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来源:天星 更新日期:2009-10-10 点击:

A while ago, when the financial markets were collapsing and people were carrying their offices home in cardboard boxes, I remember wondering whether women could have saved us from this disaster. Not by refraining from their reckless spending habits (the shoes, the bags, the credit-card bills), as so often characterised by popular culture; but from their natural tendency towards caution.

Women can be hardnosed business vixens when they want, but they are also mothers, nurturers, nest-builders. When it comes to the big stuff, they are much more risk-averse than men, whose approach (especially in competitive environments such as high finance) can have a dangerous gung-ho element to it. Might more women in senior City jobs have resulted in a less reckless approach, and saved more people from taking risks that they — and the country — could ill afford?

I even wondered about this in print — and found myself on the receiving end of a surprising amount of (male) vitriol, chiefly centred around the idea that, being a ... [insert offensive euphemism for a female here], what the hell did I know? Luckily, I no longer need to explain myself because other, much cleverer, people have done it for me. According to a new study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), working women are going to save the world. That’s right, we ladies with our pretty pink brains and not a pair of cojones, large or otherwise, between us: we’re the future.

As the post-recession global economy struggles, dazed, to its feet, it is the women who are extending the metaphorical smelling-salts. BCG estimates that in the next five years $5 trillion of female-earned income will flood the world’s economy. Forget China, or India: women are the emerging markets.

Worldwide, women are earning more, and there are more of them doing it. They don’t earn as much as men, of course; but that gap is narrowing, not least because the more women successfully enter the workplace, the more they tend to employ other women and the more fairly they pay them (it worked for the boys, now it’s our turn). The implications are huge. What we’re looking at here is the next wave of feminism, with women truly empowered where it matters most: their purses.

The irony of this next phase in the revolution being driven by such a seemingly banal activity as shopping will not be lost on those first-wave feminists, who fought hard to prove that the female brain is capable of so much more than just sourcing a perfect roll of curtain fabric. But, inevitably, the by-product of women earning more is going to be women spending more. It’s what that leads to, namely seismic shifts in consumer trends, that will have a long-term effect on our culture. One of the most interesting side-effects to watch will be how — and if — this shift in gender spending power effects manufacturing and service trends.

Will it mean less booze and fewer fags and fast cars? Fewer betting shops and flat-screen TVs? Will the bottom fall out of the takeaway kebab market? Maybe someone will start designing dashboards with somewhere sensible to put your handbag; or produce a piece of electronic equipment that isn’t a nasty shade of grey with a horrible electric blue LCD screen.

Who knows, the Lakeland catalogue might go global, bringing the delights of silicone bakeware and time-saving apple-corers to a grateful world. And just maybe someone will pass legislation that allows working women to employ someone to pick up their children from school without being subject to the same idiotic rules and regulations as a business. If proof were needed of how government consistently underestimates the economic potential of the female workforce, it’s that chauffeurs remain tax-deductible, whereas childcare isn’t.

Crucially, it may now be time for everyone to stop being so dismissive about so-called frivolous industries, such as fashion and beauty, just because they are driven by women. Why should buying a new winter coat be any less serious than, say, choosing a new car? Jeremy Clarkson, for example, is a national hero, whereas poor Alexandra Shulman (the brilliant Editor of UK Vogue) seems to spend all her time apologising for her existence.

The absurdity of this double standard (we want your cash, ladies, but we reserve the right to patronise you) is exemplified in an equally absurd piece of cinematic delight, The September Issue. In it Anna Wintour (Editor of US Vogue) exceeds all expectations as the dominatrix of American fashion. But there are a few wobbly moments. You can tell by the way she reacts to certain questions that Wintour still harbours a very female insecurity about the nature of what she does. Namely, that her career is somehow less valid than those of other members of her family — such as her brother, who she implies is a heavyweight political reporter, or her father, who edited a regional newspaper. Even Wintour, the queen of the runway, secretly wonders whether she shouldn’t be doing something more worthwhile. As if being the most powerful person in a multibillion-dollar market wasn’t, actually, that significant.

As New York hands over the fashion baton to London this week, there will no doubt be plenty of talk about recession chic. London being famously the most “maverick” of the four show cities, some wag will probably send the models down the runway dressed as zombie bankers, or Credit Crunch cereal packets. Inevitably there’ll be a lather about the age/size of the models and a girl with an imperceptibly fleshy bottom will be praised for being “real”, despite actually being a size 6.

But behind all this hoo-ha there is something invaluable: an industry that, for all its faults and quirks and paradoxes, has a uniquely keen sense of the needs of the female consumer. And that, if the clever kids at BCG are to be believed, is something we should all take more seriously.









重要的是,那些所谓的浮华产业,比如时尚和美容,仅仅因为它们是由女性主宰的,就一直为人们所无视。也许这一切该到此为止了。凭什么买一件新的冬衣就比不上选一辆新车来得重要呢?Jeremy Clarkson【译注:英国著名主持人,以主持汽车节目《极速飞车》出名】是国家英雄,而可怜的Alexandra Shulman(才华横溢的英国版《时尚》杂志主编)好像一辈子都在为她的存在而道歉。

“我们想赚你们的钱,姑娘们,但是我们保留轻视你们的权利,”这种荒谬的双重标准在《九月刊》这部电影中得到了最好的例证。Anna Wintour,美国《时尚》杂志的主编,在片中表现出名副其实的时尚女魔头作风,但是她也有心虚的时候。在某些问题的处理方式上,你就可以看出,对于她的职业本质,Wintour仍然表现出十分女性化的不安全感。比如说,她的事业似乎没有她其他家庭成员的那样重要,就像她的哥哥,她暗示说他是一个重量级的政治记者,还有她的父亲,是一家地区报纸的编辑。即使是Wintour,统治T型台的女皇,也无法不怀疑自己是否可以做些更有价值的事情。而在一个价值数十亿美元的市场上呼风唤雨,显然不算在内。