Religion and Gender
The Normative Power of Images: Religion, Gender, Visuality

This article discusses gender, normative and visual. Regarding the impact of visual culture on gender norms theory frame, religious, traditional gender roles in the visualization and gender norms in (visual) the link between the influence of culture in other areas. Including to explore how to use visual media to convey in a religious environment and shape about gender identity, gender roles and the relations between different gender category guide thought and the actual practice.

By analyzing the representation of the Madonna and practice discussed in the book, show how norms' legitimacy and resistance to norms can occur in visual practice even through the same image. Virgin Mary, is the mother of the gods and humans and the role of god's influential intercessor, the role of ambiguity. Also, she is a humble mother and mighty protector, a caring, mother's image, are all required in mother and child are to stand out in the standardization of the human female identity model. Whether the audience is looking at Mary, it arouses the memory of women in the audience as a link?

However, our convention of watching Virgin Mary is always embedded in the context of social norms, values, and worldviews that determine the location, role, and function of each viewer. Gender identity and communal affiliation are critical aspects of this visual communication process. The reason is that they shape individuals' viewing positions and their relationship to what they see. For the women who were looking at the Virgin Mary, it meant getting into an awkward situation where they both recognized themselves in the portrait and were reminded of the tremendous differences between themselves and the Virgin Mary.

'In religious contexts, the gaze has always an individual and a collective dimension, since it activates mental, shared images and concepts that are regulated on a social level, and responds to social expectations and norms regarding the position of the subject of the gaze and attitudes towards what is seen.' (Knauss & Pezzoli-Olgiati, 2015)  

Thus, Virgin Mary activates the spirit of regulation at the social level, the Shared images and concepts, and responds to social expectations.

In contemporary art, there are more and more subtle challenges to normalize information in visual culture. As can be seen in Sherman's work, her work is not only an example of how gender norms can be challenged through visual practice, but also an example of the two modes of gender, religion, and normative interaction in visual culture:

Her work addresses the issues of femininity, extraversion and sexuality. The fact that female extraversion is representative of Christianity and other cultures, and does not address contemporary society, as the recent debate over public breast-feeding has confirmed. So instead of introducing new norms governing a woman's body and identity, Sherman emphasized the need to rethink traditional norms that demand sexual modesty and limit sex to motherhood. She chooses to introduce a foreign body into Mary's body, and she emphasizes Mary's controversial physical and sexual intimacy with human women, without disambiguating the dual meaning of female breasts as both nurturing and erotic. She borrowed and subverted the feminist norms of Christianity, so her image can be seen as an example of the practice of communication in the field of religious tradition. However, that is not all. The artist realizes the traditional theme, and it transcends the boundaries of the religious institutions at the same time. To contemporary culture under the background of "secular": Cindy Sherman is not a "religion" artist, her works are not suitable for religious background or the expression of piety. However, she may pattern by religious discrimination.

Untied # 216 is an example of how religious gender norms, conveyed visually, can emerge in a broader cultural context and influence identity and worldview in a variety of ways.

Finally, even though the influence of religion, gender and social, in a sense, surrounded Mary's representative the feminist model of negotiation and that made her become a "woman" in the sense of collective representation.  Therefore, I think that Mary 's image, when re-execute the female identity, the links between the individual and collective, which means that is closely related to social values is also full of challenges in the contemporary art world.

Keywords: Gender; normativity; visual culture; image; Mary; religion and culture

Support reading

1.   Stefanie Knauss, Daria Pezzoli-Olgiati(2015, Feb 19)Introduction The Normative Power of Images: Religion, Gender, Visuality., Religion and Gender, 1878-5417, pp.1–17.

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