The entertainment industry isn’t always as brilliant as they think they are, especially when we examine its reliance on beautification and sexualization and the subsequent response to when outspoken critics push-back against these practices. Often the entertainment industry’s reliance on these two results in criticism from social justice activists, particularly feminists who employ the well-known feminist critique, “the male gaze.” This results in the industry making unnecessary adjustments to their overall creative decisions, which is more detrimental than beneficial to their bottom line.
Moreover, these adjustments, along with their resulting effects, highlight a lack of understanding of the entertainment industry’s reliance on beautification and sexualization, the inadequacy of the “male gaze,” and the unmentioned differences of visual attraction between men and women. Thus, I find it necessary to address these issues here since it can cause prolonged and detrimental effects to both the industry and those who consume its products, especially men.
Misunderstood Beautification and Sexualization
The issues with beautification and sexualization are how they’re misunderstood to be processes that both inherently and adversely affect women. This leads to the false assumption that women -- whether fictional or nonfictional -- are the only ones that these processes affect. Furthermore, when coupled with overemphasization and over-exaggeration, they lend believability to the outdated idea of the plight of females.
Beautification and sexualization are both processes. The former is the act of beautifying or rendering beautiful, and the latter is attribution of sex or sexuality to either a person or a thing. These definitions are actually problematic, given that both seem to have feminine associations. These associations then lead to the false assumption that beautification and sexualization are processes that adversely affect women. Therefore, both processes are fervently opposed by activists concerned with women’s rights. The opposition lies within the belief that they’re the cause for; reinforced gender stereotypes, increased acceptance of rape myths, and increased body dissatisfaction. Although one could make the argument that they both inherently affect women, that argument fails to acknowledge that women actively engage in their negative causes and men, like women, experience beautification and sexualization in media today.
Yes, men experience beautification and sexualization within the entertainment industry. Although it hasn’t been at the same rate that women experience it, within recent years this has begun to change. The increase is due to the sexualization of women being called into question while the same of men is ignored by society, by both men and women perhaps as a result of the belief that the rougher sex is never on the short end of things. Notably, one counter-argument to this idea is that the objectification of men is a reaction to the objectification suffered by women. Therefore, women cannot be held responsible for their behavior due to them being both victim and victimizer. However, this argument would never survive scrutiny in any other scenario.
The ‘Male Gaze’ and Visual Attraction
The “male gaze” is a term coined by film critic Laura Mulvey to describe the cinematic angle of a heterosexual male on a female character. Furthermore, due to fiction imitating life, and vice versa, the “male gaze” has become a familiar cultural perspective. The “male gaze” is understood as invoking sexual politics of the infamous ‘gaze,’ which suggests a sexualized perspective that supposedly empowers men and objectifies women. According to feminist theory, in the male gaze, women are visually positioned as an “object” of heterosexual male desire. This means her feelings, thoughts, and sexual drives are less important than her being “framed” by male desire.
Interestingly, this is discarded when women are at the helm of an entertainment medium, which implies that the ‘male gaze’ only exists when men are heading an entertainment medium. Moreover, if the ‘male gaze’ only exists when men are leading a project yet it ceases to exist -- without explanation -- when the rougher sex is supplemented by the fairer sex, assumption dictates that a female equivalent of the ‘male gaze’ exists, however, there is no equivalent due to the differences in the attraction between men and women; namely visual attraction.
Visual attraction or aesthetic attraction is produced primarily by visual stimuli. This type of stimuli manifests itself by making the mundane appear attractive. Many assume visual attraction is socialized objectification, for example, they argue that men desire to see women naked because they are socialized to view women as sex objects, and this is reflected in women not desiring to see men naked. Although one would believe the argument to have merit, it ignores the fact that male sexuality is subject to the power of the visual while female sexuality is not.
Men, as a result of male sexuality, are subject to the power of the visual while women appear to not be persuaded by the visual. This is likely due to structural differences in men and women’s brains. These differences manifest themselves even more with how a man’s brain will process information, events, stimuli, and more, differently than a woman’s brain does. For example; a woman can think and talk about a subject and process the information in a matter of minutes. A man, on the other hand, can take up to several hours to a day to process the same information as a result of these differences.
This is the same phenomenon experienced when it comes to the visually or aesthetically attractive, as stated before men are more “visual” when it comes to attraction while women are less visual. Although women can experience visual attraction, the difference between them and men, especially when discussing visual attraction there is no comparability due to it being more pronounced in men.
Men are visual, even happily married men struggle with being pulled toward material and recollected images of other women. Men care about appearances. This is obvious, given that women spend a significant amount of time and money on their appearance, though this is in party due to hypergamy.
All of the above information is relevant because it explains why men are the main demographic for visual entertainment mediums. This is why the entertainment industry has particular visual representations for women, especially when the industry is attempting to capitalize on a male audience. Moreover, the entertainment industry is guaranteeing an audience by emphasizing strategic marketing and production, which is seen not only with attempts to capitalize on a male audience, but also when attempting to capitalize on a female audience. There are differences.
In conclusion, beautification, objectification, and sexualization affect both men and women. One is more pronounced than others due to the supposed “plight of females” and ill-founded beliefs concerning men. Also, the beautification and sexualization of women in the entertainment industry gains its prominence due to the reality that the industry’s main demographic is men. Therefore, as a result, the entertainment industry uses the differences in the attraction between men and women to capitalize on securing a particular audience, which is generally deployed as visual mediums that boast beautification and sexualization of women and are usually directed at men.