I went shopping for my fictitious
First analyzing the gifts that my little sister wanted gave me some insight as to what kind of girl she is. Lacrosse is a rather expensive sport, which may have hinted at being at least middle class. The desire for an iPhone proved that she is brand conscious. The iPhone while being a highly functional phone, is rather expensive and can be seen as a status symbol for carrying the apple trademark. The two desired gifts strongly suggested that she came from a middle class family. Unfortunately both the iPhone and lacrosse gift was out my budget.
I immediately considered internet shopping, but found it rather difficult to buy toys for a 17 year old girl. I am a 22 year old male, and a little bit of touch with what 17 year old girls like. I searched internet sites looking for toys that are targeted at 17 year old girls. Most of what I found were educational games. I know that when I was at that age I would be rather disappointed if I recieved something educational for a present from a sibling. Being the good older brother that I am I did further research on gifts for 17 year old girls. I contacted my little brother’s girlfriend who is 16. What was interesting was that she too plays lacrosse and has a blackberry which is similar to the iPhone. I asked her what she would want for a birthday gift. She easily rattled off a long list items such as, jewelry, perfume, nail polish, sandals, hand bag, clothing and make up. All the gifts she gave me were highly materialistic. None of the items had any entertainment value. Some of her ideas had functional value, but mainly all the gifts had in common was that they were fashionable. These gifts potentially could depict a person’s class, race and gender. Being the good brother that I am, I wanted to get presents that my fictitious little sister would like and use rather than throw it in the back of her closet.
I determined my fictitious little sister is most likely going to have similar tastes to my brother’s girlfriend. I first thought about what it is that teaches these girls to be so materialistic. That is when my idea for a present hit me. I bought her a subscription of 12 issues to Seventeen magazine for $10. This magazine is targeted for teenage girls. It is quite obvious that this magazine directly teaches teenagers about gender types. This magazine takes gender socialization to the next level. It tells them what fashion is hot, how to do their make up and hair. Seventeen magazine also talks about health, fitness, dating, sex, college and a career. If a girl is interested in reading this magazine they probably have developed a strong gender identity and are attempting to keep up with the expectation set by society for a desirable seventeen year old. These ideals may have been created by media, school, parents and friends. According to Newman, “…the process by which children learn their own gender is not a passive one in which they simply absorb information that bombards them…They are like gender detectives, searching for cues about gender.” (113) Seventeen magazine is a way for Jennifer to actively search for gender cues.
For my next gift I chose to buy her Vera Bradley flip flops for $22. The designer flip flops are very sexy because of the style, color and flowery design. Again illustrating our perception of beauty and femininity. The sandals were relatively inexpensive and not really worth more than $5 at Walmart, but the label and design make them desirable. These clearly were an item that would only be found in a middle class or upper middle class environment. What I found interesting about this website is the fact that there is no tab that refers to women, but there is a tab for men. The website is very upscale and is intended to create very attractive and desirable images. The themes are very feminine and upscale.
From Seventeen magazine I learned about Miley Cyrus. She is portrayed by the magazine as hot and sexy. Miley’s image appears to be the teenage ideal that is created by the media. She is successful, her dress is somewhat sexy and she has a good figure. She also appears to be wholesome and slightly innocent. My little sister Jennifer is likely to be crazy about her. A Miley Cyrus designer T-shirt will be a gift that she will love. The gift cost $25. It is another gift that fits the middle class image. The image is most of the cost. A similar no name T-shirt should cost about $10. Wearing this T-shirt will make her feel a connection to Miley Cyrus and what she stands for.
My final gift is a lacrosse stick for Jennifer. The cost is $59.99. A female lacrosse stick is different from a men’s lacrosse stick. While lacrosse was originally a game played by men; it is now gender neutral. The women’s game is not as violent as the men’s. Messner stated in his article, “Sex-segregated activities such as organized sports as structured by adults, provide the context in which gendered identities and separate “gendered cultures” develop and come to appear natural” (128).
Lacrosse is also a middle class game. It is fairly expensive and requires a team that can also afford to buy the stick, pads and shoes. The dress is not really sexy. The image is one of wholesomeness and health. The sport promotes teamwork and positive values for women. A lacrosse stick is useful and is the only gift that does not conform to the media’s ideal for young women.
These gifts represent the way a heterosexual seventeen year old girl can meet the expectations set by society for a desirable middle class young woman who is feminine and trying to attract male interest. Jennifer will appreciate these gifts. She is a typical middle class girl who is influenced by her environment. She is materialistic and very focused on herself and how she is perceived by those around her.
Messner, Michael. "Boyhood, Organized Sports, and the Construction of Masculinities." Journal of Contemporary Ethnography (1990): 120-137.
Newman, David M. Identities and Equalities: Exploring the Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality.