Facts about Face-ism

In our textbook, Face-ism is defined as, “the tendency to represent people in terms of their face or head as opposed to their body,” (Sparks 212). In a chapter regarding media stereotypes, the issue of Face-ism comes about when we observe the difference in how women and men are photographically represented in media. The book argues, through the representation of a ratio, that generally men are represented with 65% of their pictures being their head/face. Women’s faces, on the other hand, are only represented with 45% of their depictions, meaning the rest of their body is shown in more detail. The textbook also argues that people respond more positively to pictures that reveal more of a person’s face, thus making it so that women are potentially misrepresented in media by Face-ism.

One interesting aspect about Face-ism discussed in the chapter is the fact that this is nothing new to media. In fact, the textbook argues that for centuries, in everything from classic artwork to postage stamps, this aspect of face-ism has re-emerged time and time again.

Although to Sparks the concept of Face-ism was really new and interesting, it made me think back to a film course I took in which we discussed and analyzed the “male gaze”, which in film is when the camera lingers for a long time on aspects of the female body not pertaining to the scene. In other words, the camera lens becomes the male’s eyes looking over the female, making such cinema sexist and one dimensional. There is not much of a female equivalent to the male gaze. This occurs because the majority of the people behind motion pictures, directors, writers, producers, studio executives, etc., are mostly male. I think that in media, unfortunately, this has the same effect. “Sex sells” is what they say, so I think that magazine editors, when trying to get that cover to sell, put more of an unfair emphasis on the female body, continuing the male gaze notion.

We also talked about this in class in regard to television news programs, where you might have a male news caster sitting behind a desk, but a female reporter standing before the camera, more of her body showcased. I think there is a lot of evidence to support these claims about face-ism, whether in print media or in television. However, I’ve almost noticed an opposite effect when it comes to the profile pictures people make for themselves on Facebook. In other classes, we’ve talked about how generally in a male Facebook profile picture, the guy will be photographed mostly full body and in the middle of some sort of activity. Female Facebook profile pictures, on the other hand, generally show more poses and close-ups of the face. While the Facebook connection might be a generalization, I think it is interesting food for thought on how we view ourselves in social media, to how we generally view men and women in regular media.

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