The Male Gaze is an excellent title for a book, but I’ll not equate that term to the way real men look at women.
Back to the controversial advertisement. It was as brilliant for marketing the Lee Jeans brand as it was unethical. The Lolita pose repulsed me. Where Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, the novel, is exquisite literature, Lee Jeans’ Lolita advertisement is just plain vulgar. Where you can make an educated decision to read, or not, the prose: ‘Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins,’ the billboard was in your view as you drove along the freeway at South Yarra. The advertisement became part of an inquiry into the sexualisation of children in contemporary media advertising. I was disgusted that the men’s club that controlled the Australian advertising standards in 2006 did not take into consideration the appeals by family organizations and individuals to remove the Lee Jeans' image from public view.
Ethics don’t seem to count for much in the marketing thrust to young women by jeans companies. It’s been a culture of fifty-shades of sleaze all the way to the bank for the top jeans brands for decades. Today’s Lee Jeans advertisements feature a naked buttock instead of the 2006 naked cleavage. The past and present ads are not about wanting you to buy that pair of shorts or jeans, nor are they selling porn; they were about being controversial. By grabbing your attention and causing an outrage, they create prime time news publicity and create an enticing image for children and young adults of Lee Jeans being about excitement, freedom and forbidden pleasure.
Even when young women choose to wear clothing advertised to them as sexy, they expect to have control over who is going to show them that they are desired sexually. Clothing is not an invitation to every sleazebag to ogle-eye a woman. Decent men understand this. I don’t think Lee Jeans particularly cares about what people such as me see as the ethics of advertising, as long as theyget their name promoted and sell clothing. They’d probably laugh at our ideals.
Liberation, sexual or otherwise, of women is about not objectifying them in the male gaze or anyone’s view. Don’t spin me an excuse that this objectification of women is a natural gender related thing that men are born to do. Baby boys play with their genitals and society successfully teaches most of them to put that thing away when in public. It is no harder to teach young people to respect others, including the opposite sex.
If Berger had needed to walk past groups of leering men on a daily basis for approximately forty years, (what the average woman has to experience) would he still think uncouth behaviour an acceptable, if somewhat regrettable, normal male gaze?
Men who leer at women know that it is sexual intimidation and that it is wrong. To call it the male gaze insults real men. Pathetic excuses for men are the ones who leer at women, just as it is advertising executives with more greed than ethics that create advertisements that objectify women. Fortunately, not all advertising executives are unethical any more than all men sexually objectify women. Look at the legacy of great humanitarian themed literature the former advertising executive, Brice Courtenay, (The Power of One fame) has left us.
For girls and women to become comfortable in the real male gaze, they need the support of a society that will educate boys and men that locker room talk and leering is unmanly. Girls and young women could be protected from being manipulated, and excessively Photoshopped to an unattainable image that is then promoted as what women should aspire to so as to impress men (male gaze) by the advertising industry.
I’m calling this blog entry, “The Unmanly Gaze.”
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