Woman Shop

Yes.  It’s a curated compilation of all the brands ever mentioned by Miranda, Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and their friends.

On one level this clip makes me very happy, because I see characters I enjoy enjoying the lush symbology of the market economy.   They know that the choices they make define them, know that in this culture we see Shopping As Sacrament (1996)

On another level, though, it makes me sad, because most of the abuse of gender in this culture has been done by marketers who have chosen to use the social power of gender status enforcement to pitch their products as required to properly be gendered.

Much of this started with that master manipulator Edward Bernays and campaigns like his “Torches of Freedom“, which set out to convince women that cigarettes were the ultimate feminine accessory for declaring liberation.   All that did was change the bondage from old gender roles to nicotine providers.

It is impossible to turn on the television today without being told that being a woman is about the proper things to purchase and display.   Television is driven by advertisers, so women who are unable to be convinced to buy new products are just not a desirable market.

Women, though, show themselves in the world by their markings, as Deborah Tannen reminds us.  We tailor our own appearance, using Gender As Adverting (1999) to tell other people what role we are trained and willing to play.   We use our own expression as collage, trying on different presentations, first as whole outfits and later as synthesized and curated collections that work to show us as both tame enough to fit in and wild enough to be a creature like no other.

When women meet, we read each others markings and understand how to connect, finding women we share tastes with and bonding over shared choices.

Whenever I watch media, I watch other women to see how they walk in the world, how they carry themselves and how they respond.   I do this because I understand the world through a woman’s viewpoint, so watching other women gives me more information than watching men, and because I learn from watching other women as they show me their choices in approaching the world from a feminine viewpoint.

I do know lots of transwomen who don’t look at other women as role models.   They claim their own iconoclastic presentation and leave it at that, focusing on clothing and classic patterns. Often, this is categorized as a rejection of the social pressures of womanhood, not the least of which is the pressure of fashion.

Tailoring a woman, though, takes an immersion in womanhood.  Once you have been a woman, you can move beyond to become not woman, just as once you have been a man you can move to not man.   You can’t be not woman without having been woman, anymore than you can become not a kangaroo without first having been a kangaroo.

For a society that trades in opposites this can be a hard understanding.  We usually are much more clear on what we are opposed to than what we are, defining ourselves in the negative rather than the positive.   Who are you, anyway?

For the gals in SATC, who they are is bound up in the ocean of products that they swim in, as I suspect has always been true for women.     What do women want?   I have come to understand that they want everything their friends have, plus a little more.  That’s why watching the gals list out brands amuses me, a rush of bits and pieces that adorn their lives like embellishments on a Versace gown.

For me, though, my relationship with brands has been scarce.   To get clear, I have had to renounce desire rather than embrace it.    To elegantly walk as a woman in the world, though, goods and services are required.   To paraphrase cosmetics queen Helena Rubenstein, “There are no ugly women, only lazy [or poor] ones.”

I understand the pitfalls of putting yourself in bondage to commercial red shoes, but I also know that a woman with no shoes at all has trouble walking proud in the world.  Being a woman isn’t about the stuff, but the stuff is about being a woman, even a frowzy woman.

Those mythic women from SATC know that, know that brands are codes that hold highly concentrated communication impact, so watching them spit out those codes is fun.   Not being able to have them in my life for so many, many reasons, well, that’s less fun.