John Berger, in the book 'Ways of Seeing', gives quite a general description of the presence of a man, and that of a woman. I found it quite a bold argument to be making and wondered if you'd like to tell me how very wrong or right he is.
Berger's description of a woman's social presence is that she is always accompanied by an image of herself – in effect, she has two views of her life; a view from her own eyes and the imagined view that others will have of her. It sounds almost like a split personality; a woman might be going about a menial task but, in her mind, she is going through all of the ways she may be perceived by bystanders: criticizing herself here, praising herself there.
According to the author, men survey women before interacting with them in order to understand how they should be treated. This is the main difference he points out: men exert onto others, and women control how they are treated themselves – men view women, and women view themselves. Apparently it is the woman's tendency to survey herself in the first place that gives her some control over how she is treated by men. He claims that most actions of a woman are therefore accompanied by a purpose – to provoke others to treat them/act/react in a certain way. So, dare any female reader agree?? Do you often feel eyes on you? If so, Berger would argue it is your own way of protecting yourself. Leave a comment if you like.
I can understand why Berger makes this argument; I've heard plenty of male songwriters singing about a woman – how they see her, what they want to do for her etc. I think there are much fewer female songwriters who have written about a man in the same 'active' way; in fact I think modern society still, unfortunately, sees the 'wanting' of love as passion in men but desperation in women.
Another example to back his claim would be the long history of nude paintings. Nude – not naked – because 'nude' suggests the outer shell of a naked person. It's a state of mind in the model that blocks the viewer from 'stealing' anything from them. In painting the male view of the female (who, in turn, sees herself in the viewer's eyes) is commonplace and rarely do we see such a treatment of male models, unless it's an image of Narcissus and his river, say.
Images to feed your thoughts. Try replacing the women with men in your mind.