Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Is Consumerism Gendered?

I've recently started to wear makeup. I never used to because I was really into theater so I would only wear makeup for the stage, which was thick and heavy and really annoying to remove. But my friend, who works with my in the bookstore at the Clinque counter, convinced me to start buying some makeup to wear for like parties and stuff and I must admit, I like it. I especially like wearing some wacky stuff like blue eyeshadow and really shiny lipgloss.

And while I may be broke, I'm not into the cheap stuff. My mom and aunts only wear Bobbi Brown, and growing up I would borrow her stuff, so I know the difference. For instance, I will only wear Dior mascara.Maybe it's the slight perfumed scent or the extra long curl effect they give, but I cannot wear drugstore stuff.

Now is this a consumer compulsion that is caused by my double X chromosomes?

Some have argued that women are more willing to spend money on luxuries during economic downturns then men. According to the UK's Telegraph, the "lipstick effect" is in full swing, as women spend more money on cosmetics during an this financial crisis because, you know, it cheers them up! This is in fact backed up. In the first half of this year, L'Oreal's sales wear up 5.3% Since the Great Depression, economists have noticed that as industrial stocks plummet, make-up producers stocks tend to rise. After 9/11, lipstick sales doubled. And according to the New York Times, prom dresses (which can go for $300 a pop) are selling at normal rates across the country despite the recession.

What bothers me about this theory is that it seems to perpetuate the gender stereotype that women are foolish with money. Linked to this article you will also find an article which describes how, during the recession, men's necktie have been seeing increased sales as well, as men fear being sacked from their jobs. So men use their money (and fashion) in times of crisis to save their jobs, and women use their money (and fashion) in times of crisis to....make themselves pretty(which in term supposedly boosts their self-esteem and makes them feel happy?)?

Do men equate their self-worth with their jobs (and ability to attract money) and women equate their self-worth with their beauty (and ability to attract mates)? Is that why I love Chanel lipgloss?!?!?!

This entire theory naturalizes women's (and men's) use of fashion to distinct biological differences/instincts, but as we have read, women and men sometimes use dress to achieve the same end.

In the Philippines during the 1930’s and 40’s, as described in “Women, Citizen and the Politics of Dress in Twentieth-Century Philippines” by Mina Roces, Filipino women adopted Western modes of dress to claim gender equality. Traditional Filipino dress was seen as representative of the women’s status as colonized, while the men, who were gaining political power, wore Western clothing. Fashion was used to portray both gender inequality, and as a symbolic tool to fight for gender equality in this situation.

Symbols of women as traditional and their for the subject of colonial rule, backwardness, or the role of “other” can be seen in many other places in the world, in many different periods of time (like Chinese women binding their feet as we read about in “The Body as Attire: The Shifting Meanings of Footbinding in Seventeenth-Century China.” by Dorothy Ko, or modern ideas about women wearing the hijab). But these acts were also motivated by political intentions.

-Alison Tanner
Blog 2

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