Disciplining individuals

Disciplining individuals
The male gaze that emanates from the oedipal fear or castration anxiety becomes powerful once it manages to overcome the fear. The gaze then tries to control and objectify the thing which is looked upon. As described in chapter 1, John Hartley terms it as “power of looking” which possesses the power not only to control and objectify but also, as Foucault says, to define, categorize and put object of gaze in discipline. The effect of male gaze is therefore somewhat similar to what Foucault says “surveillance”. In Discipline and Punish, Foucault states that “the examination’ plays central role in the exercise of disciplined individuals (Molson 171).

So, the voyeuristic as well as fetishistic pleasure of looking also leads to the power of imposing desired discipline in the individuals viewed. The advertisement of Dabur Honey is one such example. It is such an advertisement, which by effect of male gaze, is exercising the power in producing disciplined individuals. The advertisement presents a slim woman in the background. A male in the foreground comes to make compliments about the fitness of the dancing girl who stops to praise her body in the mirror. The male character, whose presence is not known to the girl, remarks, “she is quite fit”. The advertisement shows both the operation of male gaze and the way it is being operated. There are two layers in the advertisement: the girl is looking herself in the mirror to confirm whether she has become fit or not in the perspective of the male who is looking her and the male who is looking her making nice compliments about her body. This advertisement also reveals the fact that how the women look themselves in the mirror through the eyes of male. This is because of the dominating power of male gaze. The audio version of the advertisement reads like this:

Drop a dollop of Dabur Honey in your everyday glass of lemon juice and you’ll be surprised how healthy and active you can be. With Dabur Clip 7 Honey, the best thing to happen to your fitness diet can also be the tastiest!” (My Translation)

The advertisement with the effect of male gaze is producing disciplined individuals, especially women. The gaze here creates the binary opposition of what is normal and what is abnormal in the society and exclusion of the abnormal. In perspective of male gaze, not being ‘fit’ or thin is abnormal. The girl in the advertisement is watching her self reflection in the mirror. She is happy that she is now accepted as normal in the society. She is praising her own anorexic body (Clip 7). The act of observing her own image in the mirror with focus to each body parts reinforces that the ‘body’ is perceived not as an indissociable unity but as combination of different separate parts. And the shape, size, movements and gestures of the body parts are prescribed by the authority of male gaze as shown in the ad. The advertisement also makes meticulous observation of the girls’ body parts, presents them as ideal shapes and introduces a male to prescribe the hard shaped model for all the common girls to strive for. This type of gaze and observation of the female body parts give rise to a power “which functions through a multiplicity of minor processes of documentation; through supervision and the accumulation of detailed knowledge of the individual rather than the social body (Malson 170). Thus it is through such detailed surveillance and knowledge rather than violent physical coercion that human bodies are disciplined; are made intelligible, docile and useful” (Malson 170) The advertisement also displays the effect of male gaze in terms of producing images that intend to stimulate sexual desire while looking at objects of body parts that are over invested with sexual meanings. The advertisement has focused on the necked belly of the thin girl as it places the erotogenic part of the body almost at the center of the screen. This focus also clearly indicates the fetishistic substitution of the Clip 8 body parts and an intention of generating the pleasure of looking at the voyeur viewers. All this happens only in the operation of male gaze while the advertisement is designed or produced. Some of the advertisements affected by male gaze try to discipline the women.

The advertisement of Family Cooking Oil is one such example. The advertisement presents a family cast in gendered power relation where parents, husband and wife are given particular jobs that a patriarchal family harbours. The wife is given the kitchen job, while other members of the family are presented as the lords or directors who can complain and chastise the wife. The wife is required to be in the desired discipline, which is imposed by the males. For example in the ad, the wife must possess or learn that art of cooking food, which could meet the taste of the family. Her failure to do so is punishable. To make the advertisement more comprehensible, let me put the audio version of the advertisement translated into English:

Mother: What a bad food you cooked? Don’t you have the skill to cook tasty food? Father: How long will you scold the wife, may be there is something wrong with the oil. Son: Do not mind mother’s words. (The husband brings Family Cooking Oil from the market; the wife cooks in the oil and serves.) Mother: Delicious, how tasty food you cooked. Come Buhari lets have together. (The wife thanks the Goddess) The Goddess: Do not thank me, Thank Family Cooking Oil, Family mustard oil brings happiness in your family. (My Translation)

The wife is badly scolded for she fails to cook food to meet the taste of the family. The mother-in-law’s scold represents the violence against women meted out by the males. The wife sobs in grief (Clip 8 and 9). Her husband justifies the violence as he says, “Do not mind mother’s words”. He however helps her to avert the violence by instructing her to cook foods in Family Cooking Oil. When she follows the instructions, she is accepted in the family.

She is forcefully disciplined in the family, which however fails to have similar effects upon the women audience. The latter part of the advertisement further reveals the effect of male gaze. The wife had prayed her goddess to help her make tasty food and avoid any torture from the family members. When the food is liked by the family, she thanks the goddess but the goddess asks her to thank the Family Cooking Oil which is deemed to be the harbinger of happiness in one’s family. It is also revealed from the audio versions that the woman is there as a passive object who is silenced. Thus throughout this advertisement the male gaze has Clip 9 disciplining effect upon the woman who simply is presented as a bearer of male prescriptions and thus male gaze.

However, the advertisement is a failed attempt in terms of producing disciplined individuals in the society. Its effect is weakened by its contradictory effects. It is because on the one hand, it intends to attract more and more women towards using the Family Cooking Oil as it helps them avoid familial scorn and violence; on the other hand, it intends to keep the woman in the desired discipline.

The relation between the viewer and viewed in television advertisement becomes the important part for any artist. Each time we look at the images in the advertisement, we see more than just the thing itself: we see the relation between the thing and ourselves. Sometimes audience identifies himself/herself with the character inside the advertisement who could be looking another character inside. This relation gives birth to the power of viewer who imposes authority to define and categorize which is being viewed. The male gaze in advertisements takes on this very role of taking control over anything it focus...........[some sections missing] ...........  ...........  ...........  ...........  ...........  ...........  ...........  ...........  ...........

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in which the definition of fair and lovely are subject to the male gaze. The advertisement presents a submissive woman obsessed with the colour of her darkish facial skin (Clip 13). She is unmarried but waiting for a male’s proposal. She is presented as if her life is subject to male gaze. She is looked upon several times by several males, but none of them accepts her. She has been made a field of observation and of exercising gaze. To fit in to the desired category of the male gaze, she starts using Fair and Lovely, which is supposed to bring whiteness in skin. At a point, her fairness and beauty is once again looked upon and approved by a male, as it has now been made white with so much of efforts. Then only, a male’s gaze approves her fairness and agrees to marry her. The advertisement uses the power of male gaze and exercises it to look at a woman and define her fairness and beauty in terms of whiteness.

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