Consciousness Within a Consciousness

‘By the consciousness of women as expressed in the genre of remarriage I mean something of both sides- I mean a development in the consciousness women hold of themselves as this is developed in its relation to the consciousness men hold of them’ (Cavell 17).

Cavell’s quote struck me, as he is articulating this misogynistic control men have over women as we have been taught to develop our ‘consciousness’ in relation to the consciousness men hold of us. This is evident in the ‘cool girl’ trope we commonly see in film, specifically in Miss Congeniality. Throughout the film we see our protagonist, Gracie Hart, is a stellar investigative cop working in an extremely male-dominated field. Despite her brilliance, strength, and being consistently reliable to always gets the job done, the film makes a point to emphasize the revolting effect she has on her male coworkers due to her inability to conform to societal beauty standards, resulting in her overwhelming lack of sex appeal, becoming one of her defining characteristics comparable to her intelligence.

During the rising action stage of the film, however, Gracie gets a full makeover, complete with straight-ironed hair, a tight, short dress, high heels, and a full face of make up, successfully satisfying the expectations of an attractive women through the male gaze. After her transformation, her coworkers are suddenly intimidated by her smarts and physical strength, despite her skill set remaining the same. Gracie was only seen as a cool,confident girl, winning the validation of all of her male coworkers, after fitting herself into the male-created standard of beauty for women. As a female audience member, I subconsciously absorbed the knowledge that the validation of women is found in achieving the male-created standard of beauty, that Gracie was unable to emulate confidence without conforming to beauty standards, thus developing mine and the general female viewer’s consciousness, in its relation to the consciousness men.

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