In critical theory, sociology, and psychoanalysis, the gaze (translated from French le regard) is the act of seeing and being seen.

Numerous existentialists and phenomenologists have addressed the concept of gaze beginning with Jean-Paul Sartre. Foucault elaborated on gaze to illustrate a particular dynamic in power relations and disciplinary mechanisms in his Discipline and Punish. Derrida also elaborated on the relations of animals and humans via the gaze in The Animal That Therefore I Am. The concept of a male gaze was originally theorized by feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey, and has since been applied to many other forms of media and technology, such as advertisements, the work space, and video games.

In psychoanalysis
In Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, it is the anxious state that comes with the awareness that one can be viewed. The psychological effect, Lacan argues, is that the subject loses a degree of autonomy upon realizing that he or she is a visible object. This concept is bound with his theory of the mirror stage, in which a child encountering a mirror realizes that he or she has an external appearance. Lacan suggests that this gaze effect can similarly be produced by any conceivable object such as a chair or a television screen. This is not to say that the object behaves optically as a mirror; instead it means that the awareness of any object can induce an awareness of also being an object.

It has also been called an aspect of one of the “most powerful human forces”; that is, “the meeting of the face and the gaze” because “Only there do we exist for one another.”

Systems of power and the gaze
Michel Foucault first used the term “medical gaze” in The Birth of the Clinic to explain the process of medical diagnosis, power dynamics between doctors and patients, and the hegemony of medical knowledge in society. He elaborated on the gaze to illustrate a particular dynamic in power relations and disciplinary mechanisms in his Discipline and Punish, such as surveillance and the function of related disciplinary mechanisms and self-regulation in a prison or school as an apparatus of power.

The gaze is not something one has or uses; rather, it is the relationship into which someone enters. As Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright write in Practices of Looking, “The gaze is integral to systems of power and ideas about knowledge.” Three main concepts that Foucault introduced are panopticism, power/knowledge, and biopower. These concepts all address self-regulation under systems of surveillance. This refers to how people modify their behaviour under the belief that they are constantly being watched even if they cannot directly see who or what is watching them. This possible surveillance, whether real or unreal, has self-regulating effects.

The male gaze
In her 1975 essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Laura Mulvey introduced the second-wave feminist concept of “male gaze” as a feature of gender power asymmetry in film. The concept was present in earlier studies of the gaze,[specify] but it was Mulvey who brought it to the forefront. Mulvey stated that women were objectified in film because heterosexual men were in control of the camera. Hollywood films played to the models of voyeurism and scopophilia. The concept has subsequently been influential in feminist film theory and media studies.

The feminine gaze
In Judith Butler’s 1990 book Gender Trouble, she proposed the idea of the feminine gaze as a way in which men choose to perform their masculinity by using women as the ones who force men into self-regulation.

Imperial gaze
E. Ann Kaplan has introduced the post-colonial concept of the imperial gaze, in which the observed find themselves defined in terms of the privileged observer’s own set of value-preferences. From the perspective of the colonised, the imperial gaze infantilizes and trivializes what it falls upon, asserting its command and ordering function as it does so.

Kaplan comments: “The imperial gaze reflects the assumption that the white western subject is central much as the male gaze assumes the centrality of the male subject.”

The oppositional gaze
In her 1992 essay titled “The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectatorship”, bell hooks counters Laura Mulvey’s notion of the (male) gaze by introducing the oppositional gaze of Black women. This concept exists as the reciprocal of the normative white spectator gaze. As Mulvey’s essay contextualizes the (male) gaze and its objectification of white women, hooks essay opens “oppositionality a key paradigm in the feminist analysis of the ‘gaze’ and of scopophilic regimes in Western culture”.

The oppositional gaze remains a critique of rebellion due to the sustained and deliberate misrepresentation of Black women in cinema as characteristically Mammy, Jezebel or Sapphire.

Postcolonial gaze
First referred to by Edward Said as “orientalism”, the term “post-colonial gaze” is used to explain the relationship that colonial powers extended to people of colonized countries. Placing the colonized in a position of the “other” helped to shape and establish the colonial’s identity as being the powerful conqueror, and acted as a constant reminder of this idea. The postcolonial gaze “has the function of establishing the subject/object relationship… it indicates at its point of emanation the location of the subject, and at its point of contact the location of the object”. In essence, this means that the colonizer/colonized relationship provided the basis for the colonizer’s understanding of themselves and their identity. The role of the appropriation of power is central to understanding how colonizers influenced the countries that they colonized, and is deeply connected to the development of post-colonial theory. Utilizing postcolonial gaze theory allows formerly colonized societies to overcome the socially constructed barriers that often prohibit them from expressing their true cultural, social, economic, and political rights.

The international gaze The international gaze is the term used to describe the Neo Liberal and globalising manifestation of the imperial,- / post-colonial gaze. Both latter terms are helpful in defining the dominated status of developing countries. However, the international gaze offers a way of understanding how internationalism, seemingly neutral and optimistic in outlook, is deeply rooted in a discourse of advantage and power. It inculcates an implicit assumption of dominance by those empowered to be international, whilst obviating the innate power relations. This term is first used by A. Gardner-McTaggart (2018) in International Capital, International Schools, Leadership and Christianity

The male tourist gaze

The tourism image is created through cultural and ideological constructions and advertising agencies that have been male dominated. What is represented by the media assumes a specific type of tourist: white, Western, male, and heterosexual, privileging the gaze of the “master subject” over others. This is the representation of the typical tourist because those behind the lens, the image, and creators are predominantly male, white, and Western. Those that do not fall into this category are influenced by its supremacy. Through these influences female characteristics such as youth, beauty, sexuality, or the possession of a man are desirable while the prevalence of stereotypes consisting of submissive and sensual women with powerful “macho” men in advertising are projected.

Definitions in film theory
The look is characterized by who is looking (observer):

The viewer’s gaze: that in which the viewer, analogously the reader (s) of the text.
The Intra- diegetic look: in a text, a character uses the look through an object or another character in the text.
The Extra-diegetic look: a textual character consciously addresses (observes) the viewer, eg in the theater, an aside; in the cinema, recognition of a fourth wall, the spectator.
The look of the camera: it is the look of the film director.
The editorial look: emphasis on the textual aspect, eg a photograph, clipping and legend below direct the reader (s) to a specific person, place or object within the text.
Theorists Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen suggest that the gaze is a relationship between the offer and demand of the gaze: the indirect gaze is the spectator’s offer, where the audience begins observing the subject, without realizing that it is being observed; the direct gaze is the subject’s demand to be observed.

The Privilege of the Male Tourist Gaze

The image of tourism is created by cultural and ideological constructions and by agencies that have been dominated by men. What is represented by the media assumes a specific type of tourist: Caucasian, Western, male and heterosexual, privileging the gaze of the “master subject” over others. 9 This is the representation of a typical tourist because behind the lens and image, the creators are predominantly men, Caucasians, and Westerners. Those who do not fall within this category have been influenced by this supremacy. Through such influences, feminine characteristics such as youth, the beauty, the sexuality or the possession of a man become desirable, while the stereotypes that consist of a submissive and sensual woman with a powerful “macho” man created by advertising prevail.

The privileged signs and fantasies within the tourist marketing are regularly oriented to exclusively heterosexual men. Women and sexual images are used to show the “exotic” nature of a destination within the airline that takes you there, and sometimes it becomes the main reason for the visit. These representations of gender and heterosexuality have turned women into erotic beings, comforts that are there to be experienced.

In the visual arts
In the visual arts, sculpture, painting, photography, cinema, etc., the eye is an important element of portraits, self-portraits and close-ups of the face and the representation of relationships between different characters and / or their environment.

In religions

Eyes on top of a kumbum in Tibet.
In many religions, God “sees” the interior of man, brings visions, where the prayers’ gaze on the world is important (eyes painted on the summit of the Kumbum of Gyantsé, Tibet). According to the interpretations, a “third eye” would represent the inner gaze, or the Ajna chakra, or the pineal gland

Source from Wikipedia