concept Rupa DasGupta Thesis Concept Brief Re Framing the Male Gaze

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					                                         Rupa DasGupta
                      Thesis Concept Brief: Re-Framing the Male Gaze
                           Katherine Moriwaki / Louisa Campbell
                                       September 21, 2009

My thesis primarily addresses the theory           Do women objectify themselves as much
of the male gaze and the objectification           as men do? Why? Is it because they’ve
of women that it typifies. When women              internalized the male gaze that is
are portrayed in mainstream media, they            constantly forced upon them?
are almost always presented from the               Do men and women look at themselves
point of view of a heterosexual male –             the same way that they look at other
often reduced to just body parts to be             people?
ogled. My previous work explored how               Do men notice the things that women
women have been victimized by this                 want them to notice?
phenomenon and pointed the blame for               And for all of these questions, the follow
this directly at men. However, the fact            up: Are men and women aware of these
that    women       frequently       objectify     things?
themselves (and each other) cannot be
dismissed.    It is difficult (as well as          My argument is primarily against the
short-sighted) to demonize men for                 notion that the male gaze is something
doing something to women that they are             solely perpetrated towards women by
increasing    complicit     in   doing      to     men.       In      addition   to   constantly
themselves.                                        scrutinizing and sizing up each other,
                                                   perhaps women subject men to similar
The core questions at the root of my               objectification.      However, I do not
thesis concept are:                                intend for my thesis to be an indictment
Are men and women aware of the male                of women. As with my earlier project
gaze as it plays out in real life?                 The Objectifier, I am curious about what
Do men and women differ in how they                drives this trend of women seemingly
look at the opposite sex? Do they differ           opting for the same imagery that men
in how they look at their own sex?                 stereotypically prefer.       The half-naked
models   on    the    covers     of   Vogue   ‘interesting’, it also runs the risk of
magazine – is that what women actually        trying to inform people of things they
want to see, or is that merely what they      already know. Instead, I am thinking of
are being sold? Is it just the magazines      changing my focus to trying to reverse
(and     the         companies        whose   the male gaze, to turn it back on the
advertisements fill them) reinforcing in      viewer (whether the viewer is male or
women’s minds that ‘this is what you          female). One of the things I’m trying to
should strive to look like’ – or do           avoid with my project is passing
women enjoy the imagery in and of             judgment on anyone – not on men for
itself? Of course, these same questions       objectifying women, not on women for
could be asked about men’s magazines –        being catty towards each other. Whether
do men actually want women who look           it is manifested as an installation, an
like Sports Illustrated models, or is it      interactive piece, a real-time reactive
what they’re being told to want? It is        garment or a static one, I seek to use
practically impossible to distinguish         compiled eye-tracking data to simply
people’s actual, intrinsic preferences        make people more aware of the male
from the ones that the mainstream media       gaze and how it plays out on a daily
and pop culture have imposed upon them        basis in real life. As long as I am able to
– but perhaps my thesis might make            create a functioning eye-tracking setup
people start to question which is which.      with consistent data about the two sexes,
                                              I believe my primary questions (do men
At the root of my thesis is the desire to     and women differ in how they view each
reveal the surreptitious male and female      other & do women objectify themselves
gazes through the use of eye-tracking         as much as men do?) will be answered.
software. My original intention was to        Although I don’t think I will be able to
compare the male and female gazes to          answer my other core questions (those
show what men and women are actually          about    the    extent     of    women’s
focusing on when they look at images of       internalization about the male gaze,
the opposite sex, as well as their own.       about how people view themselves, or
But a simple comparison is likely to be       how much they notice the things the
anti-climactic – though it may be             other sex wants them to notice), I do
want to keep them in mind as possible        my project towards encouraging women
alternate areas of focus. It is also very    – all women – to reevaluate how they
likely that I will narrow the focus of my    look at each other before they accuse
project to solely examining how women        men of doing them wrong.         As with
are looked at (not men).       Though it     racial epithets, or women using terms
would be valuable to address both sides      like bitches, skanks, and ho’s – when
of the phenomena in my project, I am far     people within a group treat each other
more interested in how women are being       this way, it sends the message that it is
looked at and objectified than men.          acceptable for people outside the group
                                             to do the same.
Although I think my project concept is
interesting enough to appeal to a wide       Whether my assumptions are supported
audience, I originally conceived of my       or not, the first step towards my project’s
primary    target    being    my      own    success lies in finding consistent results
demographic – women with feminist            among the members of each gender. If
ideals who were angered and frustrated       my data is wildly varied, I will not be
by the way they see their gender             able to draw any valid conclusions about
objectified and denigrated, who were         my research questions. Following that,
also prone to rampant ‘guy bashing’          it would be very redeeming if my
when provoked about the subject. I felt      hypothesis actually was accurate – that
that this was the target group most likely   women closely resemble men in how
to identify with and understand the          they view each other. If my hypothesis
theories at the root of my project, and      is not supported – if objectification truly
therefore the most likely to appreciate      is a unidirectional phenomenon - my
and gain something from the results.         project might still have merit for further
Ideally, I would hope that the project’s     illuminating the myriad of differences
results would give these women some          between the sexes (that is to say that
perspective on the subject of women’s        men really are jerks for how they treat
objectification, and possibly assuage        women).
some of the anger surrounding it. But
more importantly, I would like to focus      The primary question regarding the form
and execution of my thesis is one of data    the most. Viewers of the piece could
visualization and the most effective way     wear head-mounted lights as they look at
to show it. My eye-tracking experiments      the installation - these lights then
will result in a body of data comprised of   bouncing off the dress and into the
gaze maps for each participant.       One    surrounding space (which could also be
option for presentation could be a gallery   covered in reflective material) could
installation of overlaid eye-tracking data   create a striking interaction. Whether I
for each particular group of individuals –   resort to creating a garment or just an
one of men looking at women, another         installation, my project will definitely
of women looking at women, etc. These        involve a significant amount of physical
different data sets would be projected or    computing in order to create a working
displayed on screens simultaneously in       eye-tracking system. This will be even
order to highlight their differences. A      more critical if I create a garment that is
functioning   eye-tracking    setup   that   reactive in real time. There will be the
would project visitors’ gaze in real-time    physical computing needed in order to
would also add an interesting element to     make the dress react as well as the
an installation.     However, as I’m         extensive level of craft required to create
gravitating more and more towards the        the base garment itself.
idea of reversing the male gaze rather
than just examining it – I’m more            My project is building upon several
compelled to create a garment(s) to show     existing works in a variety of domains.
my eye-tracking data.     The use of a       In terms of inspiration, my impetus lies
garment (probably a dress) instead of a      primarily in the works of authors such as
flat projection in the gallery space would   Maureen Dowd and Norah Vincent.
strengthen the concept of the project        Their books Are Men Necessary?[1] and
being primarily about women and how          Self-Made Man[2] largely shaped my
they are embodied in society – as            thinking     about       women’s      self-
passive, empty objects. One possible         objectification    and     their   largely
scenario is making a garment that has        unwarranted demonizing of men.          Of
tiny mirrors attached to the areas that      course, both of these works were
eye-tracking data has shown to be ogled      undoubtedly influenced by film theorist
Laura Mulvey’s seminal piece that
introduced the concept of the male gaze,
Visual     Pleasure       in     Narrative    [1]Dowd, Maureen. (2006) Are Men
                                              Necessary? : When Sexes Collide,
Cinema[3][4].     My utilization of eye-
                                              Berkeley Trade.
tracking was a result of prior exposure to
                                              [2]Vincent, Norah. (2006) Self-Made
the technology while studying with new
                                              Man: One Woman’s Journey into
media artist Seth Hunter[5] at the            Manhood and Back. Viking Adult.
University of Virginia.        Eye-tracking
                                              [3] Mulvey, Laura. Visual Pleasure and
software has been used extensively to         Narrative Cinema. Screen 16(3): 6–18.
examine the sex differences in viewing
                                              [4] North, Richard. (2006) Dinosaur
stimuli by researchers such as Heather        Comics.
Rupp of the Kinsey Institute for
Research     in    Sex,     Gender     and
                                              [5] Hunter, Seth. (2004)
Reproduction[6].      I was also very
inspired and moved by the recent
groundbreaking use of eye-tracking tech       [6] Rupp, Heather. Sex differences in
                                              viewing sexual stimuli: An eye-tracking
by the Free Art & Technology group            study in men and women. Hormones and
(F.A.T.) for their Eyewriter project[7], a    Behavior 51 (2007) 524–533.

drawing tool intended to empower              [7] F.A.T. (2009) EyeWriter. <
paralyzed artists by allowing them to>

draw using only their eye movement.           [8] Fuller, Elizabeth. (2009)
The works of wearable technology              <>

artists Elizabeth Fuller (of ITP) and Leah    [9]Buechley, Leah. (2009)
Buechley (particularly her LED tank           <
top) has also been very informative in        work/diy/diy_tank.html>
terms of what is possible in that realm.
The next steps for my thesis will be
prototyping my concept of reversing the
male gaze upon the viewer and deciding
upon the level of interactivity I want to
have in my final product.

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