n Communicatio : South African Journal of Communication Theory and Research - The gender of shopping malls : communication, cultural and media studies




This article investigates the historical alignment between women and shopping that dates from about the middle of the nineteenth century. During this time the masculine, modernist world of urban life was separated from the feminine, domestic sphere; this led to gendered perceptions about space and place. The split between male and female worlds led to representations of space that characterised certain spaces as male and others as female. This article shows how the nineteenth century department store became a key location of middle-class female activity and identity formation, and demonstrates how this social spatialisation has been sustained by the contemporary shopping mall. Because malls are products of consumer capitalism, they embody ideologies and myths that support this dominant ideology; notions concerning gender, class, race, and space are hence grounded in the manner in which malls conceptualise and represent space. This article sites a gendered reading of South African shopping within the discourses of gender politics, (feminist) cultural geography and (visual) cultural studies, which attempt to unveil the spatial practices of contemporary society. The findings suggest that the social perception that shopping is women's work is upheld by current social practices.


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