Ways of Seeing
Reflectionon John Berger’s Waysof Seeing
According to Berger`s argument, why might one generalize that "men act and women appear"? How is this similar to the idea that women constantly survey themselves?
JohnBerger’s Waysof Seeingpresents an analysis of the cultural representation of men and womenand presents the impact of this representation on their behavior andtheir self and mutual opinion. Berger expresses the idea that theportrayals of men and women in arts attract different perceptions ina variety of ways with men having the upper hand in examining women,while women examine themselves. He summarizes this notion using thephrase “Men act and women appear.”
Thisphrase insinuates the idea that men study the character and behaviorof women before they relate to them because these aspects of theirpersonality have a direct impact on the nature of the relationshipbetween them. Therefore, the appearance and actions of women act theindicators of the manner in which they like to be treated. Bergerwants to show that men just act, but women act to shed light on theway she would like to be observed and treated. This enriches Berger`stheme that there are numerous ways of perceiving men and women.
Why are the repercussions of the "Fall" of Adam and Eve, which Berger sees as implicit in much European painting (and in culture generally), problematic for women?
Bergerpresents an analysis of nude depictions of a woman in the artistictraditions of the Europeans. The first depiction entails the fall ofAdam and Eve from the story of the Garden of Eden. He observes thatthe nakedness portrayed in the story was the outcome of the differentways in which man and woman perceived each other after eating theforbidden fruit. He further notes that this was the beginning of thesubservience of the woman to man`s rule. Artistic representationspoint to the initial moment of shame between Adam and Even when theycovered themselves with leaves. This shame serves as a third observerin the gaze on the woman. This embarrassment still lives on, and itis propagated through secular art, which re-ignites the woman’sawareness that she is being observed. The fall of Adam and Eve asrepresented by Berger is associated with the vanity of women in themodern society. This is because artists paint naked women to pleasethe society. This same society levels criticism on women for enjoyingtheir appearance in front of a mirror.
Therefore,the fall of Adam and Eve enhanced women`s awareness of their nudityand resulted in shame because of the exposure to their viewers.Therefore, this has created numerous problems for women who believethat they are treated as objects of speculation and are aware thatthey are being observed.
What is the distinction Berger makes between "naked" and "nude"?
Bergerdistinguishes between ‘naked` and ‘nude` from a Europeantradition perspective. He notes that nakedness is the state ofwearing no cloth, while nudity is the artistic representation ofnakedness. Therefore, by being naked, entails being oneself withoutcloths on. However, nude is an artistic sense that indicates the wordis applied to refer to the representation of nakedness forobservation.
Why do nudes in general, as Berger implies, have "nothing to do" with a women`s sexuality?
Bergerimplies that nudity has nothing to do with the sexuality of women.This is because artistic representations of nudity appeal to theviewers’ sexuality, not the sexuality of the women portrayed. Theartists who produce such works aim at pleasing the male viewers whouse the nude representations for pleasure. Therefore, nudity in artdoes not concern the sexuality of the woman.
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