The Goddess Speaks

Tuesday, January 26, 1999



Categorizing
women cheats
all of us

Among the TV talking heads blithering about the Clinton-Lewinsky sleaze fest was a bald guy who on CNN lisped about "soccer moms" and "career women" supporting the cad.

The statement was insulting, not because of the alleged support these women had for our boob-head president, but because these women were stuffed into pigeon holes that have little meaning in real life.

In real life, women who take their kids to soccer practice may have that one thing in common; otherwise their thoughts, ideas and principles are likely all over the map.

But to the worshippers of marketing, they are "soccer moms."

Marketing is evil. Evil because it snuggles up to you, probes your desires, creates products and packages stuff, luring you to things that aren't necessary in life. Evil because it targets groups it feels are vulnerable, making ads that "take aim and lay their claim on the heart and the soul of the spender" (thank you, Jackson Browne).

Even more evil because it separates people.

Marketing terms are now common in our language. We've all heard of "aging boomers," "the 18- to 25-year-old," "yuppies," "stay-at-home mothers" and "DINKS." All of these represent stereotypes, not real people.

Women, it seems, are especially segmented, maybe because they are ones who do the buying and spending. Females are categorized by age, ethnicity, income, profession, marital status, education level, political leaning -- whatever. All of this to sell us blue nail polish, low-cal snacks, analgesics, mattresses, detergent, microwave meals and window cleaners.

It's easy to place someone in a group and have the expectation that that person will adhere to the category. There are few among us who haven't generalized about people: blood-sucking lawyers, hard-driving career women, slacker twentysomethings, old geezers, beemer drivers.

I know two women who are about the same age, have the same education level and incomes; they are single, both born and raised in the islands. They even look similar. They are, however, two ends of the pole. One loves new rock, the other is a Deadhead. One eats everything, the other is a food fuss. One drives a beat-up clunker, the other a sports car. One is open-minded, the other opinionated. Yet in any marketing survey, they'd be one and the same.

What can happen in all of this is we lose sight of each other. We add another brick to the already thick wall that's built up among people as we compete for space, identity, self- worth and, of course, money.

We need to remember that we deal with individuals, whether they are bosses, telephone operators, grocery clerks, accountants, grandmothers or friends. We need to look each other in the eye and find the person.

We need to veer off the course that the media -- newspapers included -- put in front of us, to skip instead of plod, whistle instead of singing the same old song.

We are not soccer moms, career women or nice Japanese girls; not feminists, conservatives, bunnies, babes, foxes, good mothers or SWFs. We are all of these and none of these.


Cynthia Oi is a reporter at the Star-Bulletin.


The Goddess Speaks runs every Tuesday
and is a column by and about women, our strengths, weaknesses,
quirks and quandaries. If you have something to say, write it and
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