Imagine you are standing on the center of the stage, looking out at the vast auditorium. You feel small in comparison to the room, and yet, you are at the center of everyone’s attention. The bright stage lights illuminate your body, your facial expressions, your every move. These strong lights are focused only on you, leaving the audience blurry, unimportant.
As you dance across the stage, you notice the velvet curtains encompassing the stage, accessorizing you on the stage, adding an elegant, expensive feel. Behind you on the stage to the right is the only exit from the stage, leading to the small dressing room backstage.
The performer, the one being viewed, is not only placed on higher ground, literally, but is also placed under a spotlight, increasing the visibility for the audience; the performer however, cannot see much of the audience, as the lights are only on them, and the rest of the auditorium is dim... blurry.
The stage is where you feel you belong, showcasing your talents to those watching. The stage is where you know people will pay attention to you, making you feel worthy of the spotlight. At the same time, the stage is strongly gendered. Through Foucault, Mulvey, and Valentine’s theories regarding visibility, power, and gender, the different aspects of the stage can be analyzed and compared to gender dynamics seen in the real world.
Philosopher Jeremy Bentham describes the relationship between visibility and power through a building known as panopticon. In this anecdote, he describes the panopticon as a watchtower, from where a security guard has complete visibility of the inmates in a prison. These inmates, however, can only see the watchtower, and not the guard. Because the inmates are never completely sure if the guard is watching them or not, they in theory will always behave, or comply with the expectations placed on them, whether or not the guard is actually watching them.