Lisa Parks delivers an interesting analysis of early aughts internet-TV convergence. She provides a pretty-well worn deconstruction of gendered media activity (passive = TV = feminine and active = internet = masculine). In my opinion, however, she undermines her analysis with”
“While it is productive for feminists to discuss and evaluate Oxygen in the popular press, it is unfortunate that these high-profile writers overlook recent feminist scholarship on the historical positioning of women as consumers within the public sphere. In some instances, consumer practices such as moviegoing or department store shopping were an important mechanism of women’s socioeconomic mobility and were integral to the formation of female communities and even women’s entry into civic/public culture. (146)
This is only true to a point. Firstly, this is shortsighted in that this really only applies to the usual suspect(s): White, middle class / institutionally-educated / upwardly mobile, cisgender, straight, etc etc women. Second, hinging women’s empowerment on capitalist agency and access to consumerism is pretty questionable. In lieu of this, I’d like to offer a consumerist convergence case study in the shape of Empire’s Cookie’s Closet.
This seems even more intentional than most portals like this. Not only is the viewer / consumer linked to the actually luxury brand outfit that Cookie wears on the show, but they are provided affordable alternatives. This shows a self awareness on the part of the show of as to not only the demographics of the show, but also the ridiculousness of only offering a $6,000 Alexander McQueen dress to the viewing public. But outside of this, what empowerment would this offer a Black woman who wakes up every morning with fear in her heart? Or a Latina who makes approximately $0.57 on the dollar compared to White men?
Economic agency can be fun if you’re part of a community whose oppression fuels the status quo. But offering that as a primary mode of empowerment is foolhardy and misguided.
I’d be interested in a Parks addendum to this essay that takes in contemporary levels of convergence, consumerist attitudes in the wake of the 2008 economic crash, and of course, race.