The Male Gaze
The male gaze is a term coined by feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey to connote the ways that women in popular media are objects for male consumption. Feminist critics highlighted how popular culture expects women to embody the virtuous mother and homemaker, while also being perpetually sexually desirable and available. While new freedoms in female sexuality could be empowering in some regards, the female body was still largely commodified in popular culture, as is made evident in men’s magazines of the era. One bathing suit advertisement in True: The Man’s Magazine, shows a woman's nearly naked body being gazed upon, while the men’s bodies remain autonomous and clothed [Figure 1]. The woman, in her sexualized nakedness, is the recipient of the male gaze as even the ad’s title calls the men “topless watchers.”
Men also wielded power in their ability to voice opinions regarding female bodies in other popular media. In MAD magazine, a male voice critiques woman's fashion for hiding the female form [Figure 2]. Women’s voices were regularly subjugated to that of white men in positions of authority. Not only was this chauvinism present in popular culture, but it also saturated other New Left protest groups, leaving activist women frustrated with their lack of voice in movements to change society. On the “Competition” women’s liberation poster [Figure 5], the writer urges her audience to form their own opinions about beauty, breaking away from the “women watching” they have been unable to escape.