Gaze as dictatorship.

(Published in Honk!#5)
– Sluts, objects, expactations. -Dictatorship: the word seems to demand someone you can blame, someone in charge, someone to judge: the dicator. Thinking about gaze as a sort of dicatorship may seem odd, but it is a productive and empowering way to treat the world. In order to go beyond normative assumptions and to gain some kind of autonomy we have to understand what it really means to be seen, how the gaze shapes our selfimage and what we can do to cure ourselves from the disease spread by the gaze dictator.

,There‘s definitely no logic in human behaviour‘ as Björk teached us. As obvious as this quotation seems, the tention between gaze and dictatorship will show us how illogic human behaviour actually can be.
The first question that rises is: what is gaze? The second question we will try to respond to is: could it be possible that we are influenced by gaze or even worse: might gaze be a dictatorship?
The obvious fact, that we are a visible object, is not that simple, as French philosopher Jacques Lacan stated. For him gaze is more then just being visible. It is something more disturbing and beyond our controll. By being exposed to someone elses view, according to Lacan, we as a subject lose the sense of autonomy. This uncanny effect of being observed influences our behaviour, the way we dress and the way we see ourselves.
This may sound rather abstract, so let‘s try to put it into a more profane picture: an actor, standing on the stage, is totally aware of being observed by a crowd, the spectators, and even though he does not know each person, he constructs an expactation according to which he tries to act in a right manner. Maybe he tries to subvert the expactations in order to disturb the spectators. But he could never escape being observed. He is ruled by the gaze of the anonymous and by the so imagined expactation of the spectators. As an actor, we are exposed to the view of others, even though we don‘t know all of them in person. But the relation between gaze and subject is not equal. French philosopher Michel Foucault argues that gaze is something that constructs and regulates power relations, it‘s a disciplinary mechanism. This leads us to the second question: how free are we, even though we are always – or feel – exposed to the view of an anonymous, imagined other?
If we want to argue that gaze is dicatorship, we should make clear, what aspects are congruent between both of them. Dicatorship implies a dictator, a person who is at least symbolically in charge of everything and the centre of power and appraisal. A group would also work, but power is concentrated, without any legitimation from outside. The rest is propaganda and ideology. The individual has to step back in order to be part of the big thing, society, the Volk, etc. In order to maintain power, the dicatorship needs violence and aggressive power. Let‘s keep this in mind, when we go through some examples.
How disturbing, even violent, gaze can be shows the slutwalk movement, that started this year in Toronto and spread around the world. All kinds of people and bodies started to protest against the heteronormative male-domintated view of women, especially victims of sexual harazement. The slutwalk movement fights back and raises solidary power against a politic of gaze that claims it‘s a woman‘s fault if they get raped. Feminist blogger Jessica Valenti shows her „Study in comments“ why Slutwalk is necessary and what kind of prejudies and ressentiments are virulent in western societies. Quotes from CNN like
“Do not just blame the person doing the assaulting if you are going to run around strutting your stuff.”
“Behave like ladies, and maybe more men will behave like gentlemen.”

I participated the Slutwalk in Berlin myself and saw some disturbing scenes. There were a lot of people of all genders showing there bodies, shouting slogans like „Yes means yes, no means no“ and holding signs with sentences like „My dress is not an invitation“ written on them. That‘s not the disturbing part, this was just fleshy empowerment and resistance to something which is called ,male gaze‘ among the feminist academia. ,Male gaze‘ as a term is coined as the idea that the power relations between the ordinary genders male – female are organized by gaze. Gaze, e.g. the view of a camera in a mainstream pornmovie is conditioned by a male perspective. So gaze is almost always a (heterosexual) male one. The quatiotns from Jessica Valenti‘s blog show clearly: a lot of opinions are shaped by this idea, the idea that a woman is always exposed to men and they have behave in propper way not to be raped. It‘s there fault, they just shouldn‘t wear something slutty. So all the sluts claim the streets around the globe, and this is what I observed in Berlin: a lot of elderly men, equipped with cameras, taking photos of the bodies slutwalking through Berlin Mitte. The organizers tried to encourage the participators of the demonstration to intervene and disturb the male gaze. Some of them resisted and spit into the face of the hobby porndirectors. One of them even confessed that he just took some pictures for his private collection. This insane incidents make clear, what‘s happening if we talk about gaze as dictatiorship, esp. from a (queer-)feminist perspective.
Being a heterosexual male viewers allows you to be on the good side of the power, you‘re the spectator, part of the audience. As a female body you‘re always already on the stage. You have to act as you‘re supposed to do in the little piece called heteronormativity. In order the break the rules, you have to manipulate the expactations. They don‘t expect you to call yourselve a slut, and this might be even misleading, but it‘s seems to work. There are Slutwalks basically everywhere, with all genders claiming public space with their slutty bodies resisting the onesided view. The expose their bodies and reclaiming them at the same time. The statement is clear: We are not an object.

How to turn the tables shows the amusing blog ,You are an object‘, which describes itself as a ,place to treat bros like girls‘. This might not be the most political correct statement, but as rough as it is, the title makes clear: I see you, which makes you an object. I don‘t give a damn that you‘re male, you‘re hot. The blog is nothing but a vast range of tumblr repostings showing more or less cute guys in different contexts, from editorials to old snapshots up to selfmade webcam pictures. Every object will find a subject that will be fond of it. The editor of the blog kind of tries to inscribe itself in a weird amalgamated queer history by stating ,The Greeks used to do the same thing, only in caves and with sculptures and stuff–there’s books about it. It’s like a whole thing or whatever. I Googled it.‘ But still: it shows vice versa how the politics of the gaze work. There is an anonymous mass, here the readers of the blog, who just by gazing construct an object. The guys on the pictures might be real, but in the blogosphere they just exist as an illustration of a bigger ideal of male beauty. They contribute to a naive but still nice attempt to resist the male gaze and install a male object exposed to an ungendered gaze.
The examples I tried to arrange in order to make my point clear may not have been the best. But gaze, the fact that we fucking know that we‘re exposed to the world, whoever that is and whatever this means, scares the shit out of us. So much, that we try to dress in a way we want to be seen, try to have a nice haircut which highlights the way we want to be recognized.
Empowerment and resistance against the dicatorship of the gaze demands creativity, a sense for aesthetics and a slight hint of guts just to do whatever you want to do. Please don‘t fit my expactations, I‘m not the anonymous other plus that is boring and the worst thing that could happen. If Björk is right and there is no logic in human behaviour, we should at least try not to fit into the ennui of everyday illogic grind. The mean anonymous dictator does not even have a voice, just imagined dumb eyes.

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