The Mirror and the Male Gaze

Strangely, the presence of the male gaze is so pervasive in ads that we usually don't "see" it as such. Compounding this, the "mirror" is implicit in most ads addressed towards women that depend on the male gaze. We have drawn together examples of the traditional male gaze that presuppose an 'imaginary' mirror. Look at this ad for LA Gear. You've probably seen hundreds of ads very similar to this one. These particular poses exemplify what John Berger has said about the gaze. First, she is posed for an absent spectator-owner. Traditionally, that absent spectator-owner was male, but in the context of this ad the more immediate spectator is a female consumer who is being asked to imagine how she might look to men when attired in a similar way. But just as important, we can see that she is posed as a spectator to herself. She is viewing (surveying) herself as she imagines others will survey her. The mirror here represents her (ours if we are willing to be appellated) imagination of how others see her/us: what Charles Cooley called "the looking-glass self."

This theme is made explicit in the following ad for Stouffer's Lean Cuisine diet food that joins the mirror to the motivational logic of the male gaze.

Stouffer's Lean Cuisine
Less than 300 calories.
I love the taste, I love what I see.
I love feeling good about being me.
I love the way it looks on me And so does he.
Lean Cuisine. From Stouffer's.
You'll love the way it looks on you.