In her book Imaging Consumers: Design and Innovation from Wedgwood to
Corning, Regina Lee Blaszczyk describes the creation of market
research. Rather than coercing consumers, the manufactures in this
book wanted to design products that Americans truly wanted. In trying
to determine preferences from dishware to bathroom fixtures, companies
researched who their consumers were and imagined what may draw them
in. This led manufactures to see the buying power of women for the
In their roles as wives and mothers women did 80% of the household
shopping in the early 20th Century. (Blaszczyk, pp. 130) Companies
began catering to women and respecting their needs, altering their
products around tastes, necessity, and popular design. Blaszczyk’s
imagined consumers were women who had the power to make or break a
Despite the power which was put in the hands of women through the
market, this shift was not a step in the right direction for women.
Women did a majority of the household buying during the time period
explored by Blaszczyk because they could not fill other roles beyond
the home. But this idea of woman as sole buyer has become so engrained
in the American consciousness that it has not changed for a century.
Even though women have moved outside the home they are shown as the
sole contributors to domestic buying. In modern ads women are the only
people in the grocery store, using Clorox wipes, dusting with the
Swiffer, packing children’s lunches, or cooking. After all, choosy
Moms choose JIF. What about choosy Dads?
This assumption puts an undue burden of responsibility on women and
forces them into being the errand runners. These ads reinforce
negative stereotypes about who the modern woman is and what her
priorities are. Surely modern market research shows that these sorts
of domestic tasks are shared. I think that modern corporations need to
imagine a new consumer.