Thursday, March 10, 2016

Ways of Seeing: Subjects vs Objects

Since hunter-gatherer societies, women had the dominate role in family life, providing most of the food. Up until plow agriculture society, we see a shift from matriarchal dominance to patriarchal dominance. With this shift, came different cultural responsibilities. Although women should be seen in society as equals to men, often their roles in society are marginalized primarily by men, and they are seen as objects while men are seen as the subjects.

Berger argues that "Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at." Men have a tendency to look at women and sexualize them, thus deeming them as objects. When men sexualize women they are looking at only their physical appearance. Their intellectual aspects are not being taken into account. For example, we see the male gaze as a prime demonstration of the sexualization of women. Even in movies, when a female enters the scene, often the camera angle is shot from toe to head. Additional effects like slow music or wind blowing her hair contribute to the sexualization of women and how men view them from the male point of view. Furthermore, the use of women as "badges" also prove that men demean the role of women to objects. In a patriarchal society, men are competing to show who has more power. If your female partner is attractive and good looking with the "trophy wife" characteristics, men brag about this to other males. By bragging about the attractiveness of a female partner, men are demeaning the importance of women, as if their only role is to be the best looking object they can be. When males objectify women, they are taking away their agency, a key component of being a subject.

While men marginalize the roles of women, they simultaneously upgrade their role to be the subjects in society. In a patriarchal society, males feel the need to constantly be masculine and prove their masculinity. They look to the female counterpart to cater to the needs of theirs. For example, when males come home from work, they expect the women to have dinner prepared, the house clean, and everything in order. Everything revolves around the male. With patriarchal dominance comes the center role that males assume. Similar to the house-wife stereotype, men make themselves superior to women by assigning them the responsibilities they don't want. For example, women have been known to be the child care givers in families. Men refuse to do the domesticated work in order to prove their masculinity. For example, when a man says, "You should really change the diaper, I'm not good at it," he is centering gender roles around himself, deeming himself as the object. By centering society around the male gender, men are continuing to contribute to patriarchal gender roles, which is problematic because it further narrows the gender binary and doesn't effectively represent the capabilities of women.  

Even though Berger argues that women are the ones objectifying themselves, men primarily contribute to the oppression of women through sexualization, objectifying, assigning inferior roles to women, and assuming the centering roles for themselves. The power and control men have in a male chauvinism society marginalizes the role of women without conveying their important impacts on society.

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