Posts Tagged ‘consumerism’

On Skittles and consumer consciousness.

April 20, 2009

It was the day after tax day and I was in need of a good sugar high.  I was just about to tear into a package of the new “Crazy Core” Skittles when I remembered: Taste the rainbow.

My experiment this month — to not purchase anything I’ve ever seen advertised — is proving to be rather galling.  A large proportion of the products I routinely buy — everything from toothpaste to facial cleanser to toilet paper — I have seen advertised.  Seriously, try to find a single brand of deodorant you haven’t seen promoted, pushed, and propagandized!

In resisting the siren song of Victoria’s Secret sales (30% off any item — why now?!), I debated whether my experiment covered only the specific items I’d seen advertised (i.e. the Perfect One™ bra) or the entire brand.  Ultimately, though, I knew that every advertisement creates an image of both the particular product and the company as a whole, so I decided that if want to do this thing right, I will to have to avoid the whole shebang (or shebrand).  Sadly, this eliminates many of my clothing shopping options — perhaps I should look into some creative alternatives such as the one shown here?

skittles-prom3

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An experiment.

April 15, 2009
Dentyne does its part to fuck with the minds of Millenials.

Dentyne, doing its part to fuck with the minds of Millennials.

I was sitting on the subway this morning, once again trying to ignore the advertisements for beer (you’ll be sexy if you drink this), candy (you’ll have more fun if you eat this), and gum (you’ll be less lonely if you chew this), when I decided my project for the month:

I will attempt to not purchase anything I have ever seen advertised.

One tricky part will be trying to remember what I’ve seen advertisements for and what I haven’t.  After all, Advertising is everywhere.  Ads on television.  Ads on the radio.  Ads flooding your mailbox.  Ads in magazines and journals and newspapers.  Ads on billboards above roads and factories and empty fields.  Ads painted onto the sides of skyscrapers.  Ads dancing and blinking and popping up and invading every corner of the internet.

But even if I don’t succeed at the task, I think the process will help me gain awareness of what I purchase and what goes into each decision.  I don’t really believe that pure freedom exists in consumer societies, but I do think that we can create room for awareness and defiance.  That is the goal of my little experiment.

Creative defiance.

December 15, 2008

In honor of the holiday season and the upcoming opportunity to make good in the New Year, I wanted to share a few ideas for how to perform femininity and defy consumerism in one fell swoop — and to invite you to post some your own.

Make it yourself. Consumerism depresses creativity. We have thousands upon thousands of options, but product has been dissociated from process. I invite you, dear readers, to exercise your creative capacities. What would you be wearing right now if you let your imagination replace the images advertising has fed you? What colors and textures and shapes would you use? What could you communicate about who you are, how you feel, what’s important to you?

Whatever your skill level, it’s worth trying your hand at sewing clothing, making jewelry, knitting & crocheting, even mixing makeup from scratch. You’re capable of more than you think. Instructables and wikihow are terrific resources to get the creative juices flowing. And if you really prefer to leave the seam stitching to someone else, consider arranging a trade with a friend in need of your particular skills. Homemade dress for tax completion, anyone?

Recycle. I’m big on donating used clothing to thrift shops (especially for a good cause, like Housing Works here in New York), but I also love me a good clothing swap party. So get together some friends and let the fashion remix begin. I’m also known for slicing and splicing old dresses and tying tees into tube tops, although I have to admit the results vary (sadly my local library doesn’t carry this book). An awesome project (and present-making goldmine) is silk screening onto old skirts, skirts, and choice undergarments. Check out this great tutorial (sorry, no undergarments pictured, folks).

Invent and innovate. Got flowers (real or faux)? Wear ‘em on the lapel of your pea coat or pin those babies in your lovely locks. And, ooo honey, that scarf over there was meant to be a wrap-around skirt. There are most likely things all over your house that could be transformed into femme fashion. A friend of mine recently told me that she’s planning to makpink-sewinge a dress from some old curtains (see dramatic pre-enactment). For my part, I have some orphaned earrings that could come together as a fabulous charm bracelet.

Mix and match. I know you haven’t worn that gray dress in ages, but what if you paired it with this red patent belt? The billowing silk blouse in the back of the closet is dying to meet your hot pink pencil skirt. And have you tried your sensible black slacks with that abandoned pair of periwinkle stilettos? My point is, you handpicked every garment that’s hanging in your closet right now. Isn’t taking a new look at your fabulous finds of yesterday a better bet than picking your way through the clothing racks downtown?

Hope these ideas are helpful. It’s an ongoing, yet welcome, challenge for me to think about consumerism through the lens of high femme, and vice versa. I’d love to hear your thoughts and share strategies on how to ensure we can play with gender without playing into the very systems we hope to question. I welcome anyone with self-fashioned items to show and tell — I’ll gladly post your inspirational examples.

Uncoupling consumerism and high femme.

December 14, 2008

Being an avid flea-market-treasure hunter and coupon-wielder myself, it’s taken me a while to realize that frugality alone doesn’t do much to combat consumerism. All those newly minted recessionistas are still spending money they don’t have on things they don’t need.

Nope, sorry: just because you don’t spend as much money on material goods doesn’t mean you’ve escaped the cycle of obsession and possession.

There’s a disturbing tendency in our culture to equate happiness and self worth with purchasing power. And while everyone is in danger of identifying too closely with the objects that allow them to feel comfort, confidence, and contentment, women have been the targets of particularly damaging and divisive marketing campaigns.

Magazines, billboards, and commercials conspire to make us believe we aren’t lovable or desirable without certain beauty products, clothing, accessories, and other items – and, as if that weren’t harmful enough, many ads propagate the myth that women must compete against one another to prove our value in the world. One of my dearest hopes is that women, and femmes, can work together to challenge and dismantle these frameworks over time.