The Shopping Habits of Women

In Émile Zola’s, The Ladies Paradise, he writes about the growing consumer culture in France during the 1870s. Zola tends to describe women as weak individuals who are easily overcome with temptation and unable to control their passions for materialistic goods, such as clothing. For instance, when Zola is mentioning the shopping habits of Madame Marty he states, “She was known for her passion for spending, her inability to resist temptation, strictly virtuous she was, and incapable of yielding to her lover; but no sooner did she set her eyes on the slightest piece of finery than she would let herself go and the flesh was conquered.” Zola indicates that women like Madame Marty are morally strict in every way expected of a woman except they always gives into their passions and temptations for material possessions. Also, Zola appears to promote the notion that women can be “bought” or coerced by providing them with material goods. For instance, Zola mentioned how Madam Marty was “conquered” as soon as she saw a piece of finery. Basically, Zola is stating that women have at least one very strong weakness that makes them “conquerable” and capable of being taken advantage of. (Zola, 62) How can Zola’s depiction of women be harmful? Would liberal capitalists attempt to profit off of the “vulnerability” of women? Also, would other French individuals use the assumption that women cannot be trusted with their husbands’ money because they are financially irresponsible and weak as justification to monitor their expenses more strictly?

One Reply to “The Shopping Habits of Women”

  1. I think that Zola’s depiction of women is harmful to them and puts them at extremely high risk for them to be exploited by consumerism. It shows these women as small minded and as if they are all very one dimensional people. The expectation that society had for women was very harmful to them. These women would buy things to make a place for them in society among other women but society would condemn them for wanting to do that. Many people who wanted monetary success at this time would use the exploitation of women as their was to make a living. They didn’t care that these women were spending all of their husbands’ money because it was making them richer and richer at the expense of others.

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