WEEK 5. JOHN BERGER WAYS OF SEEING. 24.02.20 (POST IN DEVELOPMENT)
I have now finished watching John Berger ways of seeing on you tube. My notes and thoughts are going to primarily centre on episode 2 which centred on ‘how we see women’.
“Men dream of women, women dream of themselves being dreamt of”
“Women constantly meet glances which act like mirrors, reminding them of how they look or should look. Behind every glance is a judgement”
“From earliest childhood she is taught & persuaded to survey herself continually se has to survey everything she is & everything she does, because how she appears, & particularly how she appears to men is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of of the success of her life.”
I really enjoyed this talk and it seems , in many ways, so ahead of it’s time. Or maybe it is just scary, that we are STILL discussing these things, and these same images. Berger then had three women watch the show up until the point they had shown us and discuss their thoughts about it, and hear their views.
The First Lady talked about how she felt that these European paintings can’t possibly influence our views of ourselves as they are sp absurdly exaggerated that she couldn’t take them seriously. That they aren’t real, photographs can be real, but paintings aren’t. “They don’t mean human body to me”
They go on to discuss how we view ourselves through photography, and photographs are how we view ourselves. This is a really interesting notion. How one could look in a mirror , an we don’t see ourselves as we are, but we through ourselves through the lens of a camera, through images. It’s like in module one where we discussed how we don’t see a sunset when we imagine a sunset, what we see instead is a photograph of a sunset. This pervasive nature of images is so strange and ‘other’ that it’s hard to really comprehend it.
The ladies went on to discuss the paintings and how they are humiliating, how because they are not simply naked within the image, they are posing, the act of being naked is not humiliating, the act of posing is not humiliating, but the act of posing whilst makes is what is humiliating about these images. That they are posing FOR someone, for men. They discussed how women wear uniforms, and the nakedness is just another uniform, nakedness shows readiness for sex, and that one cannot identify nudity with freedom. This is a very interesting notion, as it is obviously well known that many people see nudity as freedom, a going back to nature. For some people nakedness is embarrassing, for others it is liberating. Maybe these views say much much more about these women and the age they lived in than the actual images they were viewing. But then we go back to the discussions of the first weeks , and how we are all viewing images from our own personal perspectives, and everything we view is clouded by who we are, where we’ve been, what we’ve seen, what we’ve heard, these women are a product of a very different time. Ways of seeing was aired in 1972, nearly 50 years ago, it was a very very different time. We still have many of the same problems, but they have evolved into something different now, and our world is somewhat unrecognisable in my view, to these womens times, but at the same time, we do still have the same issues, but just in a different way, more extreme and less so at the same time.
“Both men and women are narcissistic , but in different ways. A woman’s image of herself is derived directly from other people, a man’s image of himself is derived from the world, their centers of narcism are different” This is such an articulate response and astute observation . My husband and I were just discussing it, and how this is still somewhat true even today. It’s so interesting discussing how this differs for men and women , in such small but significant ways, and brings out so many philosophical life questions, HOW can we alter this, how can we alter the way we view ourselves and each other, is it even possible, is it an ingrained genetic thing, that was there even before tv and photographs, before painting, just in different ways. This may infect all be biology and genetics, and not necessarily all nature over nurture so to speak.
“I am a beautiful object, & if I am not, I must do something about it” ”I don’t look in the mirror and see myself as I am, I see the image of what I aspire too.” This is such a sad but true fact for so many women, it may well be for men as well, but I am not a man so, I can’t really comment on that. But as a female, this has been pushed into and fed into in our brains from the moment of our births, it is sickeningly sad that we do this to ourselves, to each other, we allow the world and the media to do this. There has obviously been huge strides taken through various movements to rectify this, but the problem is so deep, and so wide, I don’t know how we can every completely eradicate this.
There was also a really interesting conversation about how when you see yourself by accident in a mirror, in a shop, or a window by accident, it is a shock as it is you exactly as you are, & we are not used to seeing ourselves like that. This thing of seeing ourselves by accident is so true, a few times in shops I have caught myself in the mirror , and literally not realised it was me, it is such an odd prospect, that complete disconnect from oneself. I am not altogether sure this is all to do with imagery though, and not some existential thing that when we see ourselves without realising we are about to, those moments of shock are not that we don’t recognise our outer body, but are in fact us seeing our outer body, and that that is different to whatever is inside of us, our ‘soul’ for want of a different word, and that the thing that makes me me, isn’t my outer shell, but my inner being, so when I see that outer shell I do not recognise it, because it is quite simply not me. Maybe this is indeed the reason we are not happy a lot of the time when we see ourselves in photographs, it is not that we are not happy with how we look, it is that seeing yourself, is never REALLY seeing yourself, but in this consumerist age, where everything is shallow and taken at face value, we have been taught to ignore the existential question that that truly is, and instead convinced that this house, these clothes, this beauty product can make you look on the outside as you feel on the inside. Maybe the image is not the cause at all, but merely a symptom, or a projection of that.