Thursday, December 29, 2011

"That's why men hunt and women nest."

Amanda Marcotte asks, "Is there any facet of life that can't be filtered through the bizarre belief that men and women are fundamentally opposites in every way?" She proceeds to take apart a Chicago Tribune article about how the sexes approach grocery shopping, but more material might come her way soon: a NYT Styles story (it's not the new year yet!) that goes like so:

Women shop, men stockpile. That’s one theory, anyway, of how men buy clothes differently from women. If women see shopping as an opportunity, a social or even therapeutic activity, the thinking goes, then men see it as a necessary evil, a moment to restock the supply closet. At the risk of perpetuating sex stereotypes, [...]
The piece takes that risk, and goes on to perpetuate sex stereotypes, or something. A bunch of successful if not altogether famous men are asked whether they buy a lot of the same thing, and turns out they do. Absent from the article is any evidence whatsoever that women don't do this. Women, let it be known, totally do this. (Witness the stack of identical white tank tops from the Petit Bateau sales.) Are we really meant to believe that women don't buy things like socks and underwear all from the same place and in large amounts? That women squeal with delight at a chance to go to the mawl every time a sock has a hole? If anything, stockpiling means you like to shop, or at least that you care enough about what you wear that you consider things like, what if the brand stops making this item? (Which, in this age of fast fashion, it will.) Or, at the very least, that you're sufficiently concerned as to want to make sure that when your current clothes wear out, you won't have to just replace them with whatever's around. Stockpiling ala Steve Jobs and the turtlenecks (an example provided) is hardly evidence that someone is unconcerned with self-expression-through-dress.

In a new, gendered twist to the Styles Style norm, here we have a piece that's ostensibly about how hypermasculine the dudes profiled all are, too busy, rugged, and important to give a crap about their clothes. But then you have Paul Sevigny (who has a slight up-to-no-good-Peter-Sarsgaard thing going on, am I right?) telling us that he can only buy his underpants in Frahnce. (Nice underwear, by the way!) There's even a style blogger (!) who explains:
The store Epaulet — there’s one on Orchard and one on Smith Street in Brooklyn — has these pants with a perfect silhouette and fit. They are cut slim, but not skinny. A few years ago I tried on a pair of mohair ones that fit so well that I bought three pairs — in navy, camel and olive — and a pair of gray cords in the same cut.

A couple of the men make a play of insisting that they hate to shop, before casually tossing off a list of their favorite designers, but for the most part, this is a bunch of men who are arguably bigger fans of buying clothes than are most women. But they're super low-maintenance because they don't get special AW 2012 socks, like women do. Or something.


Britta said...

I imagine stockpiling can occur for several reasons. One, if you don't like to shop, is to buy in bulk (say, a bag of t-shirts or underwear) so you don't have to go in as frequently. It may do with things fitting or not fitting, or possibly with price, but probably mainly because of convenience. I also agree that some people stockpile stuff because they've found something that fits that they like, and they want it in many colors, or multiple of the same for the same reason you mentioned. Likewise, I imagine people don't do this for a variety of reasons--they want all their clothes to be different, they don't particularly care, etc.

In my previous relationship, I owned about 5x as many clothes as my ex, mostly from H&M/BR sales/hand-me-downs, but our wardrobes cost about the same. He found my purchasing 2 of the same thing (usually in different colors) ridiculous, as he wouldn't be caught dead owning the same of two items, since he would consider it redundant and by the time he wore out the first, he'd want something new, and it would probably be out of style. Interestingly enough, while both of us liked clothes and shopping (to some degree or another) and getting dressed, I care more about how something looks on me and the look it creates regardless of what's in style, and he cares more about being somewhat on trend, albeit in a conservative, slightly preppy way. He was the "own 1 pair of $200 jeans" school, whereas I was of the "what's wrong with owning 5 $10 H&M dresses?" school. Of course, he did care about staying power of things, and I do care about quality (I refuse to buy things that look cheaply made or are of obviously cheap fabrics, though I don't care about brand.)

But yeah, I just feel like this whole ev psych stuff is getting eye-rollingly out of control. Did you read the stuff about how men buy groceries? I would say that men AND women generally pick up daily habits from their parents, and to the extent that boys and girls are socialized differently, they're likely to develop different adult habits. Quelle surprise, I shop like my mother, and my ex shopped like his mother. The two shopping styles weren't that compatible, but one wasn't masculine and one wasn't feminine. Given gender roles and expectations, I'd imagine girls in general are expected to pay more attention to domestic stuff, and are often the primary shopper for their families, but that doesn't have to be the case. Any broader gender difference is probably due to experience. If you buy groceries weekly, you will most likely develop a routine vs. if you just go in every once in awhile. My ex was the primary shopper, and he was often seriously annoyed when I went with him because I would wander the rows aimlessly without a list, and he had an efficient system all set up that I would detract from.

Phoebe said...


True - stockpiling can mean virtually anything when it comes to attitudes re: shopping.

Another thing that occurred to me reading that story was how what stops me from stockpiling things other than, say, discounted tank tops is that it's about having a certain amount of money to spend upfront. Thus, much as I might like a new coat or pair of shoes enough that I'd want the same thing for decades, I stop because I'm not about to put $1,000 towards the cause. The common denominator with these men seemed to be having disposable income enough to stock up without considering that this multiplies the bill.

And, the grocery article - I had only read Marcotte's interpretation, but looking at it... I love that they call men who do grocery shopping "hunters." I agree with Marcotte that it's not really clear how there's a gender divide in approach to grocery shopping, either from the article or even from common sense.