The concept of the "gaze" describes how an audience views a visually depicted subject. In recent years, feminism has talked about the concept of "the male gaze" in cinema and photography. This refers to the way the audience is directed to see a subject from a male point of view, giving priority to male sexuality.
The male gaze has come to dominate most media. In films, advertising and in music, the artist speaks to the audience as though they are male. If you think of how often the camera lingers on naked women in film, yet refuses to show full frontal male nudity, you've pinpointed the male gaze.
In this frame of mind, men do the looking, women are looked at. Men are the objective viewer, women are the subject. The power of judgement rests with the man; the woman's job is to measure up.
The female gaze is the opposite of the male gaze. The phrase describes visual depictions that give priority to the female point of view and presupposes that the audience is female.
The female gaze is still a rarity in media. 96% of all Hollywood directors are male and only two women have ever been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Newspaper editors are still predominantly male, as are television and advertising executives.
When the female gaze is given priority the end result is often denigrated as being less important. The way "chick flicks" are dismissed as lesser films is a perfect example.
The Female Gaze and Porn
In most pornography, the male gaze is dominant. Porn is perhaps the ultimate example of how the audience is always assumed to be male and how the subject matter consistently focuses on looking at women from a male point of view.
Consider the way that men are often cut out of the frame in mainstream hardcore porn films. It's assumed the (straight) male viewer wants to see as little of another naked man as possible, so many porn films won't show the faces of male porn stars. In "gonzo" productions the female porn stars will sometimes talk directly to the camera and she will always speak to an assumed male viewer.
This is starting to change thanks to a new generation of female directors, writers and webmistresses who are seeking to champion the right of women to look.
The female gaze site
This site aims to discuss the concept of the female gaze, to illustrate it with photographic examples and also to direct you, the user, to films and other websites that are good examples of the female gaze at work.