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Is ‘She’ the mere opposite of the masculine counterpart-‘He’? Can ‘She’ take the place

that belongs to Him? Can they both be given the same place? What is ‘She’? Does

‘She’ complete him? Or Does ‘He’ complete Her? How does He look at Her? How does

‘She’ look at ‘Him’? How does ‘She’ look at Herself? These are just a few questions that

perhaps put one into tumultuous bunch of thoughts that have engrossed every sphere

of society and works have been produced to investigate and provide answers,

successful to an extent.

She is the powerless, yet powerful enough to arouse a man.

She is the epitome of love, yet the love she receives is profane.

She is nature, but an instrument without life.

She is looked at, but can seldom look.

She is pretty, but not beautiful.

She is the muse, but not the artist.

This was the tale of the past and to an extent is that of the present and the future

inevitably. Art and literature has represented her with poise, grace, elegance,

tenderness and also as the weak, subordinate, subaltern, insignificant, sinner, mortal,

neglected and an object. All these for her man to see. She has been acknowledged as

the mother, the goddess, the queen and also the courtesan(for her owner). She has

been judged for her superficial features. She has been portrayed as the paradigm of

beauty to be and to look at. Confined into boundaries of the frames within which she is
depicted, she has been restricted to grow. However, though time and tide waits for none

but they have definitely changed over the years and altered the way one looks at

women, not in its entirety but partially.

Nature has been personified as Her. In turn she has received the immortality of nature

with all her vices intacted. She has also been depicted as an offspring of nature in

Sandro Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’. The allegorical representation doesn’t treat Venus as

an object to be gazed at but her beauty transcends them who look at it. However the

position of her long hair and her hand on her breast takes ones attention to her mortality

and the personified figure of Spring trying to wrap her with cloth shows that now she is

vulnerable to the eyes of the spectator. Spring is also clad in full attire highlighting the

defence against the vulnerability to be probed into her privacy.

Birth Of Venus-Sandro Botticelli


Women have been depicted in various art works produced across the globe in and

beyond the West, however in almost the same light. A woman was depicted as a

goddess as a mother, as a court lady and as a courtesan.They portrayed the ‘Ideal’

Woman. Ideal in the sense of bodily features as well as the nature they must possess

without which they are not accepted as a Woman. Beauty and sensuality are the two

sides of the same coin when the depiction of women in art is concerned.

A man is always told not to cry like a Woman. Hence crying is the shortcoming

belonging only to the Woman. A man’s bear chest reveals his heroic masculinity.

Whereas a woman’s bear breast is an invitation to voyeurism and her bear body a

benchmark for the rest to be forced to reach up to. An ideal Woman is the one that

keeps her man happy. She belongs to within the four walls of her home or the four bars

of the frame beyond which she cannot escape. Women are meant to seduce.

The status and connotation of womanhood is greatly represented in visual art. In India,

depiction of woman began as soon as the pre-historic man began to express on the

cave walls. Though with least gender discrimination, female sexuality was not a threat

and did not have to be managed. Female reproductive power was highly valued.

Childbirth is also celebrated like a divine bliss which is given to woman only, so, it is

obvious to display pregnancy for ancient people because they were not aware about

any scientifically theories. For instance, the people had beliefs in supernatural powers

for the cure of illness and for the bliss of life. Therefore, to give birth is resembled to
metaphysical quality in which the woman is considered like goddess but their

involvement in other activities is particularly ignored in the depiction.

However male were depicted showing greater and heroic powers as seen in the hunting

and gathering scenes. Hunting and gathering required strength which the female were

not thought to possess. Women were engaged in simpler routine activities.

Women in the form of goddess cults were depicted which further developed in the Indus

Valley Civilization. This civilization was also a repertoire of clay figurines, seals and

goddesses . The Yakshis, dwarapalikas, apsaras etc were also very sensuously

depicted in Indian Art. Murals of the Ajanta were also adorned by women with deep

sensuality though the purpose was religious. Heavy breasts, with moulded limbs and

sometimes the vagina were depicted.

Venus of Bhimbetka, Seated Pregnant Woman of Bhimbetka

Mother Goddess Dancing Girl

Goddess Aphrodite
MayaDevi, Ajanta Cave Painting Madonna, Simone Martini
Mughal Miniature of Nude Women Japanese Ukhiyo-e Prints

A Woman Bathing-Edgar Degas

Mughal Miniature of Lovers Japanese Ukhiyo-e Print

Charles Durand, The Kiss

The Indian Mughal miniatures moved away from the religious themes and started

depicting the court life of the kings, queens, maids, courtesans, etc. It was a sheer

period of romanticism where love bloomed and women were portrayed as the epitome

of beauty. They reflected popular culture of the period but the depiction of their erotic

scenes varied from the West. Women are seen engrossed in the act that has been

captured in the painting. Seldom do they have direct eye contacts with the spectator of

the painting.

The Japanese painted women nude and eroticism prevailed. Women were portrayed

making their hair or bathing. Making love also was depicted to a great extent. However

they did not consider sex and pleasure as sinful.

Women everywhere irrespective of cultures were portrayed as beautiful beings to be

looked at rather than individualized, determinant beings. They remain the epitome of the

‘ideal’ for generations to follow in art and popular culture. The further chapters will

explore how art, socio political scenes, economics, cultures and traditions will determine

the portrayal of women in the popular culture.

Parul Dave Mukherji articulated, ‘Linking the colonial with the post colonial constructions

of tradition is the feminine body.’ Women’s bodies are bearers of tradition. They have

been repeatedly used and reused in various situations. Be it commercial advertising,

television,movies, games, music, politics, fashion, etc. The objectification of women is

the key note top their representation in the past and future.

Women have been the muse for several artists but they were seldom let into the field of

art. They were looked at and never were allowed to look. Several reasons were

professed. The most important aspect that surrounds the depiction of women in the past

is the ‘male gaze’.

But who hath seen her wave her hand?

Or at the casement seen her stand?

Or is she known in all the land,

The Lady of Shalott?

There she weaves by night and day

A magic web with colours gay.

She has heard a whisper say,

A curse is on her if she stay

To look down to Camelot.

She knows not what the curse may be,

And so she weaveth steadily,

And little other care hath she,

The Lady of Shalott.

And moving thro' a mirror clear

That hangs before her all the year,

Shadows of the world appear.

There she sees the highway near

Winding down to Camelot:

There the river eddy whirls,

And there the surly village-churls,

And the red cloaks of market girls,

Pass onward from Shalott

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,

He rode between the barley-sheaves,

The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,

And flamed upon the brazen greaves

Of bold Sir Lancelot.

A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd

To a lady in his shield,

That sparkled on the yellow field,

Beside remote Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;

On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;

From underneath his helmet flow'd

His coal-black curls as on he rode,

As he rode down to Camelot.

From the bank and from the river

He flash'd into the crystal mirror,

"Tirra lirra," by the river

Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,

She made three paces thro' the room,

She saw the water-lily bloom,

She saw the helmet and the plume,

She look'd down to Camelot.

Out flew the web and floated wide;

The mirror crack'd from side to side;

"The curse is come upon me," cried

The Lady of Shalott.

In the stormy east-wind straining,

The pale yellow woods were waning,

The broad stream in his banks complaining,

Heavily the low sky raining

Over tower'd Camelot;

Down she came and found a boat

Beneath a willow left afloat,

And round about the prow she wrote

The Lady of Shalott.

She floated down to Camelot:

And as the boat-head wound along

The willowy hills and fields among,

They heard her singing her last song,

The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? and what is here?

And in the lighted palace near

Died the sound of royal cheer;

And they cross'd themselves for fear,

All the knights at Camelot:

But Lancelot mused a little space;

He said, "She has a lovely face;

God in his mercy lend her grace,

The Lady of Shalott."

In the above poem, ‘Lady of Shalott’ by Alfred, Lord Tenyson very subtly describes

through the lyrical ballad, the Arthurian legend. The noble woman is imprisoned in an

island near Camelot. She is told not to look at Camelot directly and can see it only

through the mirror; else a curse might befall her. Then she sees the knight, Sir Lancelot

and makes hasty moves around in the room and with every move of hers, the web she

weaves of reality is shattered and she is cursed. In the boat she moves down

meandering in the stream towards her death singing her last song and finally the world

has her glance. Her pale reality is out.

It is interesting to mention how the gaze of a woman can create havoc, while the gaze

of the man is just limited to her ‘lovely face’ and body. The woman is not allowed to

gaze at the man in the way perhaps in which the man looks at her. In case she does,

she will be ‘undermining the natural social order’. “Investment in the look is not as

privileged in women as in men.” –Grieslda Pollock.

The Stanza that enumerates the physical features of the knight Sir Lancelot, with his

broad clear brows and flowy coal black curls and the perfect knight that would kneel

down to his lady which when the Lady of Shalott looks at him, her world crashes down.

This perhaps wouldn’t have been the case if the knight looked at the Lady. A woman

can never see her male counterpart directly. She can see him only through indirect

means –Mirror.
This poem was an epitome of romance and its enigmatic nature inspired many painters

of the Pre Raphaelites and their followers.The Lady of Shalott was painted by John

William Waterhouse. In the painting by Waterhouse done in 1894 depicts how the Lady

of Shalott looks with alarmed expressions at Sir Lancelot. She is vulnerable as she is

being gazed at by the spectator(the man) and also because she is the spectator of a

man. Looking at a man for his charming personality has made her vulnerable to the


Lady of Shalott,Looking at Lancelot,1894

The curse in the poem is her death but according to Tamar Garb in his article the curse

is the loss of ‘chastity and modesty’ of a woman if she looks at a nude man. He states
some reasons for forbidding woman from life-classes in art schools in the 19th century


Many reasons were given for women's exclusion from the Ecole,

including dieir ostensible innate inability to work in the higher genres because of

their limited powers of abstraction. Other reasons cited were the overcrowding

of the artistic profession, the expense that the provision of Fine Art education

for women would entail, the need for women to contribute to the threatened

industries of luxury goods, decorative arts and traditional light crafts, and even

the threat of depopulation which the advent of the professional woman would, it

was believed, only exacerbate, if not by her refusal to have children then by the

deterioration of her reproductive capacities which would inevitably result from

excessive mental stimulation.’

Women here are declared less in terms of men in their intellectual powers and skills and

also states what women are meant for. They are the ones who have the wombs who

grant lives to yet another male artist or another female whose gaze has to be forbidden

because it threatens the social order and the masculinity of the man whose greatest

defence from becoming subordinate to his women is his ‘phallus’.

‘But it is not only the woman's look that is

potentially dangerous. In the man's beholding of the woman who looks lies a much
deeper threat, for it is through the unveiling of the threat of castration.’

Lady of Shalott, 1888.

In the above painting the Lady of Shalott is portrayed after the curse has come upon her

and she sails in the boat unto death. Women are always portrayed as forlorn, isolated

and imprisoned in the Pre Raphaelite period. This can also be seen in Millais’ Ophelia

who is a depiction from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. A scene where Hamlet murders

Ophelia’s father and therefore due to the shock, she slowly turns into a lunatic and

drowns in a river. The intention to mention this is to highlight sensitivity of a women’s

mind. She is not only shown as physically subordinate but also mentally weak.
Ophelia,Sir John Everett Millais,


‘Publicity’ is a very common terminology that one comes across whether or not he/she

is paying attention to the fact that every single moment there has been some sort or

publicity that has been going on around them. It can be publicity of power, publicity of

strength, publicity of qualities that are perhaps not known to the person to whom these

qualities have been shared with. It is both a passive and active process of disseminating

knowledge to which a particular action is desired. Sometimes publicity is constantly and

deliberately continued for weeks and months. Sometimes it is deliberately withdrawn to

highlight something else.

All art is not publicity but publicity can be influenced by art. The past in the form of

memories, traditions, etc passively influences one’s ability to relate in the present.

Accepting that which is perhaps unknown increases the level of difficulty. Therefore

using past images is the easiest way to communicate in the present to direct actions in

the future. This is known as taking reference. There are times when purely new

experiences take place and one constantly searches for familiar images in the repertoire
of their memory that makes them comfortable to adapt to the alien situation in which

they are. Sometimes if they do not fall back on the past, either law makes it mandatory

to accept the newness or they simply adapt to the situation.

John Burger puts forth this question in his book ‘Ways of Seeing’. ‘Does the language of

publicity have anything in common with that of oil painting which, until the invention of

the camera, dominated the European way of seeing during four centuries?

To which he explains, There are many direct references in publicity to works of art from

the past. Sometimes a whole image is a frank pastiche of a well known painting.

Publicity images often use sculptures or paintings to lend allure or authority to their own


Any work of art ‘quoted’ by publicity serves two purposes. Art is a sign of affluence ;it

belongs to the good life; it is part of the furnishing which the world gives to the rich and

the beautiful.

But a work of art also suggests a cultural authority, a form of dignity, even of wisdom

which is superior to any vulgar material interest; an oil painting belongs to the cultural

heritage; it is a reminder of what it means to be a cultivated European. And so the

quoted work of art says almost two contradictory things at the same time: it denotes

wealth and spirituality: it implies that the purchase being proposed is both a luxury and a

cultural value. Publicity has in fact understood the tradition of the oil painting more

thoroughly than most art historians. It has grasped the implications of the relationship

between the work of art and its spectator owner-and with these it tries to persuade and

flatter the spectator-buyer.

The continuity, however, between oil painting and the publicity goes far deeper than the

’quoting’ of specific paintings. Publicity relies to a very large extent on the language of

oil painting. It speaks in the same voice about the same things. Sometimes the visual

correspondence are so close that it is possible to play a game of ‘Snap’!-putting almost

identical images or details of images side by side.

It is not, however, just at the level of exact pictorial correspondence that the continuity

important: it is at the level of the sets of signs used.

Madonna, Leonardo Da Vinci

The above two images show mothers feeding their child. One is from the period of the

Renaissance, painting of Madonna by Leonardo Da Vinci and another is an

advertisement by Good Start. They are advertising milk powder for infants that is as
good as the milk of a mother. Motherhood has been celebrated since the pre historic

times. It is falling back on the images of the past that makes it easy to advertise a

product that replaces the past yet embraces it in its images. Here the milk powder

replaces the mother’s milk yet the image of how the mother feeds the infant has been

retained. It says, ‘We have learnt from the best’. This is the past. ‘We could give you

and baby our best’ is a promise for the future. A promise that will be fulfilled only if the

consumer chose to purchase the product. The public through the images and the text

shall believe the advertiser because they portray that the product has been time tested,

even though milk powders have come into the market in the recent past. By using past

images, juxtaposing them with new products makes the audience familiar. Generally

people are afraid of trying new products, therefore using something that they are

acquainted with helps reduce anxiety.


Work of art reflects the rich cultural heritage, the socio-political, the economic and other

aspects related to a particular time and place. Artworks can represent the negative and

the positive. It can be completely individualized and may capture the personal

experience of the artist. However publicity varies. The images that are used in public

always portray to its viewer the positive effects that the viewer will experience if he /she

he or she is the owner of the service or product that is advertised. It is not created to

satisfy one person but to the entire target market. Publicity in an economy can just be

for the purpose of awareness in case of a complete monopoly market. It is done to

attract consumers in the fear of competition in a capitalistic market. Publicity is

predominantly a product of the capitalistic market. It destroys the Marxist way of thinking
because it creates disparities. There are innumerable options and the public is placed in

a dilemma of which one to buy. ‘Publicity is usually explained and justified as a

competitive medium which ultimately benefits the public (the consumer) and the most

efficient manufacturers, and thus the national economy. It is closely related to certain

ideas about freedom: freedom of choice for the purchaser: freedom of enterprise for the

manufacturer. The great hoardings and the publicity neons of the city of capitalism are

the immediate visible sign of ‘The Free World.

The public will choose that which will satisfy them enough to become what they imagine

to be. This imagination is also augmented by the images that are seen in the

advertisements and media.

‘It proposes to each of us that we transform ourselves, or our lives, by buying something


This more, it proposes, will make us in some way richer-even though we will be poorer

by having spent our money.

Publicity persuades us of such a transformation by showing us people who have

apparently been transformed and are as a result, enviable. The state of being is envied

is what constitutes glamour. Publicity is the process of manufacturing glamour.

Being envied is a solitary form of reassurance. It depends precisely upon not sharing

your experience who those who envy you are observed with interest but you do not

observe with interest-if you do you become less enviable. In this respect the envied are

like bureaucrats; the more impersonal they are, the greater the illusion(for themselves

and for others) of their power.

. The behavior of being envied is to show that one doesn’t have something that the

other possesses. The most important aspect of advertising has been the ‘Objectification

of Women’. Women in the past became those objects who were owned by the higher

class and thus advertised their power to who did not possess it. A very good example

can be the paintings of the Renaissance nudes which were commissioned by Kings to

either adorn their palace walls or present them as gifts to other kings. This sponsorship

is in turn an advertisement of the king’s power, his position in the society and also his

sexuality. This power and position is envied by those who do not have it. This envy is

the centre around which all advertisements function.

Venus Cupid,Time and Love,Bronzino

Art in the earlier period was commissioned by the elite class, more particularly the

king. Therefore the kings would have the sole choice of theme. Choosing to get a nude

depicted in the a direct or indirect way, he thought he had the right over not only the

painting but also the nude. (the product). Woman has been an object that man

hasalways desired to possess and envied those who already possesed her.

When an enterprise sponsors and event, they become the backbone of it. Though not

directly managed by them, all decisions are taken and implemented only after their

approval. Just the way the spectator has the authority to look at the nude in the painting

without which the purpose of making the painting shall not be served, similarly without

the sponsor the event cannot take place.

Today’s sponsorship also almost works in the same fashion of advertising themselves.

They advertise their credibility. The main the the sponsor, the more the credibility and

the more their say in the program in question that they are sponsoring. Therefore

sponsorship is a tool in itself that is used for the purpose of advertising.

The power of a man on display is not limited only to his richness or his status in society.

It is also evident in the treatment of women. Men are considered physically more fit and

they use this power to subordinate women.

Tarquin and Lucretia, Titian

The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus, Peter Paul Rubens
The depiction of women in the above advertisements clearly portray that they are the

weaker ones. Men have used their physical power to demean the women. Stamping on

them, leaning over the, placing them near the shoes, tying them up are all signs of the

weakness that woman are said to possess.

In the Dolce and Gabbana advertisement and the corresponding painting by Paul

Rubens shows a similarity. The act of raping is considered heroic which is heightened

by the depiction of horses in the painting. The advertisement also represents a similar

scene however it is less dramatic and more static. Here the hero are the men who

indulge in this act wearing the attire under the brand name Dolce and Gabbana.

Therefore it advertises that men who wear these clothes will inevitably receive the

power and authority to behave like the men in the advertisement.

The Natan Jewelry advertisement, clearly displays that the man who has the resources

and is powerful in terms of riches can easily allure a woman to indulge in what a man

wants the most-Intimate physical relationship. The Ford advertisement claims that the

possession of the car will let the owner help leave his worries-Woman behind. This

advertisement shows women in a very derogatory position.

Advertisements are a reflection of society. Male dominance is an important aspect of

the society today and thus the reflection of it in images around. Feminism is not a

natural phenomenon; however it is born out of the social norms one lives in.

Power of the man is also seen in the abduction of women and the corresponding

romance it leads to. The classic example that one can cite e is the ‘Beauty and the

Beast’ and many such movies in which scenes of abduction gives way to a later

romance between the abductor and the victim. The abductor scenes portray the

abductor as a ‘villian’. However in the later stages when he begins to fall in love with the

victim, the audience is forced to sympathize with him due to the element of Romance.

He is perhaps is just wearing a mask of being a harsh man like the beast who has been

cursed. The man gets liberated with his pretentious attire by the love of a woman. Her

look with love can change his entire being. A point must be noted that the look of love of

the woman leads to catharsis in the man and he transforms from a villain to a hero. Yet

again the story doesn’t highlight the contribution of the woman but the transformation of

a villain into a hero. It also brings about the nature of softness of a woman who

ultimately falls in love with her captor which in terms of psychology is known as

‘Stockholm syndrome’. It is a condition that causes hostages to develop a

psychological alliance with their captors as a survival strategy during captivity. Here
again the woman is alleged to be weaker and the man remains the hero. It’s a woman’

voice, but for which it cannot be made certain that if it’s a male or a female. No physical

features Good set of examples of movies which show this abduction-romance are

Hero,Highway,Bang Bang,Tere Naam, Betab in Bollywood and In Time, The

Passenger, The Running Man, The Getaaway, Out of Sight, etc are movies that are

from Hollywood.

Girl with the Pearl Earring, Vermeer

The above poster of the recent movie ‘Beauty and the Beast’ portrays that look of the

Beauty which has purged the curse of the beast and he has turned into a charming

young prince.
One might be well aware of the painting of the Girl with the Pearl Earring by Vermeer

which was later made into a film with the same title. The girl is forced to work at

Vermeer’s home due to her financial conditions. She has been assigned the job of

cleaning Vermeer’s studio and amidst this she begins to do a new job, that of being his

model. Captivated in his house due to her financial constraints, she begins to admire

him and develop feelings of love. Her look in the painting is that of love and fear of the

act of wearing Vermeer’s wife’s earring.

An interesting mention needs to be made of the Voice of Google Assistant and Siri on I

phones who answer the questions asked to ‘Her’. It’s a woman’ voice, but for which it

cannot be made certain that if it’s a male or a female. No physical features Based on

this artificial intelligence a film was made –Her, in which Theodore is a lonely man in his

final stages of divorce. He decides to purchase the new OS1. ‘It’s not just an operating

system, it’s a consciousness,’ the ad states. Theodore is attracted towards Samantha,

the voice behind his OS1. As they start spending time together, they grow closer and

closer and eventually find themselves in love. As an Os Samantha has powerful

intelligence that she uses to help Theodore in ways others hadn’t.

Fascinatingly all the types of abduction, the more