Body in Society: John Berger, Ways of Seeing

In today’s session we read through a text which was of great interest to me. Admittedly, when finding out I was studying ‘The body in society’ I was very unsure of whether this topic would be very useful to me and provide me with knowledge that would help me progress further. Although, I could clearly make links between today’s text and product Designer.

Today’s text was ‘Ways of seeing’ by John Berger, it began with saying that a man’s desire is to be powerful even if it is only ‘fabricated’. Where as women are described as much more complexed, and although women are known to be the weaker sex Berger, says that women naturally ‘express what can and cannot be done to her’ this itself shows how women aren’t completely weak beings, although have been controlled for men years and conditioned into believing their job is ‘keeping men’.

Berger makes it very clear that women are much more judged in society and restricted by social constructs where as men are much more free in what they can do with little bad acknowledgement being received. Berger described this well when saying ‘Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.’

He then discusses this difference between man and woman in relation to nude oil paintings;

  • Genesis– ‘woman is blamed and punished and make subservient to the man. In relation to the women the man becomes the agent of god.’ He discusses how the eating of the apple made them aware that nudity brought shame, and most oil painting after had the women being subject and been shown that they are aware of being seen.
  • The use of mirrors- Women are judged for looking in the mirror because it is vain. Proving that they see woman’s nakedness for their pleasure and not her own.
  • Feelings- The women tend to have expressionless blank faces and tend to be expressed as timid. ‘Her nakedness is not an expression of her own feelings; it is a sign off submission to the owners feelings and demands.’



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