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Charlotte Jansen on the 'Female Gaze'

Charlotte Jansen, author of Girl on Girl: Art and Photography in the Age of the Female Gaze (2017) and a journalist that specialises in culture and contemporary art, presented a guest lecture at the University of Huddersfield. Helping students to gain a wider understanding of the term ‘female gaze’ and what it means for artists.

Within the lecture, Charlotte explains that the female gaze works as a response to the conventional ideas of how women should act, that has been embedded in society. Ideas that are constantly shown to the public through portrayals of women in media and advertisement. Working to change the way capitalism has entrenched people into viewing women this way, her book features 40 unique artists visually demonstrating the notion of the female gaze. Including the work of Finnish artist Liu Susiraja, whose work with self-portraits uses domestic household items to highlight the absurdity of the expectations given to women in the home.

As the interest in the female gaze has resurged over the last decade due to the rise of social media, it has allowed younger artists to share their work on the topic. The term has also been brought into the mainstream due to the recent commercialisation of it.

Charlotte gives a reminder that the ideas surrounding the female gaze have existed since the rise of photography two centuries ago, with many of female artists of that time being overlooked. Addressing the misconceptions of the female gaze, Charlotte points out the term is often conflated with feminism. She explains, that the two are often connected but female gaze imagery does not have to be feminist. As doing so implies that a woman’s body can never be neutral and must have a political idea attached with it.

Since publishing her book, the ideas and interest around the female gaze has become have gained more attention. However, Charlotte views this a starting point to help women involved with visual culture, letting students become aware of the poor representation of the work done by women in galleries, and how only 5% of commercial imagery is created by women.

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