Erma Bombeck once said: “Shopping is a woman thing. It’s a contact sport like football. Women enjoy the scrimmage, the noisy crowds, the danger of being trampled to death, and the ecstasy of the purchase.” Indeed, shopping may be a favorite time pass for many women. The generalized notion as it is, one may hardly give a second thought when women are automatically linked with the idea of shopping. However, the question arises here; do women really love shopping or are they obligated to ‘love’ it?
1. The Hunter-Gatherer Theory
The division of labor according to gender has been prevalent since prehistoric times. Where men assumed the role of ‘hunter’, women assumed the role of ‘gatherer’. The former hunted animals and brought a meal for the family, the latter collected and selected seeds, nuts, fruits, etc. Women played the role of a homemaker and took responsibilities for each member of her family. The same pattern continues until today.
So how is this theory connected to shopping? Most women are expected not to buy just for herself but for her family. From the covers of cushions to simple kitchen plates, from bedsheets to children’s clothes; every requirement or want in the family is generally expected to be addressed by the woman of the house. This does make one wonder if shopping is merely a habit of responsibility imposed by our social system.
Industries that are obsessed with profit-making have spread the idea that the more one buys, the worthier one becomes. We now live in a society that worships materialism and judges people’s worth by what they possess. Therefore, an increasing number of people feel the need to buy excessive amounts of goods. The market-operated media constantly bombards us with images of commodities and create the illusion that we must buy them.
Many of these products are targeted at women and promote the false idea that a woman must possess such products to feel worthy and whole. In order to become desirable and confident, she must use expensive cosmetics and shampoos; she must wear branded sunglasses and lingerie; she must have a certain tone of skin and a slender body. Companies spread such misconceptions through newspapers, television, movies, and songs, and many women are thus trapped in a culture of consumerism.
3. Obligation to follow Fashion
The aforementioned heading may raise brows. Yes, many women love to be trendy and may follow fashion as a religion. Who wouldn’t want to be as fashionable as ‘Rachel Greene’ of Friends or ‘Hanna Marin’ of Pretty Little Liars? But there are also women who are least interested in current trends, and they often have to endure loneliness, peer pressure, and ridicule throughout their high school years and beyond.
The trend of categorizing teens as ‘dorks’ and ‘nerds’ can be very damaging to people’s self-esteem. Young people feel the need to wear fashionable attire and accessories to avoid being labeled a ‘misfit’. No wonder so many college students are crazy about shopping.
4. Peer Pressure
Who doesn’t want friends? Well, everyone needs companions to share the joy or get over melancholic situations. Undeniable is the fact that friends play a major role to define one’s own way of living. If your friends want to explore new shopping outlets, check out the latest collection or buy a new dress for a social occasion, it isn’t fair for you to just wait for them and comment on their appearance. It’s a natural urge to try something you find interesting (even while waiting) or crave for new attire yourself for the same social occasion. Situations often play an important role in compelling a person to be inclined towards shopping.
While the society claims to respect and acknowledge the ‘natural beauty’ of women, they go gaga over the concepts of ‘fairness’ and ‘perfection’. Studies show that the advertisements of fairness products have adversely affected the Nepalese teenagers’ perspectives on beauty.
The very idea of ‘perfect skin’ is reflected via various advertisements where a tanned woman becomes ‘pretty’ only after applying ‘fairness cream’. Hilarious yet true. Movies and series are no different. It’s amusing to see how ‘tomboy’ girls get a major makeover with tons of ‘makeup’ only to make the guy of her dreams finally notice her. How wouldn’t these movies and commercials affect the psychology of women?
6. More choices, more spree
For men, it’s easy to choose their clothing, shoes, and accessories because of the limited availability. You may ask any Nepali man about what they are planning to wear for a wedding reception. The obvious answer is; suit (or a formal shirt and pants) or a daura suruwal. Now if you ask a Nepali woman about her attire, you may get any of the following answers; it could be a long evening gown, a saree, a kurtha suruwal, a pencil skirt, an A-line dress, a cocktail dress – you name it! With more choices, women become more motivated to buy. Where a saree would be suitable for a cousin’s wedding, a dress would be suitable for a friend’s bachelorette. After selecting the right clothing from the closet; complementing shoes, accessories and bags are looking for. This again leads to shopping.
7. To Fight Depression
Research has shown that shopping has proven to be availing therapy to reduce depression. Shopping promotes social interaction, which is beneficial to a person who is trying to get over despair and sadness. Women use it as a useful method to get over unfavorable and unexpected situations faced at home, workplace, social gatherings, etc. It also makes them gain self-control when they have lost confidence due to betrayal, rejection, failure, or loss. Therefore, funny as it may sound, but shopping can cater to the psychological needs of women.
However, it also must be kept in mind that men, too, are equally immersed in a culture of consumerism. They are usually the targeted buyers of fancy motorcycles and cars, electronic gadgets, fitness and bodybuilding products, branded shoes and clothing, and even beauty and style products that we generally associate with women, such as hair gel, cologne and ‘Fair & Handsome’ cream. It is not uncommon to see men shopping for themselves and also for household supplies. With the increasing number of metrosexuals in the city, shopping malls have started to fill with more male consumers than before.
Therefore, the idea that ‘women love shopping’ is less a proven fact than a stereotype about women. Such generalizations do not apply to all women.