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Conspicuous Consumption in “She Stoops to Conquer” and” The Ladies Dressing Room”

This week we read “She Stoops to Conquer” and” The Ladies Dressing Room” for comparison, and I found the issue of conspicuous consumption to be present in each. This term is particularly interesting to me from a marketing perspective, because I feel that most will see the implications of the term as negative. In contrast, I argue conspicuous consumption is natural, and is not evil. A poem about the social pressures of class could have been written in any century, and it is certainly applicable to ours. This concept is central to both works we have read for this week and I feel it is a symptom of the natural hierarchy rather than capitalism. We have a natural need for acceptance that isn’t created by marketers, and I think it requires more inner reflection to understand our underlying desires rather than attribute them to others. I do concede, however, that these needs can be leveraged to make a sale. 
To the topic of Celia and the time it takes her to get ready, there are multiple social issues we can take from the situation. First, there is obviously immense pressure for her to look good, and to do so effortlessly. Second, reading the line “Who can do it in less than five hours?” as serious rather than as sarcasm indicates it is a societal pressure towards women. While it can be argued that societal pressures exist towards men as well, using a rubric that is inhuman is obviously unfair. 
Overall, I found the readings for this week interesting and applicable to modern day, although I can’t say I would return to them. 
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5 thoughts on “Conspicuous Consumption in “She Stoops to Conquer” and” The Ladies Dressing Room”

  1. It’s an interesting comparison to parallel conspicuous consumption with marketing. It think it could be modern day mandatory through what we now know as commercials advertisement. This is something we see daily and often. You speak of the pressure of obtaining or keeping up with a social class, this term is often referred to as, “Keeping up with the Jones.” I actually felt this was very relevant in the reading of “She Stoops to Conquer”, the entire family want to portray themselves and certain way and many people universally get lost in that idea or attitude of conspicuous composition. The power dynamics that come along with a particular class and culture can be affirmed in that message. It is interesting you deem it as natural while others may not. I think the problem occurs when it leads to greed and unbecoming of one’s self as Strephon appears to be disgusted by her layers of contradiction and his image of Celia. “When Celia in her Glory shows, If Strephon would but stop his nose; …..such order from Confusion sprung, Such gaudy Tulips rais’d from Dung.”
    Modern day environments can relate that woman typically take more time to get ready. 5 hours might seem excess. In gender roles, a man can never have taken as much time as Celia and not be chastised for his behavior where as Celia is now “in her Glory show.” In marketing and advertisements, all those ointments, powders, oils and everything else that Strephon views we see daily and this leads your comparison to make a valid point.

  2. I would have to agree that conspicuous consumption would be found in any century, we are after all just human and with that comes the human nature of being accepted. By question is then do marketers feed off of this natural need to be accepted? Take for instance Apple, they have become one of the biggest profiting companies of all time. When you look around a lecture hall for example I am willing to bet you are going to see more Apple than PC products (this is what I have recognized in my lectures, of course it will vary but overall). Why is this the case? Some people would say because Apple has the better product but do they? Is it just a preference as to which you use or is it this social stigma that has come about with Apple? Having an iDevice makes you look cool, like you are up to date with the latest technologies, much like the latest fashion this is bound to change. I think marketing companies an advertisers now a days recognize and use this need to feel “cool” or “accepted” in order to push new product no matter what they are selling. It’s interesting that you picked it up in such an early poem but then the human species hasn’t changed that much in 100 years.

    wc 223

  3. I found your take on the translation and comparison to modern day very interesting. I did not think about the fact that this is translated to modern day since I did not read it as a past piece of writing. It is startling that men have had this idea of what women should do, look like, and be for as long as we can remember. It seems unnatural when a woman gets faster than a man, making the man seem more high maintenance than he may actually be just because a lady doesn’t take a long time to get dressed and primped to perfection. I think that today’s marketing is trying to go for a more natural campaign, like Dove’s. Using models that are various heights, weights, and sizes helps move this image of perfection in beauty to a more natural and accepting beauty image. Seeing someone in a magazine that actually looks like you makes it easier to accept your body image and flaws, since growing up there were mostly just skinny, beautiful, photoshopped people to look up to in magazines.

    • Thanks for your reply. I chose the topic of conspicuous consumption not only due to my interest in marketing but because I felt it tied both pieces we read for this week together. Reading that you didn’t immediately see this piece as having a different time period associated with it put my reading of it in perspective. I think as a society we tend to believe that modes of thinking that are subjective to a particular race or gender are outdated, when in reality we are seeing a slow evolution from those modes of thinking. Perhaps I am guilty of that in a period in which we are seeing this paradigm reexamined. Overall, I believe we are in a time where we are seeing a shift in the way rights issues are examined, and I don’t necessarily see marketers as having a bad role in that. The market will always be a reflection of values and desires, and if that is inclusive towards men and women, all the better.

  4. I like the way you apply ‘conspicuous consumption’ in a more positive light to the field of marketing. Obviously when somebody wants to sell a product, they hope that it will get recognition through the people who use, display, and brag about it. You seem to be arguing conspicuous consumption is a good thing, in that it helps to drive sales, so I guess what I am wondering is whether it can be a good thing for anyone who does not sell the luxury goods that are being consumed conspicuously. Someone commented on my post and mentioned the idea of ‘keeping up with the Jonses,’ which I think really does show the negative side of this type of consumption. In the movie The Jonses, which is based on that idea, one family consumes conspicuously with the sole intention of getting people around them to buy expensive things, and soon all of their neighbors are broke and suicidal. I guess what I am wondering is whether that type of situation can be (or should be) avoided when you move the concept of conspicuous consumption into the marketing space.

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