Halloween in the Gated Land of the Fake Tuscan Villas, Austin TX
In the October 29 edition of the New York Times you will find another installment in that endless series on the empowerful new woman of today. This iteration regurgitates a version of the popular narrative about the megatheocorporatocracy (in this case, retailers), and how it has realized, all of a sudden — as though some major publication doesn’t document the same “trend” about once every three minutes — that women make 4 gazillion percent of the purchasing decisions in this country. Armed with this wholly unanticipated intelligence, retailers and service providers have ‘finally’ begun to sit up and take notice.
Check out this howler:
â€œWe are perhaps on the first step to a matriarchal society; women will earn more money than men if current trends continue by 2028,â€ said Michael J. Silverstein of the Boston Consulting Group. â€œThe trend has been escalating in the last 10 years as there has been a gradual, slow erosion of the power balance in the family, a psychic rebalancing.â€
Before you start high-fivin’ everybody over at Hairy-Leg HQ in anticipation of the demise of white male domination, please note that Michael J Silverstein is blowing smoke up our ass. The “we” to whom he alludes is clearly a white male middle-class, nuclear-family-based “we”, exclusive of anyone who does not already possess a certain level of education and buying power. Silverstein’s comical, so-called “first step to a matriarchal society” will certainly coincide with porcine aviation before it leads to anything remotely resembling the crumbling of patriarchy. And even if Silverstein’s mythical new order were right around the corner, the spinster aunt reminds the blamer that matriarchy is not the antithesis of patriarchy, for a turd by any other name would smell as stinky. In other words, what Silverstein calls ‘psychic rebalancing’ is merely a nonsense term for a consumer-driven supersaturation of that foul blight upon human fulfillment, femininity.
But as I was saying: women, the New York Times points out helpfully, shop.
One of the aspects of this newly discovered “trend” that the Times article claims to have unearthed, like so many content-free news inches before it, is the sudden proliferation of marketing focus groups and their astonishing findings. Women, it turns out, are so indescribably different from the default human standard that buttloads of research must be conducted to plumb the depths of their weird yearnings and funky fiscal habits. To wit:
MassMutual’s “Pearls of Wisdom” seminar teaches insurance agents about “women’s expectations and needs.” Home builders discover — by, get this, “listening to women” — that they should stop putting the mud room in the laundry room. Stores like Best Buy put out “special product displays” for the ladies, whatever that means; presumably they are covered with butterflies and tampons. Hotel chains tease out the heretofore closely-guarded secret that women travelers dislike that their makeup is always falling into the john in unfeminine hotel bathrooms, and that women, with their atypical enormous wardrobes, require “more” closet space, not to mention “better mirrors,” what with their inability to survive without gazing for hours on end upon their own reflections; this staggering knowledge allows hotels to rake in the dough with “Glam Girls” promotions, wherein women, at $300 a pop, are herded into suites to swap nail polish and eat mini-bar snacks. Another promoter stages trips called — how I wish I were making this up — “Crave Parties,” events “that weave together shopping, bonding and professional networking” with the ubiquitous manicures, massages, and “goody bags.”
The fabled “erosion” of traditional masculinity to which Silverstein alludes is bogus; perhaps he’s just inferring from having watched beer commercials that today’s King of the Kastle is a less-informed — and, from which cultivated ignorance it may be construed, lazier — consumer than the vintage take-charge Dad of yore. But men in nuclear families have always been happy to hoist & foist: they hoist Miller Lites while spouting “man-laws” from the couch, and foist off the tedium of major domestic purchasing decisions onto the household menial, the wife. The only thing new is that the wife is now being told how empowering this is. Hence the emergence of what-women-want versions of drudge paraphernalia that used to be the exclusive purview of the he-man: easy-open paint cans, manicure-friendly snow plows and remedial sheet-rock seminars at Home Depot.
What’s changed? Nothin. Women, no matter what else they’ve got going on, are as in charge of the domicile as ever, only now, either because money’s tight or because the Remodeling Channel on cable has made it look easier than it is, they are expected to undertake major home repairs as well. The girly DIY websites (they of the pink hard hats) call this “confidence.” I call it “more unpaid labor.”
Naturally I’m all for being handy around the house, but let’s face it: unless you’re a devout hobbyist, if you’ve got the green, you’re gonna hire a professional to build the new deck. It strikes me that all this DIY crap is a signal that women, for all their highly-touted “buying power,” are really a lot more hard-up than Boston Consulting Groups want to admit to clients who are eager to roll out the new line of lavender-scented power tools.
The aforementioned MassMutual insurance company has implemented a whole program called “Selling To Women.” Like others of its ilk, the program focuses on the heretofore impenetrable mystery that has plagued philosophical endeavor since the dawn of time: ‘what do women want?’*
The answer, to look at the evidence amassed by the NY Times, is that women want their corporatocracy to cater to femininity, girliness, a gal’s passion for ‘goody bags,’ and the glorious empowerful opportunity to learn how to install dimmer switches. Equal pay, alas, continues to fly under the radar. Same shit, different day.
* I wish someone would tell Mesa/Boogie that what I want is a 100-watt tube amp that doesn’t weigh 247 pounds.