Consumption Junction: The Intersection of Mrs. Consumer and Ecofeminism

What does an Ecofeminist
"Mrs. Consumer" dream about?
by lana lynne on 4.25.11

In the early 20th century, advertisers gave birth to the conception of “Mrs. Consumer.” Historians of consumer culture note how the “Fashionable Woman” of the 19th century, whose passion for luxury was curtailed by moral criticism, was supplanted in the 20th century by “Mrs. Consumer,” a secularized image constrained by a workplace rationality. This representation of women rationalized their supposed domesticity and reconfigured them as managers of their households, typified by an advertisement by N.W. Ayer, the first advertising agency in the U.S., that headlined “The Little Woman, G.P.A.” as their target market. In this promotion, the Ayer advertising firm situated women as the “General Purchasing Agents” of their homes, creating a parallel between women’s domestic responsibilities and the more culturally respected duties of a businessman: “The way to [women’s] hearts and their purses is not easy, but it is clear,” the ad states; “These general purchasing agents are readers of advertising, consistent, critical readers of advertising. It has been estimated that they buy more than eighty per cent of all advertised merchandise."

Not much has changed over the course of the past century, as women continue to make over 85% of consumer choices, yet these choices have more influence than those early national advertisers may have imagined. Women's purchasing power is one of the things being targeted in the Earth Day initiative WAGE, or Women and a Green Economy, which sees women as one of the most important leaders in environmental stewardship. According to the website, the campaign was created in view of the following points: Women constitute more than half of the world’s population, women make 85 percent of all consumer choices, women are rising to key positions of power, and women can lead the way to a sustainable green economy.

In Aline Cunico's article, "Women Key to Green Economy," Katherine Lucey of Solar Sister states: "Being disproportionately affected by the negative consequences of climate change throughout the world, women are influential, as home makers and community organisers...It is critical that they are full participants in the creation of a sustainable green economy." As women are brought to the forefront of environmental activism, will we see a more pronounced ecofeminist line of thinking emerge?

Image: N.W. Ayers & Sons advertisement

Happy Earth Week! Love, the Lawn

by lana lynne on 4.18.11

The image of Malvina Reynold's colorful "little boxes" lined up, row after row, divided by some small acreage of grass, lends a nice visual to Sarah Goodyear's article on Grist, "The Lawn Goodbye," which tells the story of an Arizona man who painted his dead lawn green in order to comply with his neighborhood's aesthetic ordinances. The lawn is, one might argue, a ubiquitous marker of social status in U.S. suburbia, having its roots in the industrial revolution and then gaining popularity in the fin de siecle with the advent of lawn mowers and garden hoses.

The "painted lawn" of modern day is a fitting manifestation of our image-obsessed culture. And while it's easy to smirk at the irony of such (non)conformity, it's also sad; it would be just as easy for people to gussy up their yards with nature's own make-up. Commenting on the companies that have sprouted up to paint lawns to "keep your curb appeal," Goodyear rightly remarks, "The idea that painting lawns green is a growth industry -- an income source that might enable people to keep their own lawns painted green and the homeowners' association at bay -- says a lot about where we've come to as a country," and she goes on to relate it to the legend of Russia's Catherine the Great trek through the Crimea region, where along her path fake houses were built to hide the poverty.

One could argue that the real and painted lawns of today "hide" not just an economic (and aesthetic) poverty, but an impoverished and outdated perspective on our relationship to the space in which we live.

Take a listen to NPR's recent interview with Charles Fishman, author of The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water, to hear about, among other things, Las Vegas's $40,000 incentive to turn grass lawns into zero-scapes.

Please Think Before You Don the Headdress

by douglas reeser on 4.14.11

Almost a year ago our post on the hipster headdress gained some attention. Since then, we've kept our eyes on the blog, Native Appropriations, to follow and support the conversations on the appropriation and continued disrespect of Native American culture in the US. With the summer festival season on the horizon, it should be interesting to see if the hipster trend of wearing Native-themed costumes continues, and what response, if any, will result. Adrienne, over at N.A., refers her readers to this wiki page on cultural appropriation, but we encourage you to look through her site (and the comments!) for a revealing look into the effects of and reactions to cultural appropriation. It's clear, that in the US at least, people all too easily forget that Native American culture is not only alive, but continues to thrive.

As for the activist-themed drawing above, we'd like to thank Native Appropriations for the link, and also give credit where credit is due. Lydia over at Adverbemonade posts her drawings almost daily. Many of them will make you giggle, and some, like the one above, will make you think.

Bolivia Set to Grant Earth Rights

by douglas reeser on 4.9.11

Led by president Evo Morales, Bolivia is set to grant equal rights to nature and the Earth. The new legislation is similar to efforts put forth in Ecuador, and many in Bolivia and around the world hope these new efforts lead to more concrete results. This new movement, that is slowly expanding across South America, hopes that by granting rights to the earth, nations will be more able to curtail the damaging environmental effects of development and resource extraction.

According to the Guardian (UK), the Law of Mother Earth "redefines the country's rich mineral deposits as "blessings" and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry." Among the rights bestowed are:
"the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered; the right of nature "to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities""
This is clearly a historic measure, one that recognizes the earth as an autonomous being, while also setting a new standard in protecting the planet from the unending damaging activity of humanity. Check out this Guardian video for more information:

Consumption Junction: "Home Brew'd is Best"

~ hops! ~ 
by lana lynne on 4.5.11

Rumor has it that the clumsy, unwelcome feet of corporate colonization has just marched across the Discovery Channel to oust the show "Brew Masters." Evidently, the Beer and Whiskey Brothers have it on good authority that Big Beer threatened to pull their advertising from the network if "Brewmasters" wasn't given the boot. Whether the truth comes to light remains to be seen, but I can't help but wonder what the U.S.'s beer-loving forefathers would think of such paranoia.

In the course of unrelated research on the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA, two glimpses into the country's brewing past were unearthed. From the book The Buried Past comes the story of a grand parade in 1788 staged to honor the U.S. Constitution. A league of brewers, led by Germantown brewer Reuben Haines, "marched with 'ears of barley in their hats, and sashes of hop vines, carrying malt shovels and mashing oars [and] a standard...decorated with the brewers arms and the motto,...'Home brew'd is best.'"

And from the 19th century gardening notes of early-urban-farmer Charles Wister Sr., whose summer house was located in Germantown, comes two homebrew recipes:

Molasses Beer
10 bottles of water
1 bottle of ale
1 pint of molasses.
Mix and place in wooden barrel.

Fred Brown's Ginger Beer
4 oz. of brused ginger
1 oz. of cream of tarter
Juice & rind of 2 lemons
5 lbs of loaf sugar
Put the above in a yellow jar, and pour 5 gallons of water on it. Let stand 12 hours.
Decant the liquid and add 1 pt. of good ale or port.
Put in bottles with cork and lay down.
In two or three days it will be fit to drink.