Sunday, 11 March 2012

Final Essay:

How using freudian theories to back up feminist film theory undermines the progression of feminism/women gaining equal rights to men and therefore feminist art as a whole.

After research into Feminist Film Theory and the psychoanalystic theorys behind it that "back up" the way in which feminist veiw film to be structured in a way that is male focused and anti-feminist I found that the "evidence" for feminist film theory, especialy Laura Mulveys work, is based around Freudian psychoanalytic theorys. I want to relate this to contemporary art and the way in which Feminist Film Theory effects the way we veiw art.

Feminist film theory is a critical ananysis into the way films are produced and how women are portrayed through film as part of second wave feminism. Feminist Film Theory looks at the way gender is portrayed in film and its influence on steriotyping genders and repression of women. This steriotyping is found through the standard gender roles found in film. "The gaze, whether institutional or individual, thus helps to establish relationships of power. The act of looking is commonly regarded as awarding more power to the person who is looking than to the person who is the object of the look." - (Practices Of Looking -An Introduction To Visual Culture - Marita Sturken/Lisa Cartwright-Modernity: Spectatorship,Power and Knowledge: The Gaze and The Other - page 111, begins line 9) For example, in art, media,film,etc the male gaze is used. This is where the audience is forced to veiw the image through the eyes of a man (typicaly a heterosexual man) and this effects the way we veiw the subject he is gazing at (typicaly a woman). This then "helps to establish relationships of power", the relationship being men having power over women. This idea is progressed further in mediums such as film because the male gaze causes men to have the leading roles. This creates a structure in which women are denighed agency/objectifyed by the male gaze, lowering them to the possition of a prop. This creates steriotypical gender roles in the narrative structure. Which means that men typicaly play a role in which they are active and do things and women typicaly play a role in which passive, powerless and an object of desire. This then influences belifes in the way men and women should act in society.

The male gaze is also a key part of art as a whole as examples of male gazing can be seen throughout art history. For example, Sleeping Venus painted by Giorgione in 1510 and Ignudi 1 by Michelangelo also painted in 1510 are examples of two paintings that show how differently men and women were portrayed through art in that time and the use of the male gaze. Although they were both painted in the same time period, they way they are depicted is very different. The woman is depicted as lying down, asleep, not looking at anyone which gives herself up to be looked at and veiwed through the male gaze to be sexualy objectified. She comes across as vunerable, especialy with one arm above her, exposing herself. Her form is loose and relaxed as though comfortable as the object of the gaze. Ignudi 1 is a harsh opposite to this, with his body tense and uncomforable, not giving himself up to be looked at. Although naked, his gladatorial pose prevents the image from being sexual so he is not looked at in the same way as sleeping venus. Both images present steriotypical ideals of their gender as veiwed by the male gaze. The
ideology surounding Ignudi 1 was crutial as it was displayed in a church as a representation of angels which are seen as something to look up to and revere so of course angels have to be the representation of human perfection as they were seen as human bodied creatures. In terms of the psychoanalitical theorys behind feminist film theory, the way the woman is depicted would be decribed as being an object of male desire for possession and this is seen through the male gaze.

The male gaze in film and art as a whole is an issue because it is more common than the female gaze. There should be an equal balance of gazing. In the past women where there to be looked at and represented in art. They were not allowed to do the looking as that implyed equal footing with men. Painting women, especialy the female nude was about ownership, to be looked at in such a exposed way implys power over the woman, which represents how women used to be treated as objects. By letting the male gaze be dominant in any art, but especialy film as it is one of the most widespread and accessable art forms, it implys that men have the power over women.

I have been looking at key artists/theorists such as Laura Mulvey. "'Film has been called an instrument of the malegaze, producing representations of women, the good life, and sexual fantasy froma male point of view' (Schroeder 1998, 208). The concept derives from a seminalarticle called ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ by Laura Mulvey, a feminist
film theorist. It was published in 1975 and is one of the most widelycited and anthologized (though certainly not one of the most accessible) articles in the whole of contemporary film theory.Laura Mulvey did not undertake empirical studies of actual filmgoers, butdeclared her intention to make ‘political use’ of Freudian psychoanalytic theory(in a version influenced by
Jacques Lacan) in a study of cinematicspectatorship" - I have been looking at her use of Freudian theories to "back up" Feminist Film Theory. What is the point in basing feminist film theory on Freudian psychoanalysis which is seen as very unscientific as it double backs on itself in a way that means it can never be proved right but can never be proved wrong. The unecicary
need feminists seem to have for proof to back up something that is already so obviously there (women being repressed) actualy hiders them more than helps them as they are using "scientific" theorys thats are no longer taken seriously which just has a negative effect on feminism and feminist art as a whole. For feminist art and art by women as a whole to be take seriously, important sections such as the film industry/structure of films/film as an art form, what im focusing on, cannot be changed if the theorists/artists who are trying to change film so that
it doesnt reduce women to objects use unscientific theories to back up their arguments for change. Even though a lot of focus of Feminist Film Theory is on Mulvey and her use of psychoanalyisis, in todays current Feminist Film Theory there is still a focus on Freudian theories and psychoanalyisis to "prove" feminist film theory right. Feminist Film theory doesnt need proving. Its so obviously right, all it takes is to watch a film and you can see the use of the
male gaze and the way women and men are put into gender roles.

Hence why I have been looking at the work of contemporary feminist artist Anastasia Klose, her work highlights the use of the male gaze by doing the exact oposite, thus presenting the veiwer with the way an inbalence in gender gazeing causes steriotypes to be made. For example, in "Mum and I watch in the toilets with ben-2005", The veiwer adopts the gaze of Klose, veiwing herself, thus looking through a female gaze. This peice makes the veiwer question the way in which women are sexualised and objectified through film. As a women, Klose is no longer an object but a human being. She brings this humanity on herself by being painfully aware of the awkward social situation she is forcing upon herself by watching such a personal thing with her mother as she crosses a social tabboo. Seeing a woman in a film as a human being rather than an objects gives the veiwer the realisation of how women are veiwed through the male gaze. It also makes the veiwer consider gender/sexuality steriotyping. If it was a male artist who had produced "In the toilets with ben" how would it change the way it was veiwed? If Ben had been the artist producing it, how would that change the way it was veiwed? Why is watching such a natural human behaviour with parents so humiliating? Such questions would by a psychoanalistic feminist theorist be linked to Freudian Oedipal complex because of their reference to gender differences and parent-child relationships. But to link it to such a unscientific theory just negitively detracts from the purpose of Klose's work.

Steriotypical roles in film negitivly effect the progression of Feminism as films are a reflection of the world around us that are the idealised so as to suposidly depict te ideal world, the happily ever afters. However this "ideal world" is usualy through the male gaze so the "ideal world" that is depicted gives men power over women and forces women into the possition of objects. However Klose's work uses the female gaze but to link it to Freudian theory would detract from the power it has through the use of the female gaze. The female gaze is not commonly used in film but Klose's work shows that use of it instead of the male gaze does not detract from the emotional response from film. To further progress feminism and ultimatly feminist art a change needs to be made to balance out the gender gazing in the film industry so that representations of an ideal world include the female gaze. But this will not occur if feminist film theorists use psychoanalyisis to back up their theories. Using unscientific theorys just gives ammo to people who belive that men and women shouldnt have equal rights or do not agree with the structure of film changing for equality. Film has major influences on how we see and react to the world around us and how we change the world around us as we use it as a model on which to base our ideals and what we perceive as normality. So by the continued imbalence bettween use of the male gaze and female gaze it makes it harder for women to gain equal rights. And by use of freudian theory, that limits feminist film theory. These changes, theories and ideals can also be projected into other artforms as a whole. As in the way the nude is depicted and the way women are photographed. Depiction of women in art is still possesive and objective and this will not change until film structure changes because moving image is the most relatable form of artwork so it is were ideals are derived from as we veiw it as a reflection of life even though it reduces women to objects.

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