So what uncomfortable truths need obscuring? And for what is “la femme” rushing to receive “therapy”? Psychologist Yasuhisa Hama carried out a study of shopping as an “emotional coping behavior.” Hama makes a distinction between impulse buying and diversion buying, noting that diversion buying is more directly aimed at releasing stress. Though this was also a self-report study, it is interesting to see what reasons people give to justify these behaviors, what they say to try and make sense of them. Hama found that the number one reason people cited for partaking in diversion buying was “having a drab life” (220).
Other common sources of stress cited were work, partner, and family-related stress. He found that the number of females who diversion bought was almost twice that of males, concluding that the gender difference was most likely due to more “feminine” individuals “being more changeable in feelings” (219). In other words, more “feminine” equals more emotional; more emotional equals more receptive to emotional appeals in advertising messages. Taken with Fisher and Dube’s evidence regarding emotional agency, we realize that “feminine” individuals are much more open to emotional manipulation and sham relationships with products.
In Deadly Persuasion, Kilbourne displays much visual evidence illustrating how advertisers create ads that are designed to make us feel our lives are boring or dull. Ads depict humans as constantly stimulated, constantly entertained. Unconsciously, this makes us feel as though we are missing out on the “real world.” Advertisers tell us that product purchase will alleviate all discomfort and be devoid of consequence. They tell us that relationships with products are safer than those with people. Kilbourne notes “when we’re not in pseudo-relationships with the models in ads, we can be falling in love with hamburgers” (83).
More often than not, emotional scenes that are completely unrelated to a product are used to market that product. Kilbourne explains that we experience the emotion that the ad evokes first and then unconsciously associate that emotion with the product depicted. Since the more “feminine” often lack the emotional agency described in my earlier post, what we see is a much higher tendency in the “feminine” to latch on to these products or services. All these subtle emotional appeals coupled with the “feminine” individual’s lack of emotional agency spell easy target to marketers and advertisers.
Admittedly, we all fall on a spectrum from more “feminine” to more “masculine,” more emotional to less emotional. Nothing is quite so black and white as we would like to think. As a heterosexual male in the twenty-first century, the role I play in relation to my partner is much different than that played by the male even one generation ago. Where those males would never entertain the idea of staying home to cook or clean, these are two large parts of the role I occupy. And while gender roles continue to morph based on social context, it does seem clear that the more emotionally sensitive or “feminine” one is, the less emotional agency he or she will develop. Perhaps in the future we will completely discard the notion of gender, moving more to the heart of the issue – our emotional states of being. These reflections may serve one well in a culture of persuasion and emotional manipulation.
Carlin, George. When will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? New York: Hyperion. 2004
Fischer, Eileen, and Stephen J. Arnold. “More than a labor of love: Gender roles and Christmas gift shopping.” Journal of Consumer Research 17.3 (1990): 333-345. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.
Fisher, Robert J., and Laurette Dubé. “Gender Differences in Responses to Emotional Advertising: A Social Desirability Perspective.” Journal of Consumer Research 31.4 (2005): 850-858. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.
Goodman, Barak, and Douglas Rushkoff. “The Persuaders.” Frontline. PBS. WGBH, Boston, MA, 2004. Television.
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Kilbourne, Jean. Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising. New York: The Free Press. 1999.
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