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Berger, Tompkins, And Rich Essay, Research Paper

Language and images are usually a way to express what someone is thinking, however, language and images can often restrict our thinking in various ways. Susan Douglas, in her essay ,”Narcissism As Liberation”, writes about “the great myth?that superficial appearances can be equated with a person’s deepest character strengths and weaknesses”(128). The image of what a “beautiful” and what is not is an image that is constantly restricted in our minds. These restrictions come from television, movies, or many other things that people encounter. John Berger in “Ways of Seeing”, proclaims that “men survey woman before treating them. Consequently how a woman appears to a man can determine how she will be treated”(46). This further shows what these restrictions do in our everyday lives. Adrienne Rich in her essay “When We Awaken: Writing As Re-Vision” gives her theories on how to free people from these restrictions mainly through “re-vision”.

One image that is restricted in our minds is the concept of beauty, that is seen in advertising. These

restriction are put on women. The image of what beauty is, in regard to women, is perpetuated though advertising. Through the advertising and on a larger scale the media, women are told about “perfect faces and bodies, and the psychologically , politically, and economically punitive measures taken against women who fail to be young, thin, and beautiful”(133). They are made to feel inferior if they are not considered attractive, so they feel the need to purchase what is being advertised. Berger agrees that women are often victims of these restriction when he says, “a women’s presence?is manifest in her gestures, voice, opinion, expressions, clothes”(46). He believes that women are judged because of this image. This image that today is put on the public by ads that we are subject to wherever we are. It is extremely difficult to break free from our limited thoughts.

Adrienne Rich also sees these restriction in another form ,writing. She says that when men wrote about women and that most of them were about beautiful women “threatened with the loss of beauty, the loss of youth-the fate worse than death”(553). This writing is similar to the advertising that Douglas talks about. Similar in that not being what is deemed beautiful is a horrible thing to be avoided at all costs. Rich also sees the paradox of what images and language do to our minds, “language has trapped as well as

liberated us”(551). However, Rich gives a way to possibly break free from these restrictions. This idea

that can liberate us is a process called “re-vision”. This concept is described as “the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction”(550). Rich believes that this process is essential for women to further become an emancipated people. She says re-vision “is for women more than a chapter in cultural history: it is an act of survival”(550). Rich plans a way for women to break free from restriction put upon them. This process could work for the restricted image of beauty that Berger and Douglas articulate.

First, she says that “until we can understand the assumptions in which we are drenched we cannot know ourselves”(550).So women must come to recognize what advertising is doing to them. They must see through the “I’m worth it” and “‘You’ve come a long way, baby’” slogans that they are “drenched” with all of the time. Douglas believes that marketers “set up standards of perfection that were cast as unattainable yet somehow within reach if only the right product were purchased”(127).Rich also relates this loss of beauty when she says that men wrote about women and that most of them were about beautiful women “threatened with the loss of beauty, the loss of youth-the fate worse

than death”(553).These advertisers already know that the method of making women feel inferior is a formula that

works. If all women can posses this knowledge, then they can avoid the feelings that are a product of this kind of advertising. Thus they will not purchase the products, then these marketing campaigns will probably veer of in different directions, leading to the end of these type of advertisements. This could be the first step of re-vision to avoid and liberate our minds from the restrictions they already have.

Another way that women are restricted by this image of beauty, is their yearning to pretty because they want be treated as well as men are in our society. Berger says that women are judged by their appearances. He says that “men survey a woman before treating them. Consequently how a woman appears to a man can determine how she will be treated”(46). Then Berger goes on to elaborate about how it is to be a women when he writes,

” To be born a woman has to be born within an allotted

and confined space, into the keeping of man. The social

presence of women has developed as a result of their

ingenuity in living under such tutelage within such a

limited space.”(46)

Here, he is illustrating to the reader his feeling on the repression of women, right when they are born. The advertising that is seen today uses these feelings to get women to buy the items. If they look beautiful then they will be treated well and maybe just as well as the men are

treated. This has made our female society “a narcissistic paradise, luxurious daydream, in which [women] focus[ed] on themselves and their appearances(121). Adrienne Rich can relate to this feeling to wanted to treated like men. For her, her writing she was writing to be treated like a man. She wrote for the approval of men, “writers, teachers-the Man, who was not a terror or a dream but a literary master and a master in other ways to acknowledge”(552). She felt that she never measured up to other male authors. In the end she feels that re-vision can eventually remedy this problem too. Women can use this anger and energy to “love each other, to share risk and grief and celebration”(561). If they can do this than women may not have the to constantly feel that they must be attractive to measure up to men, however, she says that “as women, we have to work cut out for us”(561).

Images and language are can often restrict people thinking. These restrictions can be broken down if the correct method is used. John Berger, Susan Douglas, and

Adrienne Rich give assorted examples of restriction that are put upon people, specifically women and their looks. Adrienne Rich says that some of these restriction can be lifted if a process called re-vision is used. However, this is a arduous process and can only work in an ideal society.

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