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female gaze


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1. A term coined by feminists in response to the claims made by Mulvey that the conventions established in classical Hollywood films required all spectators, regardless of their sex, to identify with the male protagonist and to adopt the controlling male gaze around which such films were held to be structured. ‘The female gaze’ thus marked out neglected territory. For many, the term alludes to the right of women to adopt the active and objectifying gaze that has traditionally and stereotypically been associated with males, undermining the dominant cultural alignment of masculinity with activity and femininity with passivity. Despite the label, this need not involve replacing one form of gender essentialism with another: the objects of the gaze need not be confined to males.

2. The ways in which women and girls look at other females, at males, and at things in the world. This concerns the kinds of looking involved, and how these may be related to identification, objectification, subjectivity, and the performance and construction of gender. See also gaze.

3. The gendered attention anticipated in visual and audiovisual texts addressed to female viewers.

Subjects: Media Studies.


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