PhD Graduate Kim de Laat and Professor Shyon Baumann on Caring Consumption as Marketing Schema

January 23, 2019 by Kathy Tang

PhD Graduate Kim de Laat and Sociology Professor Shyon Baumann published an article in the Journal of Gender Studies that analyzes Canadian television advertisements and their role in reproducing ideas about gender and motherhood. They find that women depicted as mothers in advertisements were portrayed as consuming for the benefit of others, while women who were not depicted as mothers were portrayed as consuming for self-indulgence.

Kim de Laat obtained her PhD in Sociology from the University of Toronto in 2017 and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Gender + the Economy at the Rotman School of Management. She studies the interplay between culture, work, and organizations. Shyon Baumann is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto Mississauga. His work addresses questions of evaluation, legitimacy, status, cultural schemas, and inequality.

We have posted the article citation and abstract below. The full article is available through the University of Toronto Library Portal here.

de Laat, Kim and Shyon Baumann. 2016. Caring Consumption as Marketing Schema: Representations of Motherhood in an Era of Hyperconsumption." Journal Of Gender Studies, 25(2):183-199.

What can representations of women's ‘caring consumption’ (Thompson 1996) reveal about broad cultural understandings of the nature of motherhood? We study Canadian television advertisements to gain insight into the production of cultural schemas and the reproduction of beliefs about gender and motherhood. Employing an inductive qualitative analysis of portrayals of mothers and women who are not depicted as mothers, we find that the defining feature of mothers' consumption is a unidimensional depiction of control and caring for others, presented as self-evidently gratifying and fulfilling, in the absence of competing consumption goals. Mothers' identity emerges solely from successful consumer choices that benefit others. Such unidimensional representations of consumption stand in contrast to the consumption of women who are not depicted as mothers, who are found to engage in hyperbolic and indulgent consumption targeted towards self-gratification. We thus provide novel empirical data which show that depictions of consumption in mothers and in women not depicted as mothers are extreme in nature. Our findings provide support for, and elaborate on, the concept of ‘caring consumption’ by helping to make sense of media representations appearing within the conjunction of the contemporary marketing context of hyperconsumption, and the parenting/gender context of intensive mothering. By examining extreme consumption in television advertisements, we gain insight into features of maternal consumption ideals that may not be observable in everyday instantiations, such as the lack of mothers' consumption for self-benefit.

Read the full article here.