Gender and Consumer Culture

Gender and consumer culture is another subtopic that comes forwards as a very significant aspect and a byproduct of the industrial revolution. The topic discusses the history and modern consumer society, gender and consumer culture, and gender identity and consumption in everyday life.

History of Gender and Consumer Culture

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In 1929, Christine Frederick, a leading economist, and marketer, published her book ‘selling Mrs. Consumer.’ This book was a complete guide and advisory on how to pitch American products to women. She built on the stereotypes and the notion of gender roles into a concrete surface bringing down the idea of feminism.

Today modern consumer culture is generally attributed as a quality possessed by women. A women’s role as a consumer seems like almost a natural one accentuated with the phrase ‘born to shop.’ This phrase and the idea behind this have a deep meaning and history to attach women to major consumers and shopaholics.

Industrial Revolution

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The history of gender and consumer culture links back to the consequences of the industrial revolution. The industrial production began with producing cotton and textile products, however, it soon revolutionized into the production of daily products. The enormous output produced had to be sold o the masses. For this very reason distributors and businesses had to coordinate to get their products sold to consumers. This formed the infrastructure of consumer culture.

Modern advertisement agencies promised to transfer the goods produced to the masses. Following the notion of profit maximization, customers were segmented on the basis of age, gender e.t.c. This has had a profound effect on the concreteness of the persistent gender roles.

Consumer Identity

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The infrastructure of a consumer culture built the essence of consumer identity. That is associating one’s personality with the clothes they wear or the products they consume. This builds on the overly used phrase ‘you are what you eat.’ The notion of consumer identity was deeply bound with up with feminism.

Later in 1980, it was identified that consumer identity is not just confined to the products we buy but it is a complete way of living. What one wears implies what personality a person has. Different genders have a different or unique way of dressing up. The products they consume are distinct and tend to differentiate them.

Women had already been realized as the ‘chief purchasing agent’, that is women tend to shop or consume frequently than that to men. Women being the sole homemakers tend to have a checklist for what stuff do they need to effectively run errands. Hence, women tend to buy more stuff and are the ones who go shopping. Some goods highlight the prevailing gender stereotypes such as makeup for women, cars for men e.t.c. Every product consumed has a social context and is backed by cultural assumptions about gender, class, race, and status.

Gender and Consumption in everyday life

In modern-day, as stated above people represent themselves with what they consume, eat, and dress. Today, consumption is no longer a contemporary feminine or passive activity. Even though we cannot deny the presence of gender division, gender roles, and distinct masculine and feminine traits, today’s world is more tolerant of these notions. Now we do witness at times, people, following the pursuit of the opposing gender. A distinct persona is constructed which shifts the idea of consumption from need satisfaction to self-construction.

Apart from the instrumental use of products, goods have certain meanings attached to them. Goods accentuate or build a personal identity for a person. Someone in rags implies their background, status, and class. Ownership of materials goods such as cars, lavish villas tends to show how rich or affluent a person is.

A room of one’s own- Virginia Woolf

Can we draw a comparison here between Virginia’s hypothetical story and consumption? Here we can draw a connection between how others perceive what we have versus our own perception of the goods and services we possess; the public meanings in contrast to the private meaning of certain possessions.

It is commonly assumed that whatever a person possesses, the meanings attached are highly individualistic and private. However, the reality is quite different. For example, a person who owns a fancy automobile might not perceive it as a status symbol but others may imply that owning a fancy car indeed reinforces class and status.

This links to the idea that women’s attributes are of nurturing interpersonal relationships, this will be attached to the possessions they own. As Virginia Woolf says if Shakespeare’s hypothetical sister would have her own room, the ability to build on her literature prowess; things today would have been slightly different.

Also Read: Gender across cultures

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