Nice Shoes, Wanna Fuck?: Gender Construction and Performance in Formally-defined Heterosexual Space

Women's Studies 1 Final Project
Erin, Michaela, Amber, Katie, Jenna and Anya


Female Looking at Unresponsive Male

Subverting the Gaze



"T heories of female spectatorship are thus, and when they are produced, seem inevitably to confront certain blockages in conceptualization. The difficulties in thinking female spectatorship demand consideration. After all, even if it is admitted that the woman is frequently the object of the voyeuristic or fetishistic gaze in the cinema, what is there to prevent her from reversing the relation and appropriating the gaze for her own pleasure?" (Doane, 180).
W ell, plenty. Letšs take our first photograph to illustrate this point. This photograph, entitled Female Looking At Unresponsive Male is similar to a still photograph taken in 1948 by Robert Doisneau, Un Regard Oblique., which can be found on page 189 in Writing on the Body. Here, the female gaze is defined as void since it is not being returned. This young woman is clearly talking this young man, giving him her utmost attention, while he is distracted by another passing young woman, scantily clad. Next to this couple is another young man, who is participating in the watching. Thus "her gaze is encased by the two poles defining the masculine axis of vision" (Doane, 188).

N ow, on to our second photograph entitled Subverting The Gaze.
Here, Erin and Jenna are dancing in a very provocative, and suggestive manner. They are intensely looking at one another and no one else. To the females in the room, the pair project an image of lesbianism. In Sue-Ellen Casešs article, "Tracking the Vampire," she notes "Hers is an entranced look, and the fascination in it could be read as a response to lesbian desire˛ (Case, 390). To the males in the room, as recorded in the photograph, this projects an obvious approval or fetish with "having two women." Even while the pair are concentrating on one another, there is a definite sense of being watched. "For the female spectator there is a certain overpresence of the image-she is the image" (Doane, 181).
T he female gaze can be defined but in terms of a masculine identity: "Above and beyond a simple adoption of the masculine position in relation of the cinematic sign, the female spectator is given two options: the masochism of overidentification or the narcissism entailed in becoming onešs own object of desire, in assuming the image in the most radical way" (Doane,191).


Doane, Mary Ann.Film and the Masquerade: Theorizing The Female Spectator. Writing on
the Body : Female Embodiment and Feminist Theory. ed. Katie Conboy, Nadia
Medina, and Sarah Stanbury. Columbia UP: 1997. 176- 192.

Case, Sue-Ellen. Tracking the Vampire. Writing on the Body: Female Embodiment and
Feminist Theory. ed. Kate Conboy, Nadia Medina, and Sarah Stanbury. Columbia

Link to the Women's Studies Department at Swarthmore College

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