Skip to main content
Contribution to Book
Unveiling the Gaze: Belly Dance as a Site of Refuge, Re-envisioning and Resistance
Feminist Theory and Pop Culture: A Text-Reader (2015)
  • Angela M. Moe, Western Michigan University
Central to studies of feminist theory and pop culture is the construct of the male gaze, which highlights and challenges imagery within various forums (e.g., film, media, art) that relegate women to a stereotypically aesthetic purpose. In other words, analyses of the male gaze question why it is that women are so often portrayed in overly sexualized ways, as if they are only objects to be considered and consumed by others (namely, heterosexual men). This construct was first developed by Laura Mulvey in her influential 1975 essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”. What was unique about Mulvey’s analysis is that she applied a feminist lens to gaze theory which had been previously developed by Foucault and others. Gaze theory provided a means through which to understand how individuals, as products of their culture, learn, create and maintain power differences among each other through the interpretation (and internalization) of visual images. Mulvey argued that the gaze is specifically instrumental in establishing and maintaining gender power imbalances via a narrow and hegemonic portrayal of women in film. Analyses of the male gaze have extended to various other outlets over the last few decades, including media (television, advertising), fine art (paintings, sculpture) and graphic literature (comics). This chapter applies the theory of the male gaze to performance art, particularly belly dance (aka, oriental or Middle Eastern dance), which is encumbered with stereotypes relating to eroticism and sexuality. I argue that such stereotypes are direct products of the male gaze, as manifested through an interconnected stream of political, economic and cultural factors related to gender, women’s role, and the Middle and Near East. I then go on to illustrate the ways in which American belly dancers today react to and resist the gaze.
Publication Date
A. Trier-Bieniek
Citation Information
Angela M. Moe. "Unveiling the Gaze: Belly Dance as a Site of Refuge, Re-envisioning and Resistance" Rotterdam, NetherlandsFeminist Theory and Pop Culture: A Text-Reader (2015)
Available at: