Ways of Seeing





Ways of Seeing


Ways of Seeing by John Berger is an influential writing that focuses on the art forms and depictions between the male and female genders. The analysis of the cultural representation is delivered based on the conduct as well as mutual perception on the aspect of self. The adaptations of the book stem from western cultural aesthetics as depicted in television series on four parts. The author tries to decipher the hidden meanings contained in various visual images without denoting the specific ideologies behind the creation, intended purpose, and consumption by the public. The author offers a distinct opposite towards the reflection of cultural canon and western art from the traditional viewpoint. The cultured representation of the female gender as male idealization and desire is wrong and should be discouraged.


The represented cultural presence of man and woman are differential, with the female being on a negative platform. Berger says that the traditional and cultural embodiment of the man point towards his abilities and glorification. It is all about his potency and importance in all matters regarding life like power, ability, leadership, and strength. On the other hand, the woman is depicted as relating to her and not to the world’s significance. It enhances the reason why females are seen as self-conscious. She does not in anyway represent potential but rather, what she can do for herself and not by her own abilities and means. It is a degrading denotation, especially with the continued maintenance of similar representation throughout history.

The relation of men towards women signifies a demeaning nature of depicted traditions. The author states that men first survey the women before relating to them. Thus, the results of the survey dictate the relation from the male to the female. He points out that a woman’s represented actions are an indication on the manner in which, she would want to be observed. For the woman, she looks at herself being looked at. The differential ways of seeing a woman compared to a man only serves to degrade their value in the society. For a man, he is determined by the actions while it is contrary for the woman as she appears. It is a means of objectifying the woman as subject of gaze.

Hypocrisy is used in the mirror representation of a woman’s vanity. For example, the author looks at the biblical story of creation. After Adam and Eve had sinned before their creator, they realized that they were naked. They had to cover themselves with leaves due to their realization. Eve’s embarrassment is retained to the artistic representation as shown throughout. In the first instance, when a woman is painted naked, there is pleasure derided in watching her. All eyes are set alight from the represented image and thoughtful connotations. However, once a mirror is placed in the female’s hand, there is criticism of the comfort and enjoyment towards her own figure. The double standard stance does not bode on the male side, which gives a negative aspect to the female gender.

Nudity in representation is a state, while in reality it is a process. Nudity in an artistic context, serves to depict several meanings depending on the artist’s impression and the hidden meaning according to his intentions. As the author puts is, there is a consulted effort in depicting that female nudity is just a state on its own. Such mechanism only amplifies the view from the male counterparts as desirable objects in their own right. There is a deeper underlying message even when represented in art. Contradiction ahs to be distinguished since it serves to lower the female value. Nudity is a process as it shows that it is a realization of beauty and being natural depending on the gender.

Humanist tradition depicts the woman as an abstraction. In the Way of Seeing, for example, the European paintings in the cultural sense had three differential meanings. In one aspect, the painter had a differential view, the owner and the individualistic viewer each had his own. The three were far from the view of the woman. In most cases as pointed out by the author, it had a negative connotation towards the woman’s view. There was too much objectification and symbolism of sexuality, rather than the consciousness of the woman. There were unequal relations between man and woman and this can be attributed to the three views as shown above. It should not have been condoned as it was assimilated into the cultures and understanding.


The cultured representation of the female gender as male idealization and desire is wrong and should be discouraged. In Ways of Seeing by John Berger, the actual representation and maintained culture of objectification of women is analyzed according to the different perspectives. Women should be viewed according to their potency, value and embraced through natural beauty. The issues of abstraction, processed idealities in nudity, hypocrisy of woman’s vanity through representation and relation from men should be abandoned at all costs.


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