Stop shopping, you airhead! What will “the men” say?

// 15 June 2008

Sorry, stop right there. Oi! I said STOP! Do you like shopping? Do you ever think about something you’ve seen, liked and want to buy? Do you ever, even if occasionally, look at clothes online, or browse catalogues even though a purchase, considering your financial situation, would not be a sensible decision? If yes, then please leave quietly madam. Feminist, you say, huh! We don’t want your type here, click off now, and don’t come back. Let’s not cause a scene…

What do you think about that? Ridiculous really, isn’t it, but this is exactly the attitude espoused by another of the Mail’s misogynists in women’s clothing, Carol Sarler, who spat out an acerbic article this week claiming that if a woman likes shopping, then essentially she is not only impeding women’s movement towards equality, but that she is also unravelling the hard work and tireless sacrifice made by our feminist predecessors. Said female shopper is an “airhead.” Perhaps women are becoming increasingly preoccupied with material possessions, but this isn’t something exclusive to our gender. Surely Sarler cannot be that obtuse. I have a male friend who once spent £500 on a jumper, and while extravagant, I didn’t once accuse him of proactively emasculating his sex for the sake of “girly” fashion, nor of mindless consumerism. It’s his money, he can do what he wants with it, and I failed to interpret his buy as anything more than the result of his compulsive nature. So, is this not a hefty criticism to levy against a woman for doing nothing more than speculatively admiring a pair of kitten heels? And should we be surprised to read an article that damagingly invests an innocent act with such negativity and meaning from a woman who not so long ago produced an article claiming that women are responsible (yes, “responsible”) for the genesis of the metrosexual male, the premise being that we should try to tease out the “real man” from within to return to gender normality? Presumably for Sarler a man is not a “real man” unless he’s running round wearing nothing more than a loin cloth, beating his matted-with-hair chest, and tearing chunks of flesh from the sides of live cows with his teeth and bare hands. Lovely stuff.

Sarler’s depressing generalisation emanate from the results of a recent “study” (source, as far as I could see, was not provided, nor the sample of women analysed) claiming modern women:

…use their minds, once in every minute, to think about… shopping. That’s 960 times a day, 6,720 times a week, and damnably close to the once every 52 seconds that men are believed to think about sex. At least they can claim to have been programmed that way; the caveman had the propagation of a species to worry about. The modern woman with a fixation on shopping has nobody save herself to blame – and no, don’t drag up the old excuse that she’s under pressure from the fashion magazines.

So, if you want to truly show your gratitude for your “education, independence and income of which poor Miss [Emily] Davison could scarcely have dreamed” then you must abandon any thoughts of mindless materialism and instead do nothing but think abut how lucky you are to have the opportunity to work (and be paid for it), and how grateful you should be for having had an education that allows you to achieve professional success. Don’t worry that for men these have always been a given. You, little lady, have to show appreciation, and so is it too much to ask that your thoughts be policed, analysed, dissected and endowed with political meaning? That Sarler begins this article, discussing a frankly unimportant issue, with a reference to Emily Davison’s determination to advance women’s rights by throwing herself under the King’s horse at the 1913 Derby, does trivialise the sacrifice Davison made, her heroic actions now nothing more than something of legend that can be clumsily thrown into writing in a weak attempt to bolster a poor argument. Sarler’s claims are reminiscent of those rolled out during general elections, when women are reminded to vote out of “respect” for all the women who fought for the “privilege.” While it’s true that women did, in a time when they were discriminated against in all areas of life due to their gender, take on a strong patriarchy to ensure we had a political voice, I don’t think they did so for eternal gratitude, and I don’t think this means that whether we are politically minded or not that we HAVE to vote for this reason alone. Proponents of this argument fail to realise that these women weren’t fighting for us to be able to vote, but rather for us to have the choice. If we are politically apathetic, then so what? At least we are now recognised as making the active decision not to vote. The same principle can be applied to Sarler’s argument. Yes, Davison gave up her life so that women who proceeded her would not have to, but what Davison, and I assume the vast majority of feminists, hope for as we trundle towards parity is that we are permitted to make our own decisions without prejudice or discrimination, and can have independence of thought to think about what we want. Surely the fact that we now make our own money and can now, should we so wish, spend this frivolously (or at least think about spending it frivolously) without worrying about what the husband will have to say, means that Davison’s work has been appreciated.

What this “research” indicated was that we allegedly “think” about it, and not that we actually do it, whereas Sarler already has us strung-up by the drawstrings of our Juicy Couture tracksuit bottoms and is verbally beating us to death with our Louis Vuitton bags. So, working on the same principle that thinking equals doing, Sarlar must also believe that all men who allegedly think about sex every 52 seconds are perverts? Uh, no actually, because they can’t help that, it’s their “programming.” Fair enough, maybe cavemen did have the “propagation of the species to worry about,” but that’s because way back then there was actually nothing else to do! I don’t think that using prehistoric man as a template for the twenty-first century male is accurate or complimentary, nor do I think it can be used to justify man’s contemporary thought-processes. Prehistoric man also used to dig a hole in the corner to shit in, but I doubt anyone in the office would consider this a valid excuse if Joe from IT thought it appropriate to do the same thing. If men are thinking about sex every 52 seconds then it’s highly probable that they are spending the next 8 seconds to think about what impressively fast car they want to buy. Stereotypical assumption? Maybe, but what was this research but something emanating from the tired old assumption that women live for retail? How boring! Some women like shopping, some women do not. Some women like thinking about shopping, some do not. Some men like thinking about shopping, some do not. Some men like thinking about sex, some do not. Some men even like thinking about buying sex, some do not, but that’s for another post. Perhaps instead of funding projects designed to do nothing but consolidate tired old gender clichés it would be worth investigating something that would be of more interest? So, men think about sex every 52 seconds, how often do women think about sex? Probably more frequently than they think about shopping, but whereas it’s acceptable for men to be motivated by their sexuality for women it’s more appropriate to desire nothing more than the most fabulous pair of earrings.

If it’s acceptable, as Sarler suggests, for men to rightly call a woman an “airhead” for thinking about shopping, then it’s right for us to think men are sexually debauched for thinking about sex. But then this would be sexist. For some reason it’s now become fashionable for female writers to make sweeping and offensive generalisations about women, as if in doing so they are truly pushing towards equality, by critiquing their own kind. She says women should be prepared to take the “blame” for the perpetuation of redundant stereotypes, and that when asked again about the shopping habits they should “just lie.” But firstly, is the claim that men think us airheads considered a threat to make us change our wily ways? And why is it something eliciting a sense of accountability? A woman shops. She does it because she likes it. She does it because she has her own money. And she will continue to do it. While Sarler disregards the part placed by women’s magazines in propagating the I want I need culture, it’s fair to say that being presented by pages-upon-pages of attainable imitation high-fashion garments that promise to make us more attractive, more beautiful, is going to have an affect. It’s not unusual for me to read a magazine, see something I like and then decide I want to buy that, or at least something similar, and I make no apologies for that or feel that this lies at odds with my feminist sensibilities.

The inadequacy of Sarler’s assessment is perhaps best illustrated by her later admission that it is not shopping she detests, but rather shopping in the UK:

I should, I suppose, declare an interest. Or, rather, a lack of one. I don’t read the magazines as I don’t want to be told what to buy, because I cannot bear even the idea of stepping into a clothes shop. At least not in this country, I can’t; I might be seduced by the warmth of a Spanish smile on holiday, the heady scent of good leather in Italy or the genuine eagerness to serve that you find in America.

Is there not something hugely pretentious and hypocritical about this “declaration,” indicating that Sarler is not as in touch with the female population of the UK as she would have us believe.

To shop or not to shop, that is the question, and one you can answer at your own discretion.

Comments From You

Steph Jones // Posted 15 June 2008 at 3:08 pm

Oh, the irony of such an article being written by Sarler, and appearing in the Daily Male! Sarler, like many of the ‘mysogynists in womens clothing’ (as you so eloquently put it!), are so unbelievably hypocritical.

Anne Onne // Posted 15 June 2008 at 4:21 pm

A perfect follow up to the last blog post!

Shopping isn’t the most divisive thing in feminism. It’s not even in the top 10 (if there was one, it wouldn’t rank that highly, surely…). Most feminists don’t care who likes shopping. You can bring up how expensive tastes and consumerism are putting women (who earn less than men or equal work) into debt, you can bring up raunch culture and the patriarchy and its effects on women’s sense of their roles in society, but shopping itself? Our foremothers did not fight and die for us not to shop. They fought and died for our rights to vote, to be equal, and we are still continuing that fight. Part of that fight is lessening the pressure on women to conform to the ideal of the submissive woman with no opinion who should be obsessed with ‘girly’ things like shopping’, but we also fight for women’s rights to be taken seriously, and not judged on their hobbies or activities. We also fight for the rights of women to not be called airheads if they step into a shop, especially since they are conditioned to believe this is their role in life.

I assume that since she hates shopping, she walks around wearing an organic sack she made herself…bet not. It’s just shopping of the likes of the poor she can’t stand, aspiring to be like the rich, or so she thinks.

I’m also sick of the ‘If you do X, you are a traitor to women everywhere! How dare you do that to feminism!!!’ attitudes you get here and there. For a start, the person espousing that opinion usually has absolutely no idea about feminism, and little grasp the issues really affecting women today, and is just using a misogynistic* approach, with the excuse of feminism so they can tear other women to pieces. Not in my name, sister.

Besides, what proof do they have that these thuoghts of shopping are all frivolous daydreaming about Manolo Blahniks? What about thinking where your next meal is from? What you need to buy to cook for dinner? Wondering whether you can patch together your kid’s uniform or have to get a new one? Many of us struggle to get by, and see shopping as an expensive necessity. Believe it or not, we can’t get out of having to think about buying things, particularly if you’re a woman who has a family to support, and is tasked with putting food on the table, clothes on everyone’s backs and so forth. Shopping really is more than an idle pasttime.

And so what if some women find release in dreaming about buying something they like? Isn’t it stereotypical of men to buy gadgets? Why is there no article about how frivolous buying the latest Arsenal strip (when they change the kits weekly, practically), or spending £££ on season tickets is? You won’t get articles about how men who buy expensive gadgets or are obsessed about sports are airheads, even though these are hardly more useful than

The author wonders why women say they like shopping, but look miserable doing it: Answer, women aren’t a hivemind. Some women love shopping, but you just might not be seeing them on the high street. To go all the way and assume the motivations and feelings behind millions of women’s shopping habits is nothing short of naive arrogance, since this woman clearly has no idea what makes the rest of us tick. Not all of us want to look like Colleen or Victoria, and we’re not quivering piles of self-loathing. Some of us shio for respite, some because we need to. Some enjoy it, some don’t. We all need to shop, to some extent. It’s not something that can be avoided, and sometimes it’s easier to try to enjoy it, since you must do it anyway, and people expect you to enjoy it.

Besides, I bet she’d be the first one for judging a woman in unusual clothes, or old clothes or no make up. Because women are supposed to naturally look stunning, always wear the right amount of make-up, wear charming clothes and accessories, but not spend too much time preparing or shopping. Just how the hell do you expect women to live up to your beauty standards without effort?

Clearly, the author herself hates shopping. That’s OK, many people do. But that’s not an excuse to write a cheaply insulting article demanding that nobody else like it. Seriously, if they want to support the women’s movement, they might want to try not selling out to the patriarchy for some crumbs. Because in feminism, writing articles that boil down to ‘Other women but me suck. But I’m great!’ isn’t really pro-woman. Fancy that!

I hate consumer culture, and the kinds of things that make my eyes sparkle when I see them in the shops aren’t what most people would even consider worth buying, but that’s not the issue here. This isn’t a critique of consumer culture. If it was, it would also focus on men and their supposed inability to shop, or their own purchasing habits (men do actually buy things, too!).

Ans who says you can’t argue that thinking about shopping can be a programmed evo-psych waffle response? Shopping may be akin to early Stone age gathering, whereby women procured food for their children, and ensured the comfort of the tribe. Hence, shopping is a modern equivalent, and it can be argued that supporting and keeping a group alive whilst the men are out hunting in manly fur loincloths is as vital to sexual urges. After all, no point in recreating if you kill the sprogs or yourselves through lack of care. Meh, I hate evo psych, but what’s good for the goose…

*I’m not sure if it’s a word, but if it isn’t I’m making it one.

Renee // Posted 15 June 2008 at 6:56 pm

What this really comes down to is what you define a feminist to be. Some people are so intent with making feminism small by assigning it characteristics that are narrow or meaningless. Does she think that women who are living in poverty give a rats ass about consumerism beyond how it is a product of their exploitative labor? Feminism is about address the diverse problems that effect womens lives and this whole lipstick shopping debate is nothing but a diversionary tactic to keep women focused on minutia. Move on already.

Cara // Posted 15 June 2008 at 8:17 pm

Too right. Fantastic piece, Abby.

I like shopping. I love shoes. And bags. I think about shopping, sometimes. (Can’t afford to buy everything I like, my budget is strictly Primark).

I also, believe it or not, care about serious political issues, and have an opinion and a brain (and a Masters to prove it ;-) ).

So…why don’t women get to be three-dimensional people with different sides to them?

Men don’t get called frivolous airheads who can’t possibly be interested in serious issues if they like football, playing copmuter games, beer, etc. etc.

Carol // Posted 15 June 2008 at 11:12 pm

I agree with some points that both Sarler and Abby make, while disagreeing with the overall tone of Sarler’s article and with some of Abby’s critique.

Rather than take time I don’t have to go into a point by point analysis, I’ll just lay out my main views on the issue:

Shopping and consumerism are gendered (and classed, raced, (hetero)sexualized etc, etc).

The intensification of consumerism generally since the 1980s, on a global scale has raised many issues of significance for feminists. Of major significance is the global division of labour, through which wealthier countries get a raft of relatively cheap consumer goods, often produced by an exploited workforce in poorer countries. And that exploited workforce is largely made up of young (often vulnerable) women. Surely that must give us pause when making any kind of statement about enjoying shopping? IMO there needs to be some thought put into what we buy and the consequences of our shopping practices.

Of course it’s not possible to make sweeping generalizations about whether women enjoying shopping and being politically engaged are mutually exclusive. But it seems to me that the intensification of consumerism does mean that it is more possible for large numbers of people to get caught up with consumerism at the expense of political (including feminist) engagement. I don’t know how much this happens and for which sections of society, but I’m open to further exploration. IMO it is possible that some women’s attention gets diverted from political engagement through consumerism.

Shea // Posted 16 June 2008 at 3:31 am

Carol & Anne in agreement with both your posts.

Carol I think you are absolutely spot on–women’s attention gets diverted from political engagement through consumerism. But further I would argued that given the rise of globalisation, there is a political act in shopping, in boycotting those firms that profit from sweatshop labour, in supporting progressive companies (like People Tree) and fair trade. Its now much easier to make an impact on the world through the high street than the ballot box, unfortunately.

I feel aswell as though “shopping” is a huge distraction. When I lived abroad in Argentina a couple of years ago the level of advertising was massively less. It was difficult to actually get hold of women’s magazines where I was. Because of this I felt a lot less pressure to buy things or to get competitive in lifestyle. Apart from the basic essentials, there wasn’t a whole lot to buy or to want to purchase (as well as being surrounded by people who struggled to afford the daily necessities). In the absence of this I turned to great literature, art and music, it felt much more fufiling and much longer lasting “high”.

Shopping has become a great diversion tactic of our time. Women, don’t worry about calculus, equal pay or the mutation of the H5N1 virus, just how to wear “boho luxe”! It seems like the right to live the most trivial life possible (but its something that affects men also).

BareNakedLady // Posted 16 June 2008 at 9:18 am

I wish she had quoted her source material, so it was possible to investigate a little more. I can’t understand how this kind of research can be done to any degree of accuracy – if someone spends a day aware that they’re doing a survey on how much they think about sex/shopping/whatever, obviously they are going to think about it more often. If it’s done retrospectively then the results will be just what you remember thinking… surely even Daily Mail columnists have enough thoughts in a day to make them hard to remember.

Can anyone explain how this kind of research is usually done?

Cara // Posted 16 June 2008 at 10:34 am

OK – I absolutely disagree that shopping and being politically engaged are mutually exclusive.

First, I can see that our shallow consumerist culture encourages spending beyond our means and pursuing a consumerist lifestyle. I think this applies as much to men, albeit in a gendered way – while women feel the need to have fashionable shoes and clothes, men have to have the latest laptop, BlackBerry, car etc. What I would say is that this isn’t anyone’s *fault* and the pressure is pretty hard to resist when advertising is in your face most of the time. Like many choices in life – such as wearing make-up and high heels, dieting, or what you choose to do or not do sexually, individual women may make choices that are not feminist because of the huge pressures on them to do so, and because they want to do so. I admire anyone who resists the pressure, but we’re all just human – anyone here *never* do anything they feel is at odds with feminism?

Shea: “In the absence of this I turned to great literature, art and music, it felt much more fufiling and much longer lasting “high”.

Women, don’t worry about calculus, equal pay or the mutation of the H5N1 virus, just how to wear “boho luxe”!”

Yes, but can you explain how enjoying shopping excludes being interested in all the other things you mention? I happen to enjoy shopping and also enjoy literature, art, and music, have a Masters in psychology and work in statistics. I am also politically engaged -a member of Fawcett, Amnesty, and other groups, and spend a lot of time staying up to speed on current affairs. Unless you are talking about a woman who literally spends so much time shopping and getting beauty treatments etc. that she has no time/ energy for anything else…I don’t see why shopping excludes the other things. Like most adults, I manage to divide my time between a variety of interests. Of course, time spent shopping is time you can’t spend doing other things – but it’s a balance, as I said, and no-one spends 100% of their free time doing serious, self-improving things. We all need time to relax.

Sorry, but these type of comments (and I’m not personally picking on you – Carol and others have made similar comments) are buying into exactly the misogynist tripe Abby explains in the article – while men get to be rounded people with a variety of interests, and aren’t assumed to be thick/ uninterested in serious issues because they sometimes enjoy going to the pub and watching football, women are one-dimensional “bimbo” caricatures if we dare take an interest in our appearance, and show that we do. Shopping precludes being taken seriously. Yet, of course, patriarchy demands that we do take care of our appearance! It’s a no-win situation – women can be taken seriously as an intelligent person capable of discussing political issues, but not seen as attractive; or the opposite. That is the point.

Denise // Posted 16 June 2008 at 11:14 am

I was only the other day thinking about this issue. My boyfriend just spent about ten grand (I’m still repeating that sum to myself over and over in a horrified tone) on a new hi-fi system. Sure, it’s his money (well, almost all of it is). But I was thinking that men all over the place are quietly spending huge amounts of money on their so-called boy toys whereas, as Abby points out, if a women speculatively admires a pair of shoes in a shop window, this kind of action can bring down a storm of negative connotations on her head!

Very good piece, Abby.

Shea // Posted 16 June 2008 at 12:42 pm

@ Cara

“Yes, but can you explain how enjoying shopping excludes being interested in all the other things you mention?”

I don’t believe they are mutually exclusive. My point was just that, without having a perpetual stereotype of beauty and fashion rammed down our throats because it is seen as “what women want” would we be able to engage further in political issues and with a greater understanding? Its a self perpetuating cycle. We shop because the message is constantly to buy more, to own more, so we purchase more. So the retail business sinks more money into advertising, to encourage people to buy more………Both men and women are equally susceptible to this pressure. I think that is the point of this post. That mocking and deriding one gender for an action that both partake in is unfair and flawed. That said, “the consumerist lifestyle” bears analysis and criticism, especially because I would guess there is more advertising to women than men (such as the beauty industry) and given the fact the we generally earn less than men, that is a worrying situation.

“women are one-dimensional “bimbo” caricatures if we dare take an interest in our appearance”, but you are conflating looking after your appearance with a monetary transaction. They are not necessarily synonymous.

(Don’t worry about picking on me- I’m a big girl, I can handle it! ;-)

“Proponents of this argument fail to realise that these women weren’t fighting for us to be able to vote, but rather for us to have the choice.” —-I actually disagree here. Without the vote any choice is meaningless. Having the vote is still crucial, it is still the only way for a large segment of the population who cannot afford to be counted as “consumers” to make their influence felt.

“If we are politically apathetic, then so what?” So mindless consumerism is the better alternative? We are politically apathetic because we have grown to believe that material comfort is more important than political advancement. Davison’s sacrifice was more a silent scream of desperation at a point when the suffragette movement was floundering. I don’t believe she did it for eternal gratitude either, but I do think she meant for something more purposeful than “the right to buy more stuff”.

Shopping is great, fashion is fun etc but they are peripheral activities. Once they start detracting from more important issues then something has gone seriously wrong.

katarina // Posted 16 June 2008 at 12:54 pm

As usual there are lots of pertinent, intelligent comments here that articulate what I dimly feel but don’t normally analyse or express.

Cara, this is my interpretation of Shea’s comment:

In the UK we are bombarded with messages telling us to consume things we don’t really need. Being away from all those messages changed the way Shea spent her time and energy.

I really don’t think she was trying to say your intellectual life suffers if you like shopping.

Sarah // Posted 16 June 2008 at 2:20 pm

Personally I hate shopping, though I don’t think that makes me a better feminist, I just happen not to like it (or anything else that involves noisy, crowded, brightly-lit places as most shopping areas are).

One thing jumped out at me in the article – the statistic about how much time women spend thinking about shopping. I think someone already mentioned it, but not all shopping is recreational, and in most families the burden of planning meals, managing the household budget, buying food and household goods and medicines, buying clothes/shoes for the children, making sure they have everything they need for school and other activities, and sometimes even buying the clothes for their male partner/husband (!) – all this is considered the responsibility of women.

Also agree that there’s an awful double-standard whereby women’s shopping for little luxuries (handbags, shoes etc) is seen as frivolous and silly/irresponsible, whereas men can spend far, far more on electronics, cars, golf equipment or whatever without being considered ‘airheads’. I don’t care for fancy shoes or expensive jewellery myself, so I don’t buy them, but then I spend more than I need to on books/CDs and going out to dinner, going on holidays etc, because these are the things that give me pleasure. And it’s my money to spend as I wish.

There is a valid point that we need to be careful not to get too carried away with ‘consumerism’ , and not be manipulated by advertising into wasting money on things we don’t really want and don’t really bring any pleasure or good into our lives. And yes, there are often women working in appalling conditions to make our shoes and clothes. But this is not a problem created by ‘airhead’ women spending too much on pretty shoes, or enjoying the shopping experience.

Anne Onne // Posted 16 June 2008 at 4:32 pm

I have a different interpretation of Shea’s comment.

I recall reading once that on some level, fashion and beauty rituals, as well as other ‘girly’ stuff women are expected to do in some ways hamper women, through physically limiting what we can do, as well as taking up out time and energy, and how this is part of the ‘point’ of them, patriarchically speaking.

Sometimes it’s physically making us uncomfortable (heels, dresses, impractical fashion), sometimes it’s the time and energy and money needed to keep up with make-up and dieting and the appearance that society expects of women. Men don’t have this to worry about to nearly the same degree, and are not expected to do wildly impractical things to improve their image or appearance. The fact that we as women are shows that society has less respect for our time and energy and money than that of men, since we’re expected to be worrying about these things, in addition to all domestic work. In a way, society actually designates beauty regimes and shopping in the same way it designates housework: it’s time consuming work with few tangible benefits, and only expected of women.

I didn’t read Shea’s comment as saying women are being frivolous when they shop, but that the consumerist focus on shopping, particularly since women are expected to take it on, sometimes has the effect of focusing women’s attentions away from other things, a bit like how feelingk like spending hours putting make up on takes our time and energy away from other things we could be focusing on. Not that shopping stops people (in this case women) from being interested in other things, but that the expectation to conform to a shopping fanatic characature of women, in addition to all the other time consuming pressures women face, add up to something that systemically, rather than on an individual level, takes women’s focuses off other things, because we have to worry about things that men don’t.

Of course, that’s my interpretation, and Shea could have been making another point.

Carol // Posted 16 June 2008 at 8:46 pm

Cara said:

“…. these type of comments (and I’m not personally picking on you – Carol and others have made similar comments) are buying into exactly the misogynist tripe Abby explains in the article – ……..women are one-dimensional “bimbo” caricatures…”

Where did I make any connection between gendering of shopping & consumerism, and “airhead” women? I said that shopping & consumerism is gendered, raced, classed etc, and that:

“it is more possible for large numbers of people to get caught up with consumerism at the expense of political (including feminist) engagement.” Note I said “people” not just women.

I also said I was open to more exploration of the issue. And yes, I agree with BareNakedLady on the need to look closer at the research.

I think there may be evidence that there is a statistical trend that the more that consumerism is expanded, the less people (not just women) are politically engaged. But such research can’t tell us anything about what is going on in people’s minds. Furthermore, we could still be thinking about other things, including politics, without doing anything to change gendered (and/or other sorts) of oppression.

Consumerism doesn’t necessarily stop us thinking about all kinds of things. However, once we have committed ourselves to a consumerist lifestyle, and own all kinds of things, we may be less willing to really challenge the status quo. For instance, we may feel more inclined to actively engage in protecting what we already have.

For instance, I remember a while back when China was starting to become more open to capitalism, I heard someone say that the Chinese government wanted to encourage consumerism in China because it would keep people busy with material things, so they would be less likely to be organising to challenge the one party state. Otherwise, it was felt the Chinese government would find it difficult to keep control of the population while the country was opening up to the outside world.

But it’s not possible to move form the evidence of such general, statistical and/or organisational trends, to what’s going on in individual minds. Also, while anecdotal evidence is useful, e.g. people’s explanations here of their own thinking, it doesn’t give us evidence about the thinking of all the other thousands of people included in the statistics. For instance, the people here are maybe the exceptions who have resisted the consumerist pressures to some extent, while many others (men and women) get diverted from political activity. That doesn’t make them “airheads” as far as I’m concerned. But it means that there will be large numbers of women who are more concerned with maintaining a consumerist lifestyle than challenging the status quo.

But, I do think there needs to be more evidence/research of what is actually going on, and how consumerism influences people’s behaviour, especially in relation to gender issues.

Lindsey // Posted 17 June 2008 at 1:35 pm

I agree with Anne Onne’s point that it isn’t that consumerism stops you thinking about politics but that it can take up a lot of time depending how much you buy in to it.

I think teenagers and young women particularly get a heck of a lot of influence from the ‘you should comsume’ messages and may already be in consumer/personal maintenance habits before the little voice saying ‘maybe you should consider global issues’ gets a chance to pipe up. I know this was the case for me, though I was never especially good at personal maintenance and fashion so it came as an incredible relief when I realised I didn’t have to do any of the things I had been doing. That period of waking up to wider issues, catalysed by meeting politically aware people at uni, changed a lot of my attitudes and I don’t think I’m the only one to experience this.

But I still enjoy shopping. I do it with more awareness than before but there’s something to be said for discovering something that makes you squee with delight. I do think it is incredibly unfair, as the Daily Fail article seems to be doing, to judge me entirely by that one moment when I squee at a handbag when during the rest of my day/life I have been doing important and carefully considered things. The biggest insult of this article (imo) is to be portrayed as so utterly one dimensional.

Soirore // Posted 17 June 2008 at 2:37 pm

There is also another issue at work here. Most shop staff are women as the tendency is that low paid service jobs are done by women. By asking us to to stop shopping Sarler is actually saying we should be better feminists by denying these women their income.

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