Garland-Thompson describes in her book Staring How We Look that photographs are eye-catching when they have abnormalities that make the reader glance at the photo a second time. She describes how the viewer automatically looks toward the photographs that stand out because they are not something that would normally be seen in a regular setting.  Garland-Thompson claims that “we come to expect one another to have certain kinds of bodies and behaviors, stares flare up when we glimpse people who look or act in ways that contradict our expectations” (6). Melonie Bennet does this with her photograph, The Boys Experiencing What it Would be Like to Have Cleavage, where she uses gender confusion to capture the viewer’s attention. This photo experiments with the boundaries between masculinity and femininity as the subjects are males but they are examining their bodies with bras on. This is done in a very comical sense allowing the viewer to look more closely in a laughable attitude. The actions of these male characters is abnormal in the sense that one generally does not see a man wearing women clothing unless the males are joking with their friends. Many aspects of the photo give off a masculine vibe; however, there are also some traits that give the setting a more feminine feel. For instance the male characters, an empty ash try, game cards, and soda can give one the feel of a masculine guys night feel. Even the old wooden table is generally associated to a man-made feel of working with ones hands to make your own table. There is also a mason jar being used a glass for one of the boy’s sodas giving off that manly feel of drinking from a mason jar rather than a glass. Though these objects seem to give off a feel of masculinity, the frilly curtain and decorations in the background leave this masculine setting with a feminine sense to it. There are frilly lacy curtains as well as the lacy bras the males are wearing that give one the sense of womanly presence. There are also a few plants and floral wall decoration also leave a more feminine feel in this room of testosterone. The photo leaves one with the feel of gender confusion and experimentation of what it is like to be of the opposite gender.

In this photo the characters themselves invite the viewer to gaze as they look at one another and laugh. The photograph has an inviting feel that makes the gazer look more openly because the silliness of the subjects and their lack of seriousness make one feel as though they could laugh with them. As they look at one another they are inquisitive gazing at themselves and the others in amazement of how they look within these bras. They seem to be curious in how they look as they laugh at each other. They simply seem to be experimenting with their look in a comical sense that allows the viewer to look more closely without feeling as though they are looking in a negative sense. They invite the gaze of outsiders looking towards one another and looking more closely at themselves. All of this works with the gender confusion to help make this image one that a viewer is intrigued to look more closely at. It is that image that is more apt to get a second or even third glance.

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One response »

  1. Michael K. Johnson says:

    That’s an excellent quotation from Garland-Thomson to start off the discussion with, as it leads very nicely into this particular photo. I also like your description of the way the photograph invites us to stare–we’re invited in on the joke that the boys are having with each other. I’m not sure if gender confusion is the right word here, maybe gender play, or even gender curiousity.

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