December 4, 2021

PHO740 Work In Progress

Unsuitable For Framing

Below you will find the digital flipbook version of the magazine followed by a video of the printed magazine. The images in the printed magazine are difficult to view due to the glare which appears on the gloss-finished pages. I had to record the video away from any light sources to reduce the glare which has resulted in the magazine looking darker than the in-person version, so please do view the flipbook version to see a more accurate image quality.

Image Page/Titles: 1. Discarded, 3. Expectation, 6. The rules of engagement, 7-8. Meeting myself there, 9. Pedestal, 12. Sitting Pretty?
14. Playing Nature to our Culture, 16. In Hiding, 17. Tipping Point, 19. Holes in the Narrative, 22. Release, 24. Emulation of a successful Reproduction, 25. My Shadow, 27. Panopticon: Me, Myself and I. Judge, Jury & Executioner, 28. Shame (The Hidden Mother), 29-30. Lost,
32. Anxiety, 34. Unsuitable for Framing, 35. Avert your gaze, 38. Do You See My Struggle?, 40. Into Darkness, 42. Inner Battleground, 46, Searching, 48. A New Light, 50. Room to Grow, 52. Balance


Challenging the male gaze in an attempt to liberate female identity | written by Adele Annett


(JOHN BERGER 1972: 46)1

Fredrickson and Roberts’ Objectification theory, 19972 brought awareness to the negative effects imagery and the media can have on women and girls. Self-objectification happens when females take on the perspective of the ‘male gaze’ (Mulvey 1975)3 and start to adjust themselves in response to it. The results of which can have a significant detrimental impact on their well-being (Calogero, et al., 2011)4

Throughout art history and modern-day media, women have been portrayed by men in a way that has shaped how women are perceived. As women internalise these narratives, it forces them to consider themselves as others see them. As such what women see influences what they think about themselves and informs the identity they present to the world.

Some of the earliest representations of ‘woman’ were in biblical art. Eve, the temptress and sinner and Madonna (and Child), the doting mother. Since then, female stereotypes have perpetually been recycled throughout art history and subsequently the media, as artists have responded to and incorporated the visual culture that went before them.

Is it possible for artists to help liberate women from the ideals presented in feminine stereotypes by challenging the male gaze? Can they disrupt the narrative which has been perpetuated throughout art history?

The following chapters will consider the effectiveness of different visual strategies used to challenge the male gaze and the stereotypes/cultural norms that exist in society. Collaboration will be discussed in reference to these strategies.

Collaborating with Visual Culture

Many artists have challenged the male gaze, female stereotypes and social norms by taking available media that is already part of the visual culture and turning it into a new image that challenges the original.

Barbara Kruger collaborates with appropriated images by adding text to them. Through her use of pronouns, she directly addresses the audience with the image. As the pronouns in her work are never explicitly defined they must be inferred by the viewer. As the viewer considers if they are the ‘You’ or ‘Your’ spoken of in the work they are drawn into a conversation where they must resolve the part they have assumed in the internal discourse about the work. The viewer becomes a participant in the discussion, which is Kruger’s aim:

“I’m interested in making an active spectator who can decline that You or accept it or say, It’s not me but I know who it is”

Kruger (Squires 1987:80)5

One could argue that the way in which Kruger’s work seeks to engage the viewer and make them a participant in the work, forms a discursive collaboration after the work has been disseminated.

The images above are examples of Kruger’s work. The first specifically addresses the male gaze. By using the word ‘hits’ Kruger suggests the act of looking has a real physical consequence for the person being looked at. It asks the viewer to consider how or why a person’s gaze might be problematic and what their position might be in respect of this problem. The second image is a very direct way of questioning the social roles of women and the third challenges the social narratives around gender. In many of her works that tackle gender and power, Kruger aims to give a voice to the silenced, reversing the dominant role of the masculine/culture.

The juxtaposition of conflicting words and images produces powerful semiotic dissonance. (Paula Geyh, 2009)6. Through this visual disturbance, Kruger invites the viewer to question how they consume and accept images of stereotypes and the effect these have on their identity.

Kruger’s work is an example of Barthes theory in respect of text and image, specifically how text can load the image, burdening it with a culture and a moral to develop “secondary signifieds” (1977:26)7

Over time, Kruger has adjusted her format to respond to the visual culture as it evolves, with her latest work taking on a moving image format.

The main criticism of Kruger’s work is that through her method of collaborating with mass media, her work is at risk of becoming as throw away as mass media itself. Some believe she bullies the viewer with her style and tone, whilst others believe her success has made her the official artist of American consumerism, as her slogans appear on mugs and tote bags (Walker 2001)8.

Other’s believe Kruger’s success is due to her ability to use advertising strategies to grab the short attention spans of viewers and direct them to stop and think. The fact she’s managed to find success in both the public sphere as well as art gallery spaces has also been testament to her work.

Self Portraiture

Through the use of self-portraiture, the photographer becomes both the artist and subject, both the gaze looking back at the viewer and the gaze of the artist creating the vision and narrative are hers.

Cindy Sherman recreates various female stereotypes seen in Hollywood movies in her series Film Stills. Each scene has an implied narrative. The character’s gaze frequently points us to someone watching, outside of the frame. It is the gaze of this unknown (male) watcher that the viewer is encouraged to take as their own. There is a sense of unknown drama waiting to unfold. Sherman’s character is the passive figure waiting to be acted upon.

Sherman’s style contrasts with Kruger’s. In Sherman’s work, we don’t need to question our own position in respect of the image/subject, Sherman leads us to it. While Kruger attempts to arrest the male gaze by using Brechtian strategy, (interruptive text against the image). Sherman draws in the male gaze and slows it down. While Kruger uses words to create depth. Sherman’s images refuse depth to produce femininity as all surface (Amelia, Jones 2000)9.

Sherman, like Kruger, does not provide an interpretative framework for her work. Some critics believe this is the art’s strength, that each image’s power is nested in its ambiguity. A tactic implicit in all of Sherman’s work is the withholding or refusal of an authentic self. (Michelle Meagher 2002)10

There are various interpretations of what Sherman’s intentions were and divergent opinions on whether the work successfully challenges or merely replicates the male gaze.

Jones took the view that by using herself to represent all the female stereotypes, we are shown that femininity is merely a performance and that the exaggeration of the stereotypes exposes them to be fake (1997:33)11. Others, like Williamson, believe that Sherman’s image of ‘woman’ is “innocent, and the viewer is the one who provides the femininity simply through social and cultural knowledge” (1983:103)12. It is the image (the setting and performance) that is the stereotype rather than Sherman herself. Furthermore, Tomkins believes the images are merely Sherman having fun and it is art critics that are placing meaning on her work where there is none (2000)13.

What the above interpretations have in common it that Sherman’s work forces us to address the ways in which identities cannot be authentic but rather are always and only constructed.

The interpretation of Sherman’s work then leads on to the question of whether or not her work successfully challenges the male gaze, regardless of whether that was her intention.

Amongst others, Phillips argues that by taking control of the dynamic that regulates desire and deflecting the gaze of desire away from her body towards reproduction itself, Sherman forces the viewer to recognise their own conditioning (1993:104)14.

Schor argues that Sherman’s work is too similar to the stereotypes that the films originally portrayed and thus reiterate and confirm them, she believes the images are successful in part because they do not threaten the male gaze at all (1989:17)15. Lemmon also considers whether the work is merely mimicary, and adds that, the modern cliche only works because we don’t have to think about it, we process the visual with an automatic response. She queries whether “the various signs in Sherman’s work are so vaguely grounded that they have become floating signifiers of meaning that can be molded at the desire of the viewer and need not necessarily challenge the viewer’s ideological or political point of view.” (1993:102)16

Meanwhile, some find Sherman’s stereotypes problematic.

Rosler points out, that “replicating oppressive forms, whether by quoting them directly our through the fashioning of simulacra, may replicate oppressiveness” and “irony is not accessible to everyone: For those without a pre-existent critical relation to the material, the [mimesis] seems a slicked-up version of the original, a new commodity” (1982:69)17

Sprague-Jones and Sprague are concerned that as we identify with the male gaze and not the woman’s, we are directed to respond to the passive victim and not the problematic social context the woman finds herself in. They also suggested that rather than focusing on every nuance of representation in the dominant culture, it seems more in women’s interests to expose the link between imagery, belief, expectations and actions.(2011:420)18

So has Sherman successfully challenged the male gaze?

Mulvey suggests Sherman’s work can be a critical tool, allowing theory to “come into its own”. (1991:138)19 The fact that Sherman’s work has been so successful and so well discussed, has provided fertile ground for theoretical discussion and a reference point for future artist and art criticism.

Later, in Sherman’s Art History series, she continues to explore female stereotypes by recreating one of the few representations of mothers in art history, the iconic representation of Madonna and Child in Renaissance art. This is by far the most prolific representation of a mother in the art world and depicts the mother merely to emphasise the miracle of the masculine.

Sherman’s vacant gaze of the ‘mother’ emphasises the repetition of the historical focus of this one-dimensional representation of the mother. Although simulating high art, Sherman’s application of make-up and use of fake plastic breasts and babies ‘direct critique toward an entire genre of Western art history… the depiction of a loving embrace between mother and child is replaced with a plastic doll seeking nourishment from a plastic breast’ (Hinderliter 2014)20 showing again the stereotype to be fake.

Performative collaborations

In the previous works, the use of image appropriation and self-portraiture have been used as techniques to challenge the male gaze and female stereotypes. Here, I will look at where the artist has invited another into their work in order to explore gender stereotypes.

Pixy Liao collaborated with her male partner in her series Experimental Relationships to create a series of images that challenge gender roles. In the images, Liao took on more traditionally dominant positions and her partner the more stereotypically feminine ones.

Their performances in front of the camera challenge the male gaze, not only through reversing the stereotyped body language often seen between heterosexual couples but also through the use of the subjects gaze and nudity. Liao takes on the active gaze/action whilst her partner takes a more passive and often nude position.

Visually the images are able to quickly draw the viewers attention as they conflict with our gendered expectations. As a result, these images perhaps challenge the gaze of the viewer more, as they provide an immediate visual disturbance that requires less of a decision to engage. The viewer is not so much invited into a discussion rather served a visual divergence from cultural norms.

Whilst the meaning of Kruger’s work could be bypassed by an incurious viewer. Liao’s work grabs them by the eyes and forces them to look. Liao’s work also provides a distinct and oppositional alternative to the male gaze, which some could see as a step further than Sherman’s more discrete challenge of it.


Kruger’s approach to appropriating imagery to create a second meaning through the addition of text has resulted in her prolific artistic success. Her work is able to engage both the general public as well as hold its own amongst the artistic elite. If the goal is to challenge the male gaze in order to liberate women from their stereotypes, there is little point in this only happening amongst high brow art critics. For the art to be successful under this remit it has to start influencing wider circles where change can begin to take place. It is Kruger’s ability to capture the attention of such a wide audience that for me, makes Kruger’s approach so successful. It is through Kruger’s collaboration with existing media that she is able to take the viewer from casual consumer to collaborative participant in the discourse. This is something that I aim to achieve in my own work. By using the aesthetics of visual media most often used to sell visual stereotypes to women, I seek to entice the consumers of this format towards my work.

In Sherman’s work, the fact that she was both the artist and subject, strengthened arguments that her work successfully challenged the male gaze. The work’s success is underpinned by the fact that it is Sherman in every single image, performing every single stereotype, whilst never actually showing her authentic self. Due to Sherman’s silent ambiguity about what her work means and the subsequent endless speculation and theorising about the intent, the discourse itself has added to her success and has allowed many artists to use her work and the critique of it to inform their art practice, and it has certainly raised the ‘profile’ of challenging the male gaze in the art world. It is Sherman’s technique of challenging stereotypes through self-portraiture that most influences my current work.

Liao’s work offers an entirely different approach to challenging the male gaze. By offering a visual narrative that is so contradictory to social norms the viewer is forced to come to terms with the alternative offered. Collaboration with her male partner was essential to create this impact, as it was the relational nature of the gender roles that Liao was seeking to challenge. I considered the relational aspect of my own work and whether to include collaboration as part of the narrative. However, I felt that the relationship with my daughter was not the focus of my message. The relationship I was coming to terms with, within my work, was with the various versions of myself (pre and post motherhood) as well as my relationship with the expectations society has of mothers.

I also considered the choice not to collaborate as speaking to the issues women are seeking to address. Perhaps women artists no longer wish to give someone else a share in the power of what/how they represent themselves and their art. The theories of the male gaze look at how someone else’s gaze has defined another. In order to challenge this, it would appear to me, appropriate not to place my own views/gaze upon someone else in the image, or the issues of power run the risk of perpetuating themselves. By using only myself as the subject, I refuse to objectify someone else.

Whilst no singular artist has fundamentally changed how women are stereotyped in the media, collectively, female artists have over time started to bring awareness to the problematic male gaze and offer an alternative to sit alongside it. As such, women artists have, over time, collectively collaborated to produce a different narrative for the future of art history.

Fairey and Orton considered photography as dialogue; as a social, networked, communicative and political activity enmeshed in webs of power, resistance and agency through which we assert and explore a sense of self and relation to others (2012)21. They brought attention to the idea that photography could be seen as an ongoing event with multiple participants and that we could perhaps move away from a singular focus on one specific photographer but instead understand photography as a ‘certain form of human-being-with-others in which the camera of photography are implicated’. (Azoulay 2012:18)22

Whilst different strategies have been used to challenge the male gaze, whether or not one particular photographer achieved “critical success” at challenging the male gaze is a moot point. All of the women photographers who have contributed their own artistic gaze to the collective body of female photographic work, have widened the ideas of what women can be and the type of art we see. They are all building the stepping stones towards a wider representation of ‘woman’.


List of figures shown in order of appearance

Kruger, Barbara. 1983 Untitled (Your gaze hits the side of my face) Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland.

Kruger, Barbara. 1983 Untitled (We will not become what we mean to you) Art Institute Chicago

Kruger, Barbara. 1983 Untitled (We won’t play nature to your culture)

Sherman, Cindy. 1979. Untitled #30 Collection SFMOMA

Sherman, Cindy. 1990. Untitled #223 The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

Bellini, Giovanni. C1510. Madonna and Child. Metropolitan Museum

Sherman, Cindy. 1989. Untitled #205The Broad Museum

Sherman Cindy. 1989. Untitled #216 The Broad Museum

Sherman, Cindy. 1990. Untitled #225 The Broad Museum

Liao, Pixy, 2007-2017. Find A Woman You Can Rely On.

Liao, Pixy, 2007-2017. Carry The Weight Of You.

Liao, Pixy, 2007-2017. Pinch Nipple.


1 Berger, John. 1972. Ways of Seeing, p.46. London: Penguin

2 Fredrickson, Barbara & Roberts, Tomi-Ann. 1997. Objectification Theory: Toward Understanding Women’s Lived Experiences and Mental Health Risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly. P173-206 available at’s_Lived _Experiences_and_Mental_Health_Risks [accessed 01.12.21]

3 Mulvey, Laura. 1975 ‘Visual Pleasures and Narrative Cinema’ In 2009. Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. P19 Palgrave MacMillan: Basingstoke

4 Calogero, et al. 2011. Self-objectification in women: Causes, consequences, and counteractions. Available at nteractions [accessed 01.12.21]

5 Kruger, Barbara, interview by Carol Squires. BARBARA KRUGER (1995). In Geyh, Paula. Postmodernism: The Key Figures. 2009 ‘Barbara Kruger’ p.196 John Wiley & Sons available at [accessed 01.12.21]

6 Geyh, Paula. Postmodernism: The Key Figures. 2009 ‘Barbara Kruger’ p.196 John Wiley & Sons available at [accessed 01.12.21]

7 Barthes, Roland trans Heath, Stephen. 1977. Image Music Text, p.26. London: Fontana.

8 Walker, John A. 2001 Barbara Kruger in Context. Available at [accessed 01.12.21]

9 Jones, Amelia. 1997 Cindy Sherman: Retrospective. Accompanies an exhibition by The Museum of Contemporary. London : Thames & Hudson.

10 Meagher, Michelle. 2002. ‘Would the Real Cindy Sherman Please Stand Up? Encounters Between Cindy Sherman and Feminist Art Theory’. Women (Oxford, England) 13(1), 31–32. Available at [accessed 01.12.21]

11 Jones, Amelia. 1997. Cindy Sherman Retrospective. ‘Tracing the Subject With Cindy Sherman.’ Pp. 33–53 Chicago and Los Angeles: The Museum of Contemporary Art.

12 Williamson, Judith. 1983. ‘Images of Woman’. P.103. Screen (London) XXIV(6) Available at [accessed [01.12.21]

13 Tomkins, Calvin. 2000. ‘Her Secret Identities’. New Yorker, 15 May: 74–83. In Meagher, Michelle. 2002. ‘Would the Real Cindy Sherman Please Stand Up? Encounters Between Cindy Sherman and Feminist Art Theory’. p.28. Women (Oxford, England) 13(1), Available at [accessed 01.12.21]

14 Phillips, Lisa. Cindy Sherman’s Cindy Sherman. In Lemmon, Nadine. 1993. ‘The Sherman Phenomenon: A Foreclosure of Dialectical Reasoning’. P.104 Discourse (Berkeley, Calif.) 16(2), Available at [accessed 01.12.21]

15 Schor, Mira, 1989. P17-19. From Liberation to Lack.Heresis 24. In Lemmon, Nadine. 1993. ‘The Sherman Phenomenon: A Foreclosure of Dialectical Reasoning’. P.104-105 Discourse (Berkeley, Calif.)

16 Lemmon, Nadine. 1993. ‘The Sherman Phenomenon: A Foreclosure of Dialectical Reasoning’. P.102 Discourse (Berkeley, Calif.) 16(2), Available at [accessed 01.12.21]

17 Rosler, Martha. Notes on Quotes. p. 69-70. Wedge 2. 1982 In :Lemmon, Nadine . 1993 p105 ‘The Sherman Phenomenon: A Foreclosure of Dialectical Reasoning’. Discourse (Berkeley, Calif.) 16(2) [accessed 01.12.21]

18 Sprague-Jones, Jessica and Joey Sprague. 2011. p.420-422. ‘The Standpoint of Art/Criticism: Cindy Sherman as Feminist Artist?’ Sociological inquiry 81(4), Available at =JmF1dGh0eXBlPXNzbyZjdXN0aWQ9czk3OTk2MDQmc2l0ZT1laG9zdC1saXZlJnNjb3BlPXNpdGU%3d#AN=659712 80&db=sih [accessed on 01.12.21]

19 Mulvey, Laura. 1991. ‘A Phantasmagoria of the Female Body: The Work of Cindy Sherman’New Left Review, 188 July/August: p138. Available at rman.pdf [accessed 01.12.21]

20 Hinderliter, Beth. 2014 ‘The Multiple Worlds of Cindy Sherman’s History Portraits’. NGV Art Journal 44. Available at [accessed 01.12.21]

21 Fairey, Tiffany & Orton, Liz (2019) Photography as Dialogue, Photography and Culture, 12:3, 299-305. Available at [accessed 04.12.21]

22 Azoulay, Ariella. 2012. Civil Imagination: A Political Ontology of Photography. p. 18. New York: Verso.

Copy of the WIP Pdf Submission

Critical Report Submission