more “objectified” –when really all he means is that their lives suck worse than other women.

    Thus, I was conceding that yes their lives are worse, but uh…that’s not what objectified means.

    Since this is a monstrous reading comprehension fail on your part I don’t think your other comments warrant a response.

    HOWEVER. Since I’m here snooty and here anyways:

    “I don’t like the exclusiveness and almost religious fervor of modern feminism”

    What the heck is “modern feminism”? And what is exclusive about it? Please explain. Especially since most of these evil “modern feminists” can’t seem to agree on what the term means.

    If by “reasonable arguments” you mean “arguments I agree with” then yes you’re probably right–the anti-feminists are your team.

    A desiring gaze inherently interpellates the one who is desired as an object. Hence the idiom: “object of desire.” The language seems to know more than we do here.

    I desire you. You are desired by me. I wonder why the latter is known as the passive voice.

    If you want to think “Hey not me. When I check out a woman, I’m just uh..admiring her. Not desiring her” then, as they say, be my guest.

    My point is that we should be aware of the phenomenon–that these two concepts (desire and objectification) are inextricably linked.

    PS “disgust toward both beauty and sexuality”? What kind of hazy knee-jerk accusations are these? “your kind?” What the heck is my kind? My girlfriend is beautiful and the sex is great. I guess I must be disgusted by myself. Poor me.

  32. @L

    “You and feminists with similar arguments like the ones you’ve presented here do not define what objectify means. I suggest you look it up”

    Thank you Captain Obvious. No of course I didn’t define it. Since I can’t think for myself I let it be defined for me by the same resource you used. Dictionary.com

  33. Dear Whatsonthemenu

    “Rules and guidelines are helpful in analyzing, but there is no substitute for individual evaluation and judgment, the highest forms of thinking in Bloom’s taxonomy. Just because John Berger wrote some book about men owning women with their gazes doesn’t mean that every single image showing men looking at attractive women is demeaning to women and keeping them in the chains of patriarchal oppression by reinforcing institutional sexism.”

    Right. Everything I’ve mentioned I treat as as hermeneutic and since, as you said earlier, all we’re doing is sharing opinions, not facts or truths (what the heck are those? Didn’t there used to be 3 states of matter? And 9 planets in the solar system?), I’m just here to state my opinion and tick off some things that helped me form them.

    I’m really impressed that you’ve taken the time to check them out. Most people just bring gut reactions and “strong personal beliefs” to the table.

    I’m going to repeat myself here to clarify our disagreement: “A desiring gaze inherently interpellates the one who is desired as an object. Hence the idiom: “object of desire.” My point is that we should be aware of the phenomenon–that these two concepts (desire and objectification) are inextricably linked.”

    You seem to think that by being desirable a woman, rather than making herself an object (or by making herself an object?) exercises sexual power–something on par with the other three kinds we’ve mentioned. Am I getting this right?

  34. “This seems like a good place to point out that women don’t always dress for men. We often dress for other women. In high school, I spent a large portion of my disposible income on clothes, hair, and makeup, taking cues and comparing outfits with other girls in and out of my social circle. An Arab female feminist noted in an interview that Gulf Arab women enjoyed shedding their niqabs at same-sex gatherings and showing off their latest designer purchases. Women jockey for position among other women and men do the same.”

    I think you’ve hammered out the nuances here pretty nicely.

    Whether a woman dresses for a man or other women, the dynamic is still the same, however: “Don’t I look good? Are you awed? Will this increase my social capital?”

    The increase in one’s social capital requires the *approval* of the audience. If the audience thinks you’re ugly and tacky you get nothing.

    The woman on display depends on the audience’s approval. This places the audience in the subject position of the judge, the dispenser of benefits and power.

    Any sexual power earned by the wo/man being judged is on loan from the audience. The audience can take it away at any time. This is why (to me at least) this form of power is tentative and ephemeral and not true power.

    This is the first point on which we disagree I think. You find sexual power to be potent, powerful, etc. while I think any kind of power which requires audience approval is iffy.

    Can I say power again?

  35. I’d have to look at the ads you mentioned to judge them–the one with the Crown Prince sounds interesting though.

    Whether or not he was being penetrated depends on his body language and facial expression among other things. Is he challenging the audience? Or is he inviting penetration? Does he exude authority or coyness, etc.

    But why encourage this? Especially you who know how it goes firsthand? Why say that this is OK? “

    “Implied in your comments is the assumption that using sex to sell is inherently bad. I disagree.”

    I don’t think it’s bad either. Sex is great. Sexiness is great. But how about more ads with fully-clothed women authoritatively exerting power over half-naked men? Or with half-naked men coyly displaying themselves and inviting penetration rather than challenging the audience? We get some of this stuff with A&F ads, but only half of the equation. Furthermore, that’s the exception rather than the rule. It would be like saying we’ve achieved parity because there are a few female senators. Um…how about 50?

    “The message I got from reading excerpts available online is that both the seer and the seen are active agents. Referring back to the ad, the woman chose her outfit. The men are choosing to look. However, the woman initiated the exchange by wearing the dress, so it could be argued that she is more in control or is exerting more power over the men, who are following instinct.”

    I think this is addressed in my comment above about audience approval. Though the woman is definitely exerting a kind of power over the man, she still requires etc. etc.

    “I read his text on prisons and light. It is not relevant here because prisoners have little if any control over exposure. The woman in the ad has tremendous control over her exposure, limited only by nudity restrictions.”

    I’ll reread him at some point (text not on hand) but I think I was referring to this just to establish the relationship between vision and control and power. Which is one of my main points I guess–vision is power and desire objectifies. Sadly, we are all hardwired to believe the universe radiates outwards from us. (which it kind of does)

    “As an apostate from Christianity, I’m going to skip over this one.”

    No prob.

    “I don’t know how relevant [War Zone] is. Men may be more likely to whistle or cat-call a provocatively dressed young woman, but how much more likely? I have been the target of public masturbation on a few occasions and in all cases, I was wearing ordinary clothing.”

    This was to establish the intrusive nature of the gaze. It’s unsettling, an assault on our ownership of self. The men’s reaction to being penetrated by the camera seems to support this.

    “Verbal sexual harassment and violence is a complex problem with complex causes.”

    This is pretty interesting. I know nothing about Muslim women and their plight, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that maybe it the degree of skin showed doesn’t matter–only that what’s worn registers to the audience as a marker of objectification, and that the woman has accepted this position.

    While the women are fully covered, their garb marks them as objects, which states: I know what you want me to be and I agree to be that, inviting the harassment and violence.

    “Spatial order was created by people with the visual habits of visitors in mind just as women dress with the visual habits of men in mind. Who is the puppet and who is the puppeter?”

    This was to establish the relationship between ownership and vision. Since I’ve never personally visited Versailles and don’t know that much about the mechanics of vision I’m going to back off on this one. SUPPOSEDLY though there is a vantage point from which all that is owned by the monarch aligns in some magical way with the vanishing point and his field of vision, etc. Thus reinforcing the idea that all I see, I own. All I own, I see.

    This is actually another of Berger’s arguments–that the first oil paintings (the history of which is drawn heavily upon by modern ads) were of possessions. Things we owned or wanted to own. This is the estate I own. This wife is mine. This still-life is a symbol of plenitude–of all the things I can afford. SOoo…We learn again and again what we supposedly already think (and have known since birth) that vision, desire, ownership are linked.

    What a fun discussion!

  36. Crap I missed this:

    “Either John Berger himself or the commenter thinks or implies that women want to be gazed at by men because they see such images, i.e, if women didn’t see ads showing men looking at women, they wouldn’t feel the desire for men to look at them. Is this correct? Do you agree?”

    This is pretty interesting too.

    To respond to this I’ll have to ask you: “Is irony powerful?”

    Some scholars believe that irony is a weapon of the weak. That it arises from powerlessness and reinforces apathy–“The world is ridiculous man…it’s all jacked up. Let’s point out the absurdity, laugh about it, and feel better.”

    Thus my love/hate of Stewart and Colbert.

    Is irony a way to change the system from within? To take power with whatever means are available? Or does it reinforce the existing power system by accepting a position of powerlessness and making the best of it?

    Men and women both want to be looked at and desired–we like to be liked. I think that ads like the one above perpetuate the belief/myth that seeking out and gaining the acceptance of others (the sexual power you talk about) is a legitimate, potent form of power.

    The woman in the new clothes suddenly draws the gaze of men, the new accessory/cologne/perfume/jewelry transforms us into titans of hotness, etc.

    It’s not that these ads make wo/men want to be seen and teach them to facilitate their own objectification (the same objectification which occurs any time one is desired…we can’t help it. It’s built into desiring)–the insidiousness is that they teach us that being seen is powerful.

  37. “If objectified means transforming a human being into an object with one’s gaze, then no.
    If objectified means subjected to unequal conditions that run contrary to our beliefs in basic human rights, then yes.”

    While I shan’t get into the debate on the definition of “objectify” as such, I will qualify my comment re: Muslim women, and yes I did catch the drift of your comment. I would think having women be required to cover and hide themselves, regardless of appearance, simply because they are women and therefore likely to inflame the carnal desires of men who might look upon them is a case of objectification carte blanche- it is simply because they are women.

    I also shall nor presume further to define your views – they are yours and you are quite articulate about them in subsequent comments. My opinion of that which you have expressed here is that you seem vehemently opposed to anyone looking upon anyone else in anything but a purely neutral (neutered) way, which I think is simply an impossibility; even if it were possible, I would find that undesirable (pun intended). And, to be clear, I too am a fan of crappy sci-fi movies, but wouldn’t want to be stuffed into a white jumpsuit, mostly because it would accentuate my pot-belly.

    I am not sure I agree with the jumping of the shark, but it would certainly not be the first time I have tried that wonderful Internet sport and succeeded. Institutionalized sexism most certainly exists but I do not see this as being an example of it. It could very well be that I was blinded by the boobs. In the comment above, you mention: “…the belief/myth that seeking out and gaining the acceptance of others (the sexual power you talk about) is a legitimate, potent form of power” and “the insidiousness is that they teach us that being seen is powerful”. How is this not a legitimate form of power? What is wrong about being seen, especially in a society that is based on competition and a country that is overcrowded? And if you agree that it is legitimate, then how is it not-good? I just don’t get that connection.

    Cheers and keep up the great commentary!

  38. @truemoboy

    I must apologize for my previous comment. It was not well formulated and aggressive. That I didn’t catch your irony might have been because English is not my first language, but it seems like a very poor excuse and thus I shall not claim that that was the case. I expressed myself inappropriately.

    The reason that I wrote as I did was probably that besides disagreeing with you(unfortunately without being able to express my arguments as well as Whatsonthemenu), is that I really don’t like what feminism is today. I won’t claim that I know very much of how it is in other places than in Sweden, which is were I’m from, but here it is appalling how they do not do anything that would take us closer to an equal society. All they do is dabble with laws that are simply wrong and skewing the country in a way that just doesn’t make any sense.

    With reasonable arguments I mean, among others: arguments that take human nature into account, arguments that do not build on men inheriting the sin of oppressing women from their forefathers, and arguments that do not seek to limit individual freedom to push their own, disfigured morality on others. I realise now that it might be more the characteristics of Swedish feminism than of the feminism you argue for. My comment was completely inappropriate here and I hope you are willing to accept my apologies.

    I agree with Whatsonthemenu in many ways.

    “If you want to think “Hey not me. When I check out a woman, I’m just uh..admiring her. Not desiring her” then, as they say, be my guest.”

    I did not say I do not desire her. If I desire her does she then, in your opinion, automatically become an object? I would say not. I do not see or treat anyone as an object, no matter how little I know about the person in question. I see desire as something very positive(what would life be without desire?) and I fail to see the logic in your argument that desire=degrading someone to the status of a mere object.

    I almost missed to comment on what I find exclusive about the kind of feminism I see every day here. It will not acknowledge any other fight for male/female equality. They pull their rehearsed lines and claim to know both this and that about me that they simply cannot know. I’m defined by what I think say and do, not by whatever fits into their views of the world.

    I shall apologize once more, and I hope you find this comment a bit more reasonable than the previous one.

  39. <IL"A desiring gaze inherently interpellates the one who is desired as an object. Hence the idiom: “object of desire.” The language seems to know more than we do here.

    I desire you. You are desired by me. I wonder why the latter is known as the passive voice."

    Desire may be one-sided or mutual. Women who seek men’s desire also desire men.

    “But how about more ads with fully-clothed women authoritatively exerting power over half-naked men? Or with half-naked men coyly displaying themselves and inviting penetration rather than challenging the audience? We get some of this stuff with A&F ads, but only half of the equation. Furthermore, that’s the exception rather than the rule. It would be like saying we’ve achieved parity because there are a few female senators. Um…how about 50?”

    Ah, the Playboy versus Playgirl contrast. The publsihers of Playgirl found out not many women are interested in paying to look at naked men. This is not because institutional patriarchy has rewired women’s brains to be uninterested in the male form. This is because women are biologically less aroused by naked men than vice-versa.

    One of my biggest pet peeves is when women are expected or encouraged to act more like men for the sake of equality. Western women demonstrated their equality with men by taking up smoking and now suffer similar rates of COPD and lung cancer. Girls have become sexually active at an earlier age and with more partners. Oral sex is preferred because teens correctly think there is no risk of pregnancy but incorrectly think there is less risk of STDs. Condoms do not offer 10% protection against herpes viruses, including those that cause cervical cancer, the third most common cancer among North American women. The new vaccine entails some risks, including paralysis and death. Traditional norms used to encourage or at least tolerate sexual promiscuity for men while conversely discouraging or punishing the same behavior for women. Now people of both sexes will have many sex partners throughout their lives. I don’t know if this makes people happier, but it pose health risks, especially for women, whose genitalia and roles in heterosexual sex make them more vulnerable to infection. Farrah Fawcett’s anal cancer is thought to have been initiated by a sexually transmitted virus. Encouraging or expecting women to think or act more like men is not equality. It shows a lack of respect for the nature of women and may be harmful.

    “the insidiousness is that they teach us that being seen is powerful.”

    Being seen is not inherently powerful. The relationship between power and visibility depends completely on context. Sometimes being unseen increases one’s power as noted in your earlier reference to an invisible, omnipotent God.

    “All I own, I see.”

    is not the same as “All I see, I own.”

    “We learn again and again what we supposedly already think (and have known since birth) that vision, desire, ownership are linked.”

    Yes, but all I see is not all I own as we’ve already established. Moreover, to this point we’ve mostly debated whether sexual desire harms women by objectifying them. Sexual desire can be ruinous for men as we’ve seen from this week’s headlines in the US, exposing another politician who recklessly risked his family and career to have sex with a woman.

  40. “It would be like saying we’ve achieved parity because there are a few female senators. Um…how about 50?””

    One serious, serious flaw when people examine gender equality data is that such data tends to focus on the powerful while ignoring the bottom stratum of society. Men dominate the top of the pyramid, but they also dominate the very bottom: the incarcerated and the homeless. I’d like to see more gender parity in government and corporate leadership. I don’t think I’d like to see more gender parity in violent crime convictions.

  41. Dear Lorne

    You know, your example of Muslim women (not ALL Muslim women of course) was kicking around in the back of my head for a while and I wasn’t sure why–then I thought about it and understood that on some level I wanted to agree with you.

    What those women go through seems to suggest that they ARE in some ways more “objectified” than, let’s say, American women.

    However, objectification functions (to borrow a phrase from Junot Diaz) in “the yes/no math of insects”. Either you are an object or you’re not. So once something is an object can it be…more of an object?

    That’s like saying that a 90 day old corpse is “more dead” than a fresh corpse. In some ways this is true, but….

    I don’t know yet. I should probably think some more about this.

    Not really objecting to anything you’ve said–just kind of thinking out loud.

    PS As for being seen as power–well, whatsonthemenu seems to think it IS a legitimate potent form (in some cases) and that’s the conceptual space we’re trying to map out I think.

    To reiterate, my reasoning goes: “Whether a woman dresses for a man or other women, the dynamic is still the same, however: “Don’t I look good? Are you awed? Will this increase my social capital?”

    The increase in one’s social capital requires the *approval* of the audience. If the audience thinks you’re ugly and tacky you get nothing.

    The woman on display depends on the audience’s approval. This places the audience in the subject position of the judge, the dispenser of benefits and power.

    Any sexual power earned by the wo/man being judged is on loan from the audience. The audience can take it away at any time. This is why (to me at least) this form of power is tentative and ephemeral and not true power.”

    What do you think?

    I don’t think it’s necessary (or particularly healthy) to look at one another with neutered gazes, but I think it IS necessary to understand that there’s a constant interplay of subjugation and domination there. There’s no such thing as a null-value gaze, so why pretend that we’re not navigating a shifting terrain of desire/desired, power/submission? In this day and age can we really be so willfully oblivious as to say things like: “Hey, I’m just looking. What’s the big deal?”

    I find myself thinking of Catherine Breillat’s “Brief Crossing” though it doesn’t really support any of my points directly. Maybe as a supplement to this discussion?

  42. Dear L

    Thanks for your gracious response.

    I can’t endorse the philosophy and strategies of “Feminists” worldwide, but I do have to acknowledge that thousands of years of mistreatment can piss people off.

    As for why desire necessarily objectifies:

    The moment one displays oneself as a visual object to be penetrated (rather than as, say, a CEO, or a lawyer, or a politician), that person is giving up his or her quiddity as a human. It’s like saying: “My primary function is looking hot. So do you think I look hot?”

    The one who then WANTS to obtain this hotness is inherently (on one level) treating this hotness as a THING to be obtained. It is a goal, a prize, a treasure; it’s the “object” of desire, as the idiom goes.

    While we’re perfectly capable of thinking of the desired as a human while we perform this mental jiujitsu of objectification, it’s irresponsible to say that this undercurrent doesn’t simultaneously exist.

    Maybe my logic is flawed. Is this reasonable?

  43. Dear Whatsonthemenu

    “Desire may be one-sided or mutual. Women who seek men’s desire also desire men.”

    I think we actually agree on this. I’m not preaching some Victimist philosophy here, suggesting that it’s always the WOMAN who is objectified by desire, but more that desire objectifies. Period. No matter who’s on the receiving end. Thus, a man and woman on a date take turns displaying themselves as visual objects, exchanging roles of possessor/possessed, dominant/submissive, etc. working out a constantly shifting terrain. (Again I think of Breillat’s “Brief Crossing”)

    The only constant is that the one who is desired is objectified. As I lamented to L above:

    While we’re perfectly capable of thinking of the desired as a human while we perform this mental jiujitsu of objectification, it’s irresponsible (and maybe a little blissfully idealistic) to say that this undercurrent doesn’t simultaneously exist.

    “Ah, the Playboy versus Playgirl contrast.”

    Hm…not quite.

    I’m not suggesting these ads should target women–actually I’m saying these ads should be for heterosexual men. If they understood what it means to be portrayed again and again as a penetrated object whose sole purpose was to be desired and taken…and saw that role reinforced ad nauseum in the cultural discourse….

    Maybe we/they would think again, with more empathy and reason, before disseminating these loaded images.

    “Encouraging or expecting women to think or act more like men is not equality. It shows a lack of respect for the nature of women and may be harmful.”

    Dude.

    I so agree with you on this it’s not even funny. Women should never never have to act more like “a man”. HELL NO. While it might seem like there is no other recourse (particularly to female chauvinists) if women thought they had to “act like men” to be winners, then what would that say about being “a woman”? Rubbish.

    “All I own, I see.” is not the same as “All I see, I own.”

    Right. The point of Versailles is that, for the king, it IS the same. The design satisfies an essential human desire for this to be true. That this design attempts to satisfy this desire seems to suggest that this desire exists. If this desire exists, then it is a fantasy and meme that’s been kicking around the cultural discourse of the West for a while now.

    This sounds like a total tautology, maybe, but I promise you it’s not. I’m not suggesting: “All I own, I see=All I see, I own”. This is not a true statement, of course, (unless you’re one of those lucky French kings) as we’ve agreed. I’m saying that there exists a DESIRE for this to be true, and that we still gaze with this wanting in mind.

    Berger’s reasoning on the point of vision and ownership is much more lucid and carefully constructed than mine. I can muster a mini-argument here about how our senses “apprehend” stimuli (what exactly has been apprehended?) and how we talk about cameras “capturing” the moment (what exactly has been captured? And what does it mean in a capitalist society to have “captured” a thing?) but I think he’d do a better job than I can.

    Can we say that Berger believes vision entails one TYPE of ownership (the sensory data which has been ‘captured’) and agree on that?

    This actually raises a question I’ve had for a while. When we have our pictures aggressively taken, what exactly are we losing? What has been “taken”? It IS a kind of assault, but how?

    Maybe you can help me out with this one?

    “Yes, but all I see is not all I own as we’ve already established. Moreover, to this point we’ve mostly debated whether sexual desire harms women by objectifying them. Sexual desire can be ruinous for men as we’ve seen from this week’s headlines in the US, exposing another politician who recklessly risked his family and career to have sex with a woman.”

    Hm…yea sexual desire can be ruinous (and also really really hot) but I’m not sure how this example applies since it’s not about objectification? Does this pertain to your earlier question about who’s the puppet and who the puppeteer?

    “Being seen is not inherently powerful. The relationship between power and visibility depends completely on context. Sometimes being unseen increases one’s power as noted in your earlier reference to an invisible, omnipotent God.

    I absolutely agree. I thought this was the space we were mapping out together.

    Being seen primarily as a visual object is 100% not powerful. It’s so not powerful. It’s like the Detroit Lions not powerful.

    Thus no matter how hot you are, if you’re presenting yourself *primarily* as hotness, you’re pretty much holding no aces. (Reasons listed in previous posts)

    Revealing oneself as a being whose power is substantiated, and not dependent on audience approval, however (for instance The Duke in “Measure for Measure” where he rips off his disguise, like POW! WHAT UP PEONS! ITS ME, THE DUKE! *all bow*) is a different story.

    Thanks for the thoughtful commentary! I’ve had to rethink and refine my own positions and it’s been wonderful.

  44. “to borrow a phrase from Junot Diaz” — Well I cannot quote anyone at all, so please borrow all you like. I am speaking from the brain/heart and I have nothing whatsoever to support my blathering.

    In that vein I will only recall for you several conversations I have had with my Korean wife (not at all unlike many such conversation held in [insert country name here]. We are going out for a social gathering and she says, “You are going to wear THAT?” I look around in astonishment and say, “Wear what, THIS?” in a completely innocent tone, believable in its sincerity, “What is wrong with this?”

    This leads to a discussion of what colour matches what colour, what pants match what top, how much of my pot-belly I am willing to expose to (alleged) ridicule, my hair (or rather the lack thereof… see avatar) and *most importantly* how SHE will be seen in my company. There is no lack of trust in the “defending her honour” department, but there is a significant lack of trust in the “don’t embarrass me with what you chose to wear” department.

    Maybe I am just a guy who is fashionally-challenged (and yes it has been made clear that those particular women on the street to whom I make notice are “cheesey”) but I wear what I want because I am comfortable in it. I assume women do the same; colour me naive in this respect, but be polite and stay within the lines. If what you choose to drape yourself in helps your self-confidence then, most often associated with how you are perceived, then what is the stigma being attached to such attire? My wife likes to dress in what can now be called not-quite-conservative-ajumma style, but it is the best she can do since she feels she cannot pull off the hot-college-chick-look anymore. Whilst I, and others, will reinforce her flagging self-esteem with compliments galore, the value of how one dresses and its effect on one’s self-perception and self-worth as revealed by others is, IMnsHO, far from an issue of male-based sexism toward women, but rather is much more of a (dare-I-say ‘genetic’) predisposition of women to being considered attractive, and thus a viable member of the gene pool — despite being married. (That long, rambling sentence had to be re-written several times before it made sense to me…. I hope you and any others here understood it.)

    It drives me nuts how much time and effort she spends on how she perceives she is perceived by others; to be not too slutty, not too conservative, not too young, not too old… I just don’t get it, so maybe I should just stay out of this conversation. But for this one last point. Maybe, objectivism is not such a male-oriented problem: women objectify themselves to men by fashion and make-up choices, and then (many) object to being objectified by the objects of their self-objectification.

    {note to self: do not post “on sexism” on blogs after having had a few drinks}

    Damn… in this day and age, if you have a penis, you can’t win this argument no matter what side you support… it is right up there with the “Does this make me look fat?” question… there is no acceptable answer.

  45. I find the ad more offensive to men than to women. Yes, men generally behave the way this ad suggests they do but not ALL men do that. But even so, I find it amusing more than anything, really.

  46. Funny how things are lost in translation/pronunciation. In the commerical, because Koreans have difficulty in the V sound, its sounds like she is saying Penis instead of Venus. But, since the commerical is sexuallly oriented , it seems to fit now, doesn’t it. Had to giggle at little at that one………………

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