Resisting the power of the gendered gaze: Metonymic self-description through digital photography

Ae Ryung Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The feminist politics of identity asserts that 'narrative identity' can produce the female subject who can resist patriarchal power. However, women at the margins, stigmatized by intersectional sex hierarchies, do not have the language to express themselves. Certain former sex workers want to keep their past experience as something 'that cannot be spoken of.' This is the consequence of internalizing the fear of external stigma rather than self-negation. For these women, narrative identity can be thought of as an excessive pressure. Then how can they express themselves? By analyzing the images of the photographs taken by a former sex worker, this study compares the possibilities and limits of self-expression through narrative and through photography. Also, this study investigates how the woman discovers a 'different' possibility to reveal and convince herself of her life through the act of photographing. As objects of the photograph, the red light district women become contained in the objectified representational image by the power of the gaze. However, photographing functions as an act of image production; it reveals the gap of regulation and partitioning enforced by the existing discursive power. While an active resistance may not be possible, the metonymical self-descriptive acts of capturing the adjacent time and place of one's life can become a possibility for females at the margins to traverse the intersectional sex hierarchy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-70
Number of pages26
JournalAsian Journal of Women's Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2012


  • Gaze
  • Photography
  • Politics of identity
  • Red light district
  • Representation
  • Self-description


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