Rosemary’s Betterton’s “How Do Women Look? The Female Nude in the Work of Suzanne Valadon”

2 pages, 12-pt Times New Roman, double-spaced.

Rosemary Betteron discusses the representations of female nudes and male spectators in art. More specifically, she analyzes the problems of representation (or lack thereof) of female spectators and female nudes done from a woman’s perspective, namely in the works of Suzanne Valadon. She also addresses the problems that female spectators adapting a male gaze confront when looking at images of female nudes. She claims that indentification with the male gaze is problematic because it “negat[es] women’s own experience and identity.” (Course packet, p. 14). She also says that narcissistic identification is problematic because it forces women to assess their own self-image against a supposed ideal.

I disagree with much of Betterton’s argument because she assumes that all women feel uncomfortable looking at other images of women. While she admits there is no way to gage female reactions to different works of art, she assumes that females looking at them through a male perspective will always encounter problems. I do not feel that this is always the case, because if a woman is secure about her body, sexuality, or anything else that affects her experience and frame of reference, she shouldn’t encounter negative feelings when looking at an image of another female. This article assumes that women feel innately poor about themselves when comparing themselves to other women.

This article could be seen as a response to John Berger’s piece. In his article, he discusses the traditional roles of men and women in art, namely the male as subject and spectator and the female as object. Betterton discusses how artist Suzanne Valadon subverts these notions by placing female nudes in action and with other women.

One of Betterton’s arguments is that identification with the male gaze is problematic because “it cannot offer any positive explanation of women’s pleasure as different from male pleasure.” (CP, 14). Who says that the human experience of pleasure needs to be gendered? Isn’t it possible that one human being simply enjoys and appreciates beauty and attractiveness in another person? By positing this statement, Betterton assumes that a universal human emotion, something that everyone experiences regardless of gender, is different for men and women simply because of socialized gender differences.

Published in: on October 8, 2010 at 1:13 PM  Leave a Comment  
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