Girl on a Motorcycle - phallocentrism at its finest
Girl on a Motorcycle centers a strong male gaze on a woman leaving her husband to pursue a purely sexual relationship with another man. Two strong ideas presented from class are seen clearly throughout he movie, those being phallocentrism and the male gaze.
Phallocentrism is strong in this film from start to finish, with Daniel (the man whom the woman is cheating with) representing the phallus. The main character Rebecca is driven (literally and figuratively) toward the phallus, and is under control of it throughout the film. Most everything she does is motivated by the sexual desire the phallus represents. Even her mobility is controlled by a phallic object, a motorcycle shooting out beneath her legs.
This is made even more prominent with a very strong, evident male gaze. The movie focuses on a woman wearing nothing but tight leather (or sometimes nothing). When she puts the leather on, her cleavage is pushed up to tease the audience. A scene at a gas station, when Rebecca first fills up her gas tank, the nozzle was slowly driven into the gas tank, as the movie took plenty of time to let the audience think of something besides a gas tank being penetrated. During sexual scenes, Rebecca is a dominant focus, her chest is often exposed. Meanwhile, Daniel is rarely given camera time - because straight men don't care about his body. The male gaze wants to see Rebecca, and Rebecca is fed very consistently to the camera.
This film is liberating for Rebecca, but not at all for the majority of women or any sort of female movement. Though Rebecca is controlled by one man, and trapped by another, it is exactly what she wants. She is very obviously a masochist, and even questions it herself at one point. She was not happy with her husband Raymond even before marriage, yet she committed to the painful relationship, and refuses to leave it. Rebecca seeks Daniel because of the way he uses her body, and the way he dominates the relationship. She craves the torment she puts herself through, and repeats her demeaning cycle (in several instances, she refers to herself as a silly bitch). At one point, Rebecca asks Daniel if he would ever marry her, and he says no. She isn't the least bit disappointed, and you must think at this point she already knew the answer. Rebecca wants that feeling of being dominated and helpless. When she first saw Daniel, she ran to him to simply fall in his lap and be groped by his hands.
Rebecca is free to have the sex she wants, drive a motorcycle at the speed she wants, abuse the drugs she wants. She is free to do anything, and takes advantage of that often.
In this respect, the Rebecca feels liberated by getting exactly what she wants, though what she wants is the polar opposite of liberation. It really is quite paradoxical.
On the other hand, women are nowhere near liberated by this film. The idea of a woman rebelling and doing exactly what she wants, cruising around on a motorcycle sounds great. However she is clearly under phallic control. This film shows a male domination and control over women. Every man is getting what they want by taking advantage of her and simply taking as they wish.
If a man were to do what Rebecca had done through this movie (see: Easy Rider), their actions would be seen as embracing their freedom and they wouldn't feel demeaned, nor would the public have much opposition. In a case of women seeking equality, Rebecca's actions should theoretically be liberating for women, but in reality (especially in reality of the 1960s), women have some "catching up" to do to achieve that equality - and Rebecca's actions encourage a general male domination.