The following sample essay on Lives Consumed by Consumerism: An Analysis of Gender Consumption Habits When Thanksgiving comes around every year, family and friends congregate together to have a big meal, catch up on life, and give thanks. While chatting with family or friends, there is usually a conversation that comes up like, what are you buying this year on Black Friday? This is the time when product deals come up and everyone fantasizes on what they are going to purchase.
Advertisers love to be involved on Black Friday and even Cyber Monday because they know men and women enjoy hearing that there are deals on different merchandise. Generally, it is usually the women that all go out on this day to shop at different retailers to purchase products. When people think of a gender that desires shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, the first thing that comes to mind is women. Studies have shown consumerism in America has and will continue to have stereotypes of genders, create sensitivities to brands, and manifest lives.
This paper will show how and why gender overwhelmingly impacts consumption and production behaviors throughout time in America.
During the Industrial Revolution, women and young children were working strenuous hours in the wool and cotton industry. The women and young children worked strenuous hours every day with very little pay. There were usually male supervisors watching the workers, not doing much but just making sure the women and children were not messing up the weaves or machines.
The cotton and wool that was made was then transformed into everyday products that consumers bought. At some point, people decided to create gender standards that were accommodating to the development of society in America. Not until the 19th century did people recognize the gender roles of everyday consumerism and what they produced in the economy.
The start of roles and stereotypes began between male and females in consumerism when advertisements were produced. Michael Messner and Jeffrey Montez de Oca, studying gender behaviors and beer advertisements in sports broadcasting events, wrote an article called, The Male Consumer as Loser. Messner and Montez de Oca stated that ads from the late 1950s through the late 1960s commonly depicted young or middle-aged white heterosexual couples happily sharing a cold beer with their suburban backyards, in their homes, or in an outdoor space like a park (1880). Advertisements centered around happily married couples, with women staying at home cooking and cleaning and the men working all day. Early stereotypes for women were to stay at home with their kids, buy groceries and clothing, and to be very feminine. The mens stereotype was to be the breadwinner and to show masculinity. After World War II, American soldiers were sent home to a country fairly dissimilar from the country they left four years previous. Wartime manufacture had helped yank Americas economy out of the depression as well as helped women get out of the strict conformity of staying at home. There were ready-made consumer commodities produced, such as ready-to-wear clothing and suitable foods. This assured women to have more freedom and to pursue other interests. Women trusted upon the latest products to detach themselves from overbearing old-fashioned attitudes, increase their values of living, and reawaken themselves as enlightened individuals.
Modern stereotypes today have changed to a lighter perspective with gender and his or her shopping habits. Ioana- Nicoleta Abrudan, author of Does Gender Really Affect Shopping Patterns, studies the differences in gender behaviors while shopping states that:
The results indicate differences in shopping orientations, but no statistically significant differences regarding the amount of money and time spent shopping and similarities on all the other facts of shopping included in the study-formats preferred, days of the week spent shopping, distance traveled to the stores, accompanying parties when shopping, impulse shopping behavior (5)
Whether you are a man or a woman, your purchasing decisions are created on habit more than reasonable decision making. Research shows that women are more likely influenced than men when it comes to experience, social, and emotional relations while purchasing items. While shopping, women tend to browse around the store and look at different items and men tend to know what they want before they even go into the store. Abrudan also expresses in his research, that men are high on the utilitarian shopping dimension, preferring a better product selection and convenient and fast buying process, while women are more hedonic oriented and enjoy shopping, window shopping, social interaction and browsing more than men (8). Studies shown that women are more selective and see if the products meet all requirements when they are shopping. Men while shopping will commonly prefer to buy the initial product that works for them.
Another gender consumption behavior that has been created in America is sensitivities to brands. Brand sensitivity is described as a mental concept that impacts a customer purchasing decision making. A good example of research done on sensitivity to brands would be a journal written by Jane Workman and Seung-Hee Lee titled, Relationships Among Consumer Vanity, Gender, Brand Sensitivity, Brand Consciousness and Private Self-consciousness. Workman and Lee stated, consumers high in appearance or achievement vanity may be especially sensitive to prestigious brand names such as those associated with designer clothing or accessories (208). The sensitivity can originate from advertisements, work, social groups, school, and numerous other places. For an example, at school you might see a girl getting made fun of by a bully because she is wearing male brand-named apparel. Little did people around her or the bully know, that is all her parents can afford or that she does not like being feminine and wearing stereotypical pink. From that experience the girl could have a sensitivity to the brand of clothing she was wearing, from being bullied. Also, other girls that were around her feel like they cannot wear that brand because they think they will get made fun of too.
When talking about brand sensitivities, males stereotypically do not know how to act when an item or something messes up their masculinity mindset. There is still even a level of risk involved when a man is purchasing even a feminine item for a woman, they feel a sense of weakness in their masculinity. The reliable observations in womens retailers is the nonexistence of men. Men try to avoid womens retailers at all costs, even if accompanying a woman, studies shown men awaiting outside the store while the woman was shopping. Eric Filice and co-authors studying masculinity in womens retailers stated that we found that men tend to actively avoid womens retailers or commercial spaces that connote femininity, while those who enter said spaces display passivity, aloofness, or reticence (86). Studies shown that it is rare for a woman to see a man looking around or shopping in an womens underwear store because that would appear stereotypically bizarre and display them as less masculine. They primarily look to other men for agreement and assessment of their masculine presentation.
Therefore, heterosexual men stereotype and harass gays, in demand to look more masculine and to steer off thoughts of being gay. Masculine mindset men prefer to wear brands that appear to be athletic and manly, but a guy that is homosexual could have two brand sensitivities. The first brand sensitivity could be, not wanting to be in a store that sales suits and other masculine products because they feel like they do not fit in or do not desire to wear anything manly. The second sensitivity for a male homosexual is, not wanting to shop in a feminine store because he may feel like he will be judged and rejected. Tina Benitez-Eves, the author of Battle of the Sexes, studied on the difference in male and female shoppers but how retailers can accommodate to both. Benitez-Eves states, The Fun Sisters, a gift and home accessories boutique with six locations throughout Minnesota, may cater mostly to women with a focus more on handbags and accessories, but as a whole, the stores main focus is on a good customer service for both sexes (25). This is great news to read because men and women should feel completely comfortable being in a retail store even if it does not suit their wants, product wise.
Men and women these days feel odd if they purchase opposite sex products to use and that should not be the circumstance. For example, the Dove brand tends to have to name its labels mens body wash or shampoo for a male to actually want to buy it. Also, the Dove mens products are labeled as, specially formulated for mens skin. Is this really scientifically proven to improve only mens skin or is it the ad just trying to make men want to buy it? Another example is that some men like the way womens shampoo works on their hair and how their hair feels. A man should not feel weird for using womens branded shampoo or purchasing other female products. Women sometimes tend to prefer guys deodorant rather than girls because of the strong smell it gives off. Women who want this product tend to feel standoffish because they do not want people to know that they wear men deodorant. Stores like Kohls, JCPenney, Underarmour include both male and female products, but separated which is good on retail making money, but men and women still feel sensitive to walk even remotely into the opposite sex section of the store. Retail stores need to start making it more welcoming to opposite sexes. Ulta Beauty is a store for mainly women, it carries hair, skin, and makeup products. What if a man wants to use skin care products or hair products but feels intimidated by the idea of walking into the store that is mainly designed for females? Most famous stores that carry all kinds of different products, for example, Walmart continues to have separate section for men and female hair and skin products. This has been an issue since the beginning of consumerism and makes people feel sensitive and intimidated from retailers.
Brand placing and advertising messages play critical roles in forming self-image and gender consumption habits. One of the gender consumption habits that is created is when people feel the need that they need to buy something to fit in with everyone else or be like the models in the advertisements. Advertisements today show female models being very skinny, wearing atypically small sizes in jeans, and having the unflawed body image. Jean Kilbourne, in her film, Killing Us Softly 4, discusses analytics of unrealistic images and messages with women in advertisements. She talks about how women are now wearing abnormal jean sizes by stating, on the deepest level, the obsession with thinness is about cutting girls down to size, and what could say this more vividly than this relatively new size in women’s clothing, size 0 and size 00″ (17:17). The smaller sizes in jeans creates consumption habits for example, that they need to be smaller in size, starve themselves, and buy products and/or programs that make them lose weight.
Advertisements that influence consumption habits and self-image affect men also, but differently than women. The ads that affect standard men show male models with muscular bodies and that have an excessive masculine mindset. The ads that show these masculine men, have either used steroids, go to the gym quite frequently, or the images are photoshopped. Average size men that do not have a six pack feel like they have to go the gym or buy products that help with muscle gain. The negative side effects of men having this consumption habit mentality is that in some cases men will take the route of steroids. Abbate and co-authors studying anabolic steroids in bodybuilding dietary supplements state that:
Consumers are now able to choose from a broad range of substances and products that claim to allow them to enhance their bodies. In some cases, the active substances that used are the same as those in authorized medicines, in others the substances have been withdrawn from use in medicines due to safety concerns, while a growing number of substances available on the market- such as many of those detected in this study have never been tested in humans (617)
Men buy these steroids not really knowing the side effects or in fact have ever been tested on individuals. Research shows ads have a negative effect on self-body image and consumer habits that are unnecessary.
Consumerism manifest lives making it difficult for any gender to be themselves. Juilet B. Schor, author of The Overspent American states:
What we can measure is the extent to which individuals conform to the consumer patterns of the objectively defined groups they belong to. And by the measure, variables such as social class, occupation, education, and income tell us a great deal. This is a central feature of American consumer life: what people spend both reflects social inequalities and helps to reproduce and even create those distinctions. In a very basic sense, we are what we wear, drive, and live in (28)
Imagine if you lived in a safe pleasing neighborhood where you essentially know your neighbors and interact with them. The job that you do aids the community and means something to you, and you look onward to Mondays. Your work schedule allows you plenty of time to appreciate time with family, friends, and other pastimes. The growth of consumerism is making a great way of life practically impossible to maintain, even for the rich.
Our lives today are centered around buying new high-end products and working just to make money to get these products or vacations. Today people rarely work for the idea of doing the job because they love it, doing fun things with friends or buying groceries to eat. People in America are valuing material possessions over a blissful non-materialistic life these days. Individuals that do not have much money, feel dissatisfied when they cannot afford a product that everyone else has. Consumption behaviors are developed from gender and what they want and need in their lives. It is difficult for individuals to think for themselves because there is a lot of influence in todays society. For many people it is impossible to think about being somewhat minimalistic. They are afraid of throwing their products away and living a more simplistic life. Individuals or families tend to say the excuse of they just like shopping or they dont know how or where to start when someone asks why not go minimalistic. These people do not like the idea of not going on Target runs, picking up new clothes or accessories. In some cases, people like to shop because realistically they are bored and it gives them something to do, in addition to getting a new product.
In conclusion, there is no uncertainty that gender is involved with making consumption habits in America and that it is manifesting lives. The entire globe as we know it is upheld by gender consumerism habits. The gender stereotypes that have been created from advertisements and the way retailers set up their stores will continue if they do not change. It is shown men and women have completely dissimilar spending habits even when it comes down to purchasing the same product. There are numerous corporations that observe the shopping habits of customers and examine the data to give stores an improved idea of transformations they can make to get more customers into their stores and to make them stay longer than they would normally. Male and females create a habit of having brand sensitivities, these sensitivities mainly come from what the individual witnessed, for an example would be an advertisement or a social group.
Whether you are male or female, typically your life is center around buying new products to impress or to fit in. It is shown that advertisements have created unrealistic body image fantasies for male or females. This makes sexes change the way they look and buy new products to try to enhance their appearances. Male or females feel like they cannot buy opposite sex products for themselves without feeling odd or judged. Homosexuals feel unsettled to walk into female retailers because they do not know how heterosexuals will react. The habits that have been created today have been altered and changed but studies show men and women will continue to shop the same way they have been for ages. They will continue to shop the same because male and female brains work differently. But with that being said America needs to change its culture, advertisements and retailers to make any gender no matter if your male, female, or heterosexual, feel completely comfortable.