The Gender and Consumer Culture Reader

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What is the relationship between gender and consumerism? Jennifer Scanlon gathers a collection of readings and archival materials to explore the multiple and contradictory ways in which women and men consume. Interdisciplinary and cross-cultural in scope, The Gender and Consumer Culture Reader introduces the reader to some of the most compelling issues and arguments in this growing field of study. In questioning traditional ways of analyzing the relationships between gender and consumer culture, these essays analyze the liberatory and oppressive nature of consumer culture in both historical and contemporary contexts.

The scholars gathered here look at the gendered relationship between the home and consumer culture, individual and group identity through purchasing, the supply side of consumer culture, and the ways in which consumers embrace, resist, and manipulate the messages and the activities of consumer culture. Topics range from white middle-class female shoplifters to the gendered depiction of Native Americans in nineteenth-century advertising, from gay men's acquisition of domestic space in early twentieth-century New York to black and Latino men's cultural resistance through dress. Archival materials link the essays in each section, creating a further historical context, and providing a connection between the readings and larger questions and issues currently being debated about gender and consumer culture.

Contributors include Andrew Heinze, Erika Rappaport, George Chauncey, Steven M. Gelber, Jeffrey Steele, Ann McClintock, Robert E. Weems, Jr., Lillian Faderman, Malcolm Gladwell, Jennifer Scanlon, Lizabeth Cohen, Jane Bryce, Susan J. Douglas, Kenon Breazeale, Kathy Peiss, Elaine S. Abelson, Natasha B. Barnes, Danae Clark, Stuart Cosgrove.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Pulls together some of the most cutting-edge literature on consumer culture. This comprehensive collection demonstrates the contested and continually constructed meaning of consumer identities. Scanlon provides accessible and useful overviews that make this volume an exceptional resource for the classroom."

-Meg Jacobs,Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Offers students multiple ways of understanding and coming to terms with the relationships between gender and consumer culture. With a rich mixture of scholarly articles, archival materials, and Scanlon's own useful introduction, The Gender and Consumer Culture Reader will help readers comprehend the complicated connections between sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, identity, and the daily activities of consuming that Americans have engaged in both historically and today."

-Daniel Horowitz,Director of American Studies, Smith College

In this consumer culture studies anthology, 23 reprinted essays (1934-98) consider both the empowering and disempowering elements of consumerism. In her introduction, Scanlon (women's studies, Plattsburgh State U. of New York) views consumer culture as a collaborative process, not simply a matter of perpetrators and victims. The themes the essays address are: stretching the boundaries of the domestic sphere; you are what you buy; the message makers; and sexuality, pleasure and resistance in consumer culture. The book features b&w illustrations promoting the cults of domesticity and identity through proper consumption. It lacks an index. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814781319
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2000
  • Pages: 392
  • Product dimensions: 7.26 (w) x 10.30 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Jennifer Scanlon is Associate Professor and Director of Women's Studies at the State University of New York, Plattsburgh. She is the author of Inarticulate Longings: The Ladies' Home Journal, Gender and the Promises of Consumer Culture.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
Part I. The Home: Stretching the Boundaries of the Domestic Sphere 13
1 Jewish Women and the Making of an American Home 19
2 "A New Era of Shopping": The Promotion of Women's Pleasure in London's West End, 1909-1914 30
3 Lots of Friends at the YMCA: Rooming Houses, Cafeterias, and Other Gay Social Centers 49
4 Do-It-Yourself: Constructing, Repairing, and Maintaining Domestic Masculinity 70
5 Archival Material: Playboy's Penthouse Apartment 94
Part II. You Are What You Buy: Individual and Group Identity through Proper Consumption 101
6 Reduced to Images: American Indians in Nineteenth-Century Advertising 109
7 Soft-Soaping Empire: Commodity Racism and Imperial Advertising 129
8 Lesbian Chic: Experimentation and Repression in the 1920s 153
9 Consumerism and the Construction of Black Female Identity in Twentieth-Century America 166
10 Listening to Khakis: What America's Most Popular Pants Tell Us about the Way Guys Think 179
11 Archival Material: Paramount Pictures and Linit Advertisements 192
Part III. Under Whose Direction? Consumer Culture's Message Makers 195
12 Advertising Women: The J. Walter Thompson Company Women's Editorial Department 201
13 In Spite of Women: Esquire Magazine and the Construction of the Male Consumer 226
14 From Town Center to Shopping Center: The Reconfiguration of Community Marketplaces in Postwar America 245
15 Narcissism as Liberation 267
16 "Young T'ing Is the Name of the Game": Sexual Dynamics in a Caribbean Romantic Fiction Series 283
17 Archival Material: New Yorker and Fortune Cartoons 299
Part IV. Purchasing Possibilities: Sexuality, Pleasure, and Resistance in Consumer Culture 303
18 Shoplifting Ladies 309
19 "Charity Girls" and City Pleasures: Historical Notes on Working-Class Sexuality, 1880-1920 330
20 The Zoot-Suit and Style Warfare 342
21 Face of the Nation: Race, Nationalisms, and Identities in Jamaican Beauty Pageants 355
22 Commodity Lesbianism 372
23 Archival Material: Nobody Makes a Pass at Me by Harold Rome and Among the Things That Use to Be by 388
Permissions 393
Contributors 395
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