PhD Fellow in English literature, School of Humanities, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia.
Current feminisms have emphasized the systematic nature of women’s oppression. Feminist scholars like Luce Irigaray insist that woman’s difference and otherness is a matter of male-dominated institutional definition: because the woman is theoretically subordinated to the concept of masculinity, she is seen and objectified by the man as his opposite, described as an absence, a lack, and, most notoriously, the other. The metaphor of vision, or the panoptic gaze, is thus faulted with a construction of “sexist norms”, and with the institutional definitions of gender and sexual difference. This paper examines the contention in the key theoretical writings of men—Freud, Lacan, and Sartre—who are engaged with the notion of femininity. Their conceptualizations on the notions of scopophilia, exhibitionism, and narcissism are specifically examined to explore the way the dichotomy of a male subject and a female object is formulated and perpetuated through heterocenteric assumptions about the gaze. It is concluded that within the masculine framework of Western metaphysics, a woman’s entry into a presiding scopic economy contributes to her ineluctable limitation to passivity and her socio-sexual victimization. In this regard, the panoptic gaze is endowed with a constitutive influence upon the subjectivity of the individuals—appropriating the woman into a definable being.