R.I.P. John Berger

January 4, 2017

John Berger passed away yesterday at the age of 90.

Over the years when various people have asked me if there is any particular thing they could share with their female teen or young adult when she announced that she is “transgender” and isn’t open to being directly challenged, I always suggested this program for shared viewing: John Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing’. Particularly Part 2: The Female Nude, but really all four segments in order.

It is art criticism with some Second Wave Radical Feminist analysis thrown in (uncredited!) and is a good introduction to awareness of gender and the male gaze as well as critical thinking and cultural competency in general. Really every teen should be forced to watch this program. It also has some fun anachronism and 70’s kitsch for a bonus.

Selling points?

First: it has nothing directly to do with transgender.

Second, you can insist it is a necessary part of their art education (and it is!) and view it together.

Third, it’s a great entry and conversation starter on the degraded status of the female caste that pervades all aspects of culture now and throughout history.

But most importantly, it teaches young people to see beyond the surface how representation itself works.

Kind of pathetic to recommend a 45-year-old program by a male (who steals feminist ideas) for such a purpose, no?  But there it is.

These days, thank god, there are some desperately needed materials being produced- particularly by dysphoric women and detransitioners- that are likely more directly helpful. Blogs, YouTubes, and some upcoming books! But I’m still not aware of any sort of “family movie night” program like this directed at teaching teenaged young women and girls to recognize the male gaze that has been inflicted upon them and all females throughout time, and that does so gently in the guise of edu-tainment. One made by women! Perhaps I’ve missed it. Leave comments with suggestions if I have. I think it is very desperately needed.

To media makers looking to make a difference for young women and girls struggling with gender, please consider making such a program that teaches youth not by instruction, but by giving them the tools to see.

Rest in peace John.

47 Responses to “R.I.P. John Berger”

  1. donesoverydone Says:

    Reblogged this on stop trans chauvinism.

  2. annemarietobias Says:

    Here’s a reasonable video reference… Happy New Years

    A Youtube search on Laura Mulvey, turns up several interesting videos on female objectification in art.

  3. I mess about with machines for a living. Getting things done in that world often involves a subtle rearranging of existing parts rather than whacking with a big hammer.

    Despite that I’m always amazed at how changing other peoples opinion involves subtle exposing them to just the right ideas at the right time. Then they are open to that idea and their own intelligence will get them where you want them.

    So often I just try talking slowly and loudly, but it never works.

  4. GallusMag Says:

    How about this: Don’t comment if are not familiar with the program. Thanks. That way I’m not forced to moderate random uninformed men’s puke inducing bon mots.

    • anon male Says:

      I’ve had the book on my shelf for over 20 years now without knowing there was a video. It’s weird how compartmentalized learning was prior to the internet. You either heard about something or you just didn’t. Hard to say if the current state of things is an improvement though. :/

  5. GallusMag Says:


  6. Can I ask about the upcoming books you referred to? Are there detransitioners writing books?

  7. Kate Says:

    Really enjoyed watching both videos that you posted. They opened my eyes quite a bit. And the kitschy scenes were fun too.

  8. Marm Says:

    “Ways of Seeing”was shown in the first year of art school, and was remarkable. The teacher who showed it to us and raved about it was sort of an old school misogynist. Despite this, he had some interesting ideas, so something in the program got through to him. The program, and the book (not sure which came first?) are both worth the time.

    Relevant to the dynamic occurring within the comments:


  9. I liked the discussion portion – though I felt it would have been better (natch) if the guy had shut up and the older woman could have given her thoughts more. The discussion of men having societal value through their interactions in the world versus the woman being expected to derive secondhand value from the man was particularly important, I think, given that this is still a dynamic girls are raised in, and is one I’ve heard many female transitioners reference indirectly when discussing how they knew they needed to transition.

  10. GallusMag Says:

    OT: Could anyone on Twitter PLEASE appeal my ban to @Support. I did nothing wrong! But they banned me after I tweeted to complain about the heteroqueers who ruined @AfterEllen. This person targeted me, directing her followers to seek out my twitter feed looking for “harassment and queer phobia”:

    I know it’s a dreary request but it took me SO long to build up that account, and it’s five years (!!!) of posts being censored. And I miss everyone! I did no harassment and queerphobia isn’t a thing!!!

    • “Queer phobia” ha ha ha 😅 I’m extremely “queerphobic” and proud of it!

      • GallusMag Says:

        I know right??? LOLOLOLOL. Holy shit.

      • GallusMag Says:

        They got me suspended and Twitter forced me to delete a tweet where I used the word “homophobic” to describe one of them. That @feyrah person had tweeted at me at least a dozen times like a crazy person when I was offline. Then she deleted them and called on me being banned before I could respond to her. As a matter of fact I wonder if her tweets are still in my notifications. hmmm.

        Anyway I deleted the tweet that offensively used the word ‘homophobic’ (according to Twitter) and got my account back but continued a long thread about the heteroqueers that ruined AfterEllen and next thing I knew my account was locked with no explanation or notification. I wrote to Twitter support and they did not explain- they just said “Your account will not be restored”.

        I can still sign in but I can’t do anything so I just sent them another appeal. So if anyone wants to @Support on my behalf maybe it would help. I mean holy shit. I did nothing wrong. They let these guys threaten, harass, send dick pics, post death threats, all sorts of insane invective but they banned me for no reason.

        I’m not asking peeps to write a letter but if they tweet @Support it might help. THANKS!

  11. Em Says:

    Haven’t been following his drama, but is that tranny nutcake Dana something still at Twitter? That would explain at lot.

    • kesher Says:

      I’m pretty sure he resigned in the wake of his rape allegations, but Silicon Valley is completely in the bag for M2Ts, as you’d expect for a bunch of men who can barely tolerate the existence of women.

  12. John Berger’s work, and his life, have been a light in my life. Thanks for drawing attention to the perennially relevant Ways of Seeing series. I hope that readers of this site will look at some of his other books, many essays and videos of him and about him, which abound on YouTube.

    • I wanted to add that he counted Andrea Dworkin as one of the great writers of our time.

    • GallusMag Says:

      A light for so many of us. Thank you Kamilla.

      • sirenpress Says:

        He is quoted on the back of one of Andrea’s books (forget which, possibly Right Wing Women): ‘The most misrepresented writer in the western world… Her words bleed with love and her vision is oracular.’ His understanding of her intent drew me to first read Ways of Seeing.

  13. Interestingly his male gaze idea was much taken up and usefully by feminist academics and media studs folks in 70s and early 80s and then, astonishingly, most of the same folk went into defence of porn, Berger excepted. But of course porn is the supreme example of male gaze. It was all very puzzling at the time.

  14. silverside Says:

    I especially like the way he makes the work of Walter Benjamin so accessible to an ordinary audience.

  15. hearthrising Says:

    Berger’s book Ways of Seeing had a big impact on how I look at the patriarchal world. The part dealing with the male gaze is one highly visual chapter in that book, and very easy to follow. It takes about 20 minutes to read. The other chapters dealing with capitalism and art are also interesting.

  16. anomie Says:

    My mom loves the book and, back when she taught art history, would make it part of her curriculum. I feel almost like for her—someone who is sorta disdainful of feminism in general—it served as kind of a way to let her, and her students, accept and internalise second wave ideas without having them attached to the big scary f-word.

    Back when I read it I had very little idea that anything in it was stolen from second wave feminists. Probs now that I know more second-wave literature and analysis, it would be worth a re-read with a more critical eye. Thanks for linking to the tv programme, which I didn’t know existed—very interesting.

  17. Kathleen Lowrey Says:

    I was really heartened by all the commentary upon his death — even my not at all sophisticated hometown newspaper had a long obit. I have used Ways of Seeing in teaching but have had to rely on some very ancient VHS cassettes or pixelated youtube. It would be nice if the series were reissued on DVD.

  18. We watched ways of seeing when I was studying media production in the late 90’s.

    That and my rampage through my university’s women’s studies library section probably had a huge influence on how my radical feminism developed.

    They only had a one semester unit on gender studies so maybe fortunately I had to find the classics on my own.

    Of course it also destroyed my ability to just unconsciously enjoy media. But I think the net result was good.

    I’ve always felt postmodern theory is a useful analytical tool but used in everyday life we end up with bullshit like 72 genders and pansexuality.

  19. genderskeptics Says:

    I have found a storify of sexual harassment on twitter from a trans activist, thought gallus might be interested in knowing about it:


    • And they banned gallus from twitter while they allow rapist threats????? What a goddamn joke.

      I’d help you, gallus, but I am currently on the dreaded “watch list” myself. Trans activists on both FB and Twitter are spying on and reporting all feminists, so everybody be advised and be careful.
      They are total Stalinists/McCarthyists and they want us *gone* from all social media. I now treat them like proto-fascists in bed with Trump, since they are.

  20. Marm Says:

    Unrelated to John Berger but clueless where else to park this.

    Andrea James, harasser of Michael Bailey and his minor children, etc. is now a regular contributer to Boing Boing. I thought it was rich she wrote this about online harassment:


  21. Margie Says:

    A breaking story. A UC Berkeley student named Pablo Gomez (who is a self-described “non-binary, pan” queer who uses they/them pronouns) was arrested for the killing of one woman and the stabbing of a second. I have perused his twitter and FB and I can’t tell whether he calls himself transgender, but I would say that non-binary, pan, queer who uses they/them falls under the trans umbrella. Also, he clearly is committed to trans activism.

    So (assuming that he is guilty) when this crime is added to the Oakland murders of November 11, that makes 5 homicides and attempted homicides by trans activists in the Bay Area in less than 2 months.


  22. celiathaxter Says:

    OT: Not sure if this has already been shared but here is a petition for Washington state legislators to support a bill banning men from women’s restrooms and locker rooms if they haven’t had reassignment surgery.


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