ways of seeing

“A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. Whilst she is walking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping. From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman. She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life. Her own sense of being in herself is supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself by another….

One might simplify this by saying: men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object — and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.”

John Berger

Men will make beauty inaccessible to you by trying to leave their mark on the way you see the world, the way you see your own naked body. They might tell you what to think about oil paintings of fruit bowls in order to validate their own two eyes. But to experience beauty is to connect the seemingly disparate, banal objects of your own lived experiences in new and extraordinary ways. As women, we must never neglect the primacy of our own encounters with the world, lest we give up our ability to experience real beauty.

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