Monday, October 30, 2006


Look down. Are there a pair of bumps obscuring your view of your lap? Then guess what? YOU are the new boss of everything, jefe. It’s official: the pendulum has swung.

“‘We are perhaps on the first step to a matriarchal society; women will earn more money than men if current trends continue by 2028,” said Michael J. Silverstein of the Boston Consulting Group. “The 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.’” [From, October 30, 2006, article by Mickey Meese, “What Do Women Want? Just Ask”]

It’s confusing at the top
Fellow power-mongerettes, how do we feel about this? As Meese points out, as recently as 25 years ago, our mothers would have needed our father’s (or uncle’s, or grandfather’s) signature to get a loan from a bank. I’m part of the first generation of women that finds this unthinkable. The idea that women had so little economic heft that even North American females (supposedly the most radical of ‘em all), even after the sexual revolution and women’s lib, had banks laughing in their faces in 1980: can hardly wrap my brain around it.

Does this mean that we’re on the road to a “matriarchal society,” though? Before you answer that, consider the source of our newfound power: $$$$. Or more specifically, the fact that we spend our $$$$ like crazy people. Are we marketers’ targets or Pocketbook Warriors? It’s hard to tell. I quote the NYTimes article because it drew my attention this morning, but we’ve seen this story a lot lately: women control most of the spending in the first world today, blah, blah, blah. Women will only go on to control more of it in the years to come, blah, blah, blah. So corporations are learning to cater to us, blah, blah, blah.

That’s all good, I guess, because it means that in a way, women are now the designers of a subset of products, which means we’ll have products that work for us. And not just traditional domestic products, but, like, tools and cars and stuff that you normally need testicles to buy.

On the other hand, I’m not totally comfortable with the idea that my empowerment in our larger society comes from my money. Nor am I comfortable with the "psychic rebalancing" of the family being described as an "erosion" just because we're no longer Dobby the House Elf.

My empowerment in my relationships with the men I know doesn’t come from that; it comes from them having been raised by a generation of mothers that views women as men’s equals, and raises their sons accordingly. It comes from the guys I know having the empathy and common sense to realize that I’m not inferior because I lack gonads. In my private life, my equality doesn’t come from money, it just comes from…well, the fact of my equality. Why not so in our public lives?

Another thing I’m really uncomfortable with is the marketers. They say we spend our money based on “emotions, coupled with facts”—the implication being that men buy based on fact alone. I really resent that. I think there’s a subset of purchase types that we all make based on emotion, and another we all make based on fact. I don’t buy a hammer based on emotion, for example. Hell, I don’t even buy maxi pads that way. I buy jewellery based on emotion; that I admit. But my husband buys hockey equipment on the same basis. Shopping is infused with emotion for all humans—it’s some evolutionary throwback to a time when we used to consider a dead log filled with grubs a jackpot. Mmmm…big fat grubbies, just lying there in an old dead tree trunk waiting to be eaten. Mmmmm….

If advertisers and corporations really want to know what women want, they should realise this: we don’t like to be manipulated. If you read the NYTimes article, you’ll see there’s a very fine line between “involving women in product design” and “emotionally manipulating women to compel them to spend.” (Like that creepy Crave Parties thing…ick.)

The era of the third option
So what does it all mean to women’s “power”? Personally, I’d like to see a general swing away from dialectics. You know: the idea that something can ONLY be either A (e.g. patriarchy) or B (matriarchy). If our society just swings over to matriarchy, we run the risk of repeating the errors of our patriarchal past. In a dialectic, there’s always a winner and a loser.

As a woman, I don’t want my gender's power to come at the expense of men, boys, or anyone. As the new Mistresses of the Universe, I guess we need to be careful about that. It's all about Door #3. There must be a way we can all win.


Blogger angrycandy said...

i think men are buying big red sports cars and giant hummers based on...well...we can call it emotion...

re matriarchy vs. patriarchy..i recently had a discussion with my boyfriend about how the world would be running and divvied up now if it had always been run by women (if we had generally matriarchal global history)...(this discussion stemmed from my recent hilarious paintball experience where the women all stood around a) looking thorougly disgusted with the sweaty, slimy equipment and b) giggling hysterically whenever we'd lamely attempt to try to shoot people and stuff - i mean, we got into it, but not like the guys who were for the most part, pretty darned serious about the whole thing, i have the bruises to show for it)...anyway, boyfriend immediately assumed that i meant the world would be a better place, we'd all be living in harmony blah, blah, blah....nah, i don't think that and that wasn't my point. i have no doubt we'd be waging war, but how would we be waging war is my question? cause i don't think guns and tanks would've played such a huge part in battles run by would a planet run by women fight on a global scale i wonder? how would we have divided up territories and countries...i believe boyfriend may have made sarcastic comment about bake-offs and catfights...sigh...

anyway, point being, i agree, it ain't all about money and we are equally better and worse than each other...

5:33 PM  
Blogger jackp said...'s happening...

point is....'patriarch' vs. 'matriarch'...

how about....'just getting shit done together'. That would be my current life experience. In terms of selling you crap....that what sales is...they'll use anyway they can. So what? be smart...

1:53 PM  
Blogger Natalia said...

Women have long been the de facto controllers of how much of a household's money is spent, because they have traditionally been the housekeepers, and shopping for things like groceries, shoes for Junior, and Mr. Clean is basically a crap job. The fact that women spend money is a non-news item (as Émile Zola noted in 1883), and the still-patriarchal NYT should be mocked forever for running this article.

12:28 AM  

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