Sample Research Paper on Women and Consumption

Women and Consumption

The article “Bridging the Gap: Feminism, Fashion and Consumption” by Angela McRobbie provides an insight into the inequalities between women of different classes in fashion industry. Firstly, the article identifies the failure of feminist scholars in recognizing the diversity within the category of women, and how such diversity contributes to the perpetuation of class inequalities amongst women. Secondly, the article describes how fashion is almost entirely a feminized industry, though it benefits the middle-class women at the expense of the poorer ones (McRobbie 84). Finally, the article highlights how the perception that consumer culture is an arena of female participation and enjoyment is inducing a sense of political satisfaction, hampering efforts to eradicate the inequalities consumerism perpetuates against women (McRobbie 74). The feminist scholars’ failure to identify harmful social relationship between fashion production and fashion consumption in the almost entirely feminized fashion industry has encouraged the perpetuation of inequalities against the diverse groups of women.

McRobbie argues that the feminist scholars’ failure to recognize how the forced exclusions of women into the domestic sphere, household shopping, and the internalization of sexualized body and femininity has contributed to the perpetuation of inequalities against the various groups of women. For example, the feminist scholars have failed to interrogate what actually goes through the minds of women, especially the middle-class ones, as they walk around the department stores. They have failed to recognize that these women are actually enjoying the freedom that mainly targeted lower class women in the society. Furthermore, these scholars have failed to establish a relationship between women’s consumer culture, and the oppression of their fellow women in the fashion industry. This is because these feminist scholars largely view the fashion consumption as a monolithic sector that has given much freedom of enjoyment, without actually realizing it is related to fashion production sphere characterized inequalities between different groups of women. Feminist scholars have done little to explore the class differences between the middle class women and those from the lower class in different spheres of life. For instance, while the middle-class women are depicted to enjoy more freedom outside the household environment, such as visiting the department stores, there is scanty information regarding their life experiences at the home environment (McRobbie 78). Therefore, it is unclear whether middle class women experience similar inequalities as their fellow women from lower classes once they are at home. It has been established that most middle class women spending more time at the department stores shopping feel more liberated than those from lower class with little resources for carrying out purchases (Paco 115).

The second argument presented by McRobbie is that the fashion industry is perpetuating inequalities against the diverse groups of women taking part in the industry. The fashion industry is one of the areas in which women are perceived to be experiencing more freedom than other areas of life. However, it is only a section of the female population that enjoys the freedom and benefits accruing from women’s participation in the industry.  For example, the relationship existing between the middle-class women as consumers and the poorer women as the producers of the goods and attendants at the department stores only makes the middle-class women perpetuate inequalities against their fellow women in the lower classes in the same way as the males perpetuate inequalities against women (Rahman and Jackson 94-95). For example, while middle-class women may freely move into department stores to make purchases, their fellow women working in such stores may actually be oppressed through working for long hours or for not catering for the middle-class women satisfactorily. These middle-class women also tend to ignore other inequalities involved in the production of the goods, such as the long hours the fellow women take in sewing the products and the low payments they receive for the products. Therefore, the middle class women that dominate the fashion industry have contributed significantly to the oppression of lower class women working in the industry because lack of alternative employment opportunity.

Finally, perception that the consumer culture is an arena for female participation and enjoyments only works to aggravate the inequalities perpetrated against women in the consumer industry. The reason for such perceptions excludes the males from making decisions that could significantly address the inequalities issues in consumerism. Although females have dominated the consumerism culture, the development of this culture was influenced by social structures and femininity perspectives developed and advanced by the males for years (McCracken 20-21). Furthermore, such a perception ignores the reality that the capitalist industries producing such products and services are mostly owned by the males, most of whom influence what the females would consume in the market (Arrighi et al. 54-55). Depicting the consumer culture as an arena for the participation and enjoyment of women has only kept a bay policy makers that may be willing to address the problem as they perceive the events and situations in the industry as more fulfilling to women, regardless of their social class (Belk et al. 205-206). This point of view is supported by various studies, which indicate that 75 percent of all shopping is carried out by women (Pooler 120). However, it is evident that the inequalities among women as a result of their consumer culture may also be influenced by how the individuals belonging to these groups perceive the material things or services they enjoy in the fashion arena. For example, since the middle class women has a strong social attachment to things considered fashionable, they tend to develop certain identities that distinguish them from women in lower social classes that have less attachment to such things (Warf 69-70). These results in the creation of varying social identities between the diverse groups of women, thereby perpetuating inequalities between them in the consumer culture (Dillon 418-419). At times, the consumer culture by the middle class women is an indication of their decision-making and financial power over other women in the lower social classes (Huddleston and Minahan 5-6).

In conclusion, it is evident that feminist scholars perpetuate inequalities amongst the various groups of women by failing to recognize production and consumptions processes as dependent upon one another. Secondly, the idea that fashion is almost entirely a feminized industry has prevented people from recognizing the differences in experiences among the groups of women involved, that is, the middle class women as beneficiaries and the lower class women as the oppressed. Finally, the perception that consumer culture is an arena for females’ participation and enjoyment has concealed the underlying problems, thus perpetuating inequalities amongst diverse groups in the category of women. Therefore, the feminist scholars’ failure to identify harmful social relationship between fashion production and fashion consumption in the almost entirely feminized fashion industry has encouraged the perpetuation of inequalities against the diverse groups of women.


Works Cited

Arrighi, Barbara A et al. Understanding Inequality: The Intersection of Race/ethnicity, Class, and Gender. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007. Internet resource.

Belk, Russell W. Research in Consumer Behavior: Volume 13. Bingley: Emerald, 2011. Print.

Dillon, Michele. Introduction to Sociological Theory: Theorists, Concepts, and Their Applicability to the Twenty-First Century. Chichester, U.K: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Print.

Huddleston, Patricia, and Stella Minahan. Consumer Behavior: Women and Shopping. New York: Business Expert Press, 2011. Print.

McCracken, Angela B. The Beauty Trade: Youth, Gender, and Fashion Globalization. , 2014. Print.

McRobbie, Angela. “Bridging the gap: feminism, fashion and consumption.”Feminist Review (1997): 73-89.

Paco, Underhill. Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000. Print.

Pooler, Jim. Why We Shop: Emotional Rewards and Retail Strategies. Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2003. Print.

Rahman, Momin, and Stevi Jackson. Gender and Sexuality: Sociological Approaches. Cambridge: Polity, 2010. Print.

Warf, Barney. Encounters and Engagements between Economic and Cultural Geography. Dordrecht: Springer, 2012. Internet resource.