|dc.description||The goal of the MA thesis was to describe and analyze the gender dimension of a
certain form of consumption called “šoppamine” (to shop and shopping in English).
Being part of a larger research initiative that focuses on cultural practices
characterizing our society these days (Margit Keller’s Ph.D thesis, Raili Roo’s and
Merilin Seepter’s BA thesis’s), this thesis adds an intriguing angle to the existing
research material and offers additional opportunities for understanding and critically
analyzing Estonian consumer culture.
In addition to the research carried out at Tartu University, different theories focusing
on consumer society and shopping practices as well as theories on gender form the
theoretical basis of the current thesis.
The empirical analysis of the thesis is based on consumer interviews and media texts.
70 ad hoc as well as in-depth oral interviews were carried out with consumers in
Tallinn and Tartu. In addition to those, 100 print media texts published in years 2002 –
2004 and including the word “šoppamine” or some of its forms are analyzed to get an
overview of the concept’s media representations and to compare those to consumers’
opinions. Both quantitative and qualitative research methods were combined in the
research, the main theories used were the ones of Miles and Huberman (1994) and
Norman Fairclough (1995).
The two general hypotheses of the thesis were the following: First, that “šoppamine” is
considered to be a feminine practice and connected far more with women than men
both in media texts’ representations as well as in consumers’ opinions. Secondly, that
media represents more homogeneous picture when it comes to the gender aspect of
“šoppamine” while consumers themselves share more heterogeneous point of views
and do not see the practice only as a feminine one.
The following research questions were formed: 1) how do our consumers see and
understand the gender aspect of the discourse of “šoppamine”?; 2) how is “šoppamine”
and its gender aspect represented in Estonian print media channels?; 2.1) are women more connected with “šoppamine” than men?; 2.2) what are the explicit and implicit
connections dominating between “šoppamine” and gender?; 3) why does the
representation and (re)production of “šoppamine” and its gender aspect appear as it
Summarizing the results of the research one can conclude that both hypotheses were
verified – the practice called “šoppamine” really is primarily connected with women
more than men both in media as well in people’s minds. But among consumers also an
alternative, “equal” mindset is seen reflecting an opinion that both sexes actually do
“shop”. Such a representation is not visible in media texts.
Analyzing the both texts one found out that consumers have rather ambivalent
evaluations towards “šoppamine” – both men and women criticize the practice while
the ones positively minded are mostly women. The same tendency can be seen in
media – opinions and evaluations vary from very positive, encouraging and even
heroic discourse to critical and condemnatory. Tabloid media is logically more positive
towards “šoppamine” while daily and weekly papers focused on “harder” news reflect
more critical views.
As the thesis focuses on gender aspect, the ideas about the content and purposes of
“šoppamine” are important. Based on research one can claim that those ideas differ
when comparing consumers and media representations. Both parties agree the practice
includes hedonistic, pleasurable and fun sides; also that it is mostly oriented to
everything that’s external. People say “šoppama” when they buy clothes or shoes but
they do not say it when buying food for example. The abovementioned difference
between media and consumers’ views appears when interpreting “šoppamine” as an
activity focused to mainly watching (process-oriented) or mainly buying (result-
oriented). In media, the latter dominates while consumers interpret “šoppamine”
mainly as walking-watching-choosing and after that maybe buying. That kind of
concept is more about spending time and less about spending money; different from
the one that media represents - in media “šoppamine” is often presented via buying (a
lot). In connection to that it also arises topics about exaggeration and extremes when it
comes to the practice. Dependency, craziness, emotionality and lose of control are
some of the keywords that often “pop up” in media texts in connection with “šoppamine” and women. But the consumers interviewed like to describe themselves
as much more reasonable and thrifty than the media image. The self-image of critical
and rational, somewhat “enlightened” consumer is very usual when it comes to men;
by important others women are more connected with emotions, impulses, also
credulity and influenceability. Women themselves more or less agree with those rather
stereotypical opinions but still do not think that extreme, maniac forms of “šoppamine”
are of a real danger for them or for Estonian society in general.
Summarizing the social aspect of “šoppamine” one can say that the practice is mostly
directed to others. Men almost always like to go shopping with others, families or
friends while women sometimes prefer to do it alone, “taking their own time and doing
their own things”. That marks a procreative aspect of “šoppamine” specially important
for female consumers.
One can conclude that “šoppamine” in modern Estonian consumer society no doubt is
a feminine practice although it always doesn’t have to be a practice carried out by
women – many “new age” men may do it as well as they are not afraid of feminine
connotations that might arise. And even if there are widespread views about
“šoppamine” as hedonistic, egoistic and trivial activity, the practice still offers several
resources for women as well as men to carry out their individual and social life