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Gender and Sexuality
In these two readings both authors look at the way various media view and determine the societal perception and response to women and women's issues. Both authors are concerned with questioning and interrogating the way women and gender are seen and perceived. There are however marked differences in their approaches and subject matter. Clover in her work Men, Women and Chainsaws views the way gender is reflected and understood though an analysis of female and gender roles in cotemporary film -- particularly the horror genre. Her analyses is more inclined to understanding the perceptions of culture, and of the female hero-victim, gleaned through the understanding of popular film. Her work is better understood as cultural critique and analysis rather than hard feminism per se.
Duden on the other hand also critiques and interrogates the way women are seen, viewed and manipulated in culture. Her analysis questions the very theoretical foundations of modern cultural cognition. She questions the way in which the modern image of women has been controlled and, like other media sources, 'managed'. She therefore distinguishes between seeing and 'being shown' Duden's approach is more concerned with the manipulation and control of cognition and seeing which has a direct and crucial impact on the way women and women's bodies are perceived and disenfranchised. Duden's approach is more overtly 'feminist' and is the more critical of social perception and distortion of the female body and the birth process.
Duden's book Disembodying Women: perspectives on Pregnancy and the Unborn, addresses and explores the act of vision in a modern cultural context. Central to her entire thesis is the fact that the way we see or perceive, and therefore the way we treat others, is essentially shaped and 'managed' by the media. This becomes clear from a close reading of the following quotation from the book.
Now, we see what we are shown. We have gotten used to being shown no matter what, within or beyond the limited range of human sight. This habituation to the monopoly of visualization-on-command strongly suggests that only those things that can in some way be visualized, recorded, and replayed at will are part of reality. ... We have all been trained to live by the recognition of flash cards, news bites, spots, ads, digests, catalogues, schedules, or class hours. Each of these packages is a bundle of lures that inveigles a side of reality which beguiles us as something we must be told about because we cannot see it on our own. The result is a strange mistrust of our own eyes, a disposition to take as real only that which is mechanically displayed in a photograph, a statistical curve, or a table (p. 17).
In the above quotation she refers to central concerns that dominates her entire book; namely 'the monopoly of visualization-on-command'. She is suggesting that we live in a culture where visualization has moved from seeing to being shown. This visualization has replaced reality or rather has become modern reality. She continually refers to the cultural elements of this visualization of reality and specifically refers to the way in which reality can no longer be 'seen' but is rather constructed by science and the media, which we the viewers accept on faith.
She also states that we have been 'trained' to respond to certain cues and managed or designed visual data that determine our perception of the world and particularly of the women's body. "... We have all been trained to live by the recognition of flash cards, news bites, spots, ads, digests, catalogues, schedules, or class hours." She clearly states that these visual cues or managed data are 'lures' which persuade and entice us into certain reference structures and societal views of the female form, the fetus and human birth.
The entire tone of the work is based on this theoretical assumption that vision is determined and managed and is used to manipulate cognition of the world around us. She bases this view on her analyses of photography and visual perceptions and changes over the past generation. Duden states that in the contemporary world of scientific data, electron microscopes and 'newsbytes' and various other scientific and media formats, we never see the facts of reality but are told, informed or persuaded about the nature of reality . For examples, she explains how modern methods of scientific photography represent reality through digital data and graphs which in reality cannot be seen. The information and 'seeing' is therefore 'shown' to us -- which is in fact an opening for distortion and manipulation. Therefore we are told about reality based on something "which beguiles us as something we must be told about because we cannot see it on our own."
In the reading she attempts to examine the conditions and the ways in which technology has successfully transformed the view of pregnancy into a process which can be manipulated or managed to the detriment of female autonomy. This management refers to the creation of the fetus as a personality and the displacement of the woman's body and her being into the secondary role as a breeding ground or ecosystem. This view has implications for the way women are perceived and their freedom of choice in life issues such as abortion. Duden states that through the manipulation of seeing by the media and culture technology, the fetus has been transformed into a cultural fact and 'a construct of modern society'. In this process women have been 'disembodied' and have been moved from the centre of human birth. Her emphasis is on the way that this image making impacts on the ability for example of women's ability to announce their own pregnancies. In this instance Duden observes that the use of ultrasound has resulted in the 'skinning of women and that women themselves have participated willingly in this process." (p 12)
Duden states that there has been a radical change over the last three decades in the way the female body is perceived. This change can be seen in the way in which pregnancy is represented. The fetus has due the managed information and manipulation of the media, become the central focus and women are subjected to a wide range of services and processes designed to promote the health and well being of the fetus. This in turn has reduced and diminished women's self-image and their identity and made them little more than willing 'ecosystems'.
Not as overtly feminist in content and tone as Duden, Clover however critically approaches the view and vision of the female through the horror genre. Importantly, one difference in the two readings is that Clover focuses on gender in the sense of both male and female roles in film. In fact a central element in this reading is on the way in which male and female have coalesced and mutated over the years in the horror genre. The central paradox that Clover explores in this reading is that since the late 1970's there has been evidence in the horror genre that the victim-hero is often female, while the audience is predominantly male.
Central to a reading of her work is the realization that when analyzed from a variety of theoretical perspectives, horror films present a revealing and complex view of the way culture and society views the female character. Clover notes that the view of women in the past, through an analysis of this genre, seems to conform to stereotypical patriarchal and masculine biased views about women. " ... The functions of monster and hero are far more frequently represented by males and the function of victim far more garishly by females. " (12) However, she also notes that in recent years there has been a marked shift in the role of the female as a…[continue]
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