I, like many others, have a visceral aversion to jargon. Jargon is most commonly associated with written and spoken communication in highly specialized areas that require advanced degrees, such as medicine, law, and especially doctorates in many subjects. What bothers me about jargon and those who employ it is that it seems to obscure the relevancy of what is being studied. To some degree, one's specialty must be easily-communicated for it to be relevant beyond the immediate audience of one's colleagues. As far as I can tell, most people who make the effort to get an advanced degree believe that their area of study is relevant, so why is it that some feel the need to actively make their specialty seem less relevant by employing jargon and impossibly confusing sentence structure?
As an effort to expose jargon and as a proposal to simplify communication by obliterating its usage, I present you with my first piece of evidence of this pretentious practice: "the gaze." How often have you read an article, particularly one about literature, film, or another cultural work, and seen this concept employed. One commonly sees terms like "the feminine gaze" in this context. Not surprisingly, the idea of "the gaze" came about in the 1960s advanced by such postmodern theorists as Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan. Since the goal of the postmodernist movement seems to be to write as indecipherably as possible, jargon is at home among these thinkers. I remember first encountering the term in a pretty well-known article about Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window that I read for my film studies class in high school by Laura Mulvey. It was by no means a bad or uninteresting article, but the constant use of the term "gaze" made it more difficult to comprehend.
What is "the gaze?" According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, it is a concept that "deals with how an audience views other people presented." Just by looking at someone, it is proposed that a power structure is established, usually one in which the dominant party is directing the gaze and the submissive party is receiving it. To use Rear Window as an example, L.B. Jeffries (Jimmy Stewart) is purported to direct a gaze at his girlfriend Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelley) that projects a sort of fantasy unto her. Fremont is perpetually the one being gazed at and never the gazer (is that a word?), which therefore proves that the Hollywood film has a male-centric concern. The gaze is therefore a way of looking at women.
I'm not necessarily proposing that Mulvey is wrong about this but rather that she is unhelpful in her analysis. Why need one use the term "gaze" to describe a complex relationship between these two characters? In my opinion, it would be much more helpful if a scholar like Mulvey were to rely more on textual evidence and less on outside theory--i.e. scenes where Jeffries tries to mold Fremont and the accompanying camera, mis-en-scene, etc. techniques-- that help convey this relationship. This in fact would avoid the substitution of a scholar's own thoughts or agenda and allow as much as possible for the integrity of the text to come out. Using the term "gaze" allows the scholar to characterize an unproven intent of a principal character (i.e. speculating on what this character is thinking when s/he looks at another person). It makes it easier to not rely upon textual evidence, and moreover, it is a word that becomes a bit confusing for the reader who is familiar with its common meaning but not with its academic meaning.
Therefore, I submit "the gaze" as an abused and overused word-concept of academia, as a jargon violation of the highest order!