So this week I’m pootling about my business when my friend Mon messages me with a photo saying ‘Saw this in New Look’s window and thought of your blog’
As I believe George Takei would say:
” Repeat after me… I deserve new shoes”
I am awash with bile and disbelief dear fashion fans, I don’t quite know where to begin.
Let’s begin with the phrase ‘Repeat after me’.
Where else do we see that? Old fashioned teaching – learning by rote. Cramming an idea into someone’s head, sometimes against their will. One might even call it indoctrination. It is an imperative, a command, not just a suggestion. An enforcement of an ideal.
The sort of thing that might be used, dare one say it, by a cult…
This, albeit laced with humour, lays bare the influence that the fashion industry has AND KNOWS IT HAS over our shopping habits. Repeat after me. Do not think for yourselves. Do as you are told.
Now let’s look at the second bit.
“I deserve new shoes.”
This needs unpacking on so many layers. Beginning with the word ‘deserve’.
Pairing this up with the cult-instruction-like imperative command, this word shows something else about the fashion industry. They know, yes KNOW, that female shoppers are prone to low self esteem.
I mean, look at those shoes. A minority of men might wear them, but this is a display aimed at women, with the little ballet pump style shoes and those colourful high heels. This advertising campaign plays right into our insecurities and dissatisfactions as female shoppers. We as women have to be told, by a fashion chain window, INSTRUCTED no less, to understand that we ‘deserve’ things. Because deep down, we don’t believe it do we? Or so the idea behind this window display would have us believe.
Women work hard. That’s not to say that men don’t, but men aren’t the ones having their feelings and insecurities and senses of self played upon here, so I’m not talking about them as a demographic. Women do work hard, managing full time jobs, having children, raising children, taking care of house and home, doing the shopping… women do work hard. And whilst men do help with those things, the majority of them are still culturally seen as women’s work. And there’s little time for luxury in amongst all that. And at the moment, in the midst of the western recession, there’s also a limit on the amount of disposable income available for things like fashion.
But women are told in this advert that we DESERVE new shoes.
Not just that we want them. If we were so inclined we could have worked that out by looking at them. But we are told that we deserve them. That these shoes – colourful and hopelessly impractical as some of them are – are our entitlement. That we can have them. That we SHOULD have them. And if we disagree we should listen to and obey that imperative – repeat after me, accept this idea. And the final implication which makes this campaign so disgustingly effective – that if we DON’T buy them – we are LETTING OURSELVES DOWN AND SELLING OURSELVES SHORT.
(I don’t usually use this many capitals in a post, as you will know by now, but seriously, this sort of mind game sets my teeth on edge and just like an angsty Harry Potter, this is the only way to express my displeasure at the concept!)
This advert plays into our low self esteem issues and falsely tries to boost us up. On the surface it seems quite a positive message. You are worthy, you are entitled, you should believe in yourselves as people who deserve things. But what is it actually trying to get you to do?
It’s trying to get women to part with that hard earned, much hoarded, much needed money in order to repair their self esteem (which they probably didn’t think was broken) and cure their dissatisfaction with their lives (which was at best dormant until they read that advertisement) for a pair of coloured high heels.
Let’s paint a picture of someone who is likely to see this advert when the shop is open for business.
Picture a young-ish, stressed out mother. She’s got one child aged nearly 3 years old and a 6 month old in a push chair. She’s on maternity leave. Again. Her partner’s at work and she’s slogging around town, picking up cleaning stuff from wilkos, getting the things for tea from Morrisons, maybe even popping to the doctors to arrange the next round of vaccinations for one of her children. In my home town, all of those places are within buggy pushing distance of New Look.
She’s tired. She’s been up all night, the baby’s not sleeping and it looks like the older one is getting a cold from the amount of snot everywhere. Daddy’s working overtime, so she’ll have to cook tonight again. It’s cold. And it’s raining. And she’s fed up.
On her way back to the car, she passes this window. It’s been weeks since she went clothes shopping, even window shopping. And there’s this mantra. Repeat after me… I deserve new shoes.
And she thinks ‘Yeah. I bloody do. I haven’t spent a penny on myself since baby was born, I’m worn out, I’m bored to tears by Peppa Pig videos, I ache with weariness, I’m covered in snot and I yearn for the days when I used to be able to go out on the town with my friends, drinking vodkas and wearing high heeled teal coloured stilettos. Where’s my treat, I DO deserve new shoes.”
So what does she do?
Spend the last bit of money that’s left on new shoes? Perhaps she puts them on the credit card. Maybe she puts them on a new store card, which the assistant is only too pleased to sell to her. Does she dip into her savings? Make economies elsewhere? What can her baby do without for the next month?
Frightening isn’t it? How easily that scenario is believable. I’ve met women like this. I TEACH women like this. I have BEEN a woman like this. I’ve done it myself. Worn out and at the end of my tether I have finally decided no to hell with this, I DO deserve a treat.
And you know what happens afterwards? I feel guilty as hell. I feel duped. Manipulated. Fed up. Conned. Stupid. Because I’ve been manipulated into buying something that I didn’t need, didn’t really want and will probably never actually use.
The fashion industry has a good cure for that by the way. They try to convince you that the focus of next month’s fickle attention will fill that hole…
I mean, when is this young Mummy going to get chance to wear those lovely teal coloured high heels? Probably not for ages. And certainly not often enough to justify the £25-£30 she spent on them in a flash of dissatisfied anger.
Women do work hard, and do balance a lot of priorities, and they fight daily battles to successfully manage their modern lives. They deserve a lot. They deserve help with housework and childcare. They deserve thankyous. They deserve equal wages and equal opportunities. They deserve respect, kindness and consideration from the people they are working hard for.
They deserve an awful lot more than a high street store’s pair of shoes. And they should not be the focus of a marketing ploy designed to make them squander money in order to remind them of the fact that they are worthy. It’s an insult to their intelligence that it tries to manipulate them in such a meaningless way. The fashion industry is built around the idea of doing this to people.
Think about that next time you see an advert like this.
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