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WARRIOR OR MADONNA: WHICH WILL WOMEN OF 1999 WANT TO BE?


Posted 01-13-99

The Stuart News/Port St. Lucie News (Stuart,FL)
01-06-99
By Page C1
Photo: "Xena", another photo non-Xena.

COMMENTARY
An article about how women will dominate the future economy of the next century. No mentionings about Xena, but they do have a picture of her to illustrate perhaps what "warrior parents" will look like.

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   What are to be the female themes of 1999, the run-up year to what will surely
be the most disappointing New Year's Eve in 1,000 years?

   Will men die out, to be replaced by turkey basters? Will the world be hit by
a vengeful meteorite? Will terracotta be the new aubergine?

   One thing is certain: the near future has never been so predicted. Futurology
is firmly part of the science of marketing; it is capitalism's oracle. Its task
is to predict consumer trends to make more money; its method is a mixture of
social trends analysis and hype - what the marketing industry calls "blue-sky"
talk (ludicrous "what-if" jargonizing to you and me).  

   As the end of the century approaches, women are becoming increasingly
important as consumers. As a result, the future-watchers are watching women very
closely indeed.

   Based on her observations (she has, she says, "canvassed female opinion"),
Rita Clifton of the London branding and marketing company Interbrand Newell &
Sorrell believes 1999 will be the era of powerful motherhood.

   She explains: "With two Spice Girls ... pregnant, there will be a baby boom.
The millennium is an age-marker and I predict we'll see lots of babies being
born."

   A new concept indeed. This plethora of new mothers will be assertive madonnas
rather than the quiet madonnas - a shift Clifton says already is manifest in
parent and child magazines. Professional status will take a back seat. "Identity
will not be built on work so much," she says. "Women will be able to emphasize
different parts of their lives."

   In all aspects of life, women will aim yet higher. "Expectations are greater
than ever before," says Beth Barry, executive planning director for Europe for
Ogilvy & Mather, the agency that four years ago anticipated the "women behaving
badly" syndrome.

   Mastering all the hyperbolic brilliance of her industry, Barry says 1999 will
be the year of the "superladette." These women will not sit and wait for the
phone to ring or suffer silently in romantic victimhood. "They say: "I've got to
get my life sorted ... and my partner's,'" Barry says. That sounds like fun.

   Faith Popcorn, meanwhile, the world's most famous futurologist, is writing a
book about female futures called Eve Olution.

   "The Eve Olution trend is all about the power of the female market," says
Mechele Flaum, president of Popcorn's marketing consultancy, BrainReserve.
Traditionally, she says, manufacturers have been slow to market to women "male"
products such as cars. But now this is set to change.

   Furthermore, women not only start more new businesses than men but they are
more loyal as consumers. This mix, Flaum predicts, will lead to a new trend.
Let's call it "bespoke business" and illustrate it with an example: Lucille's
Car Care, Pittsburgh. At Lucille's, the eponymous mechanic finds out how much
you need your car - for school runs or whatever - before fixing the schedule.

   "She is tying into an ethic that people like," Flaum says. "Hierarchical male
manufacturers are going to have a hard time."

   The trend toward female economic supremacy will be helped by wills and
testaments. As women become the majority of heads of households, they'll also be
more likely than men to receive family legacies.

   But Utopia is not upon us quite yet. Single parenthood will continue to
increase, although it will be less pathologized than of late. Many of these
parents will become what BrainReserve has dubbed "warrior parents" - mothers who
mistrust schools and health facilities and who question institutions.

   Meanwhile, out goes sisterhood (what, you missed it?) and in comes clanning.
Flaum translates: "Clanning refers to female alliances that act through groups."

   That may explain why there will be, we are told, a sharp increase in female
criminal behavior in general and in girl gangs in particular.

   Meanwhile, at the Henley Center for Forecasting in London, Sylvie Gagnot
says: "The social norms for gender roles are not as strong anymore. Now women
have more choice."

   This also means the end of the sad singleton. "The notion that single women
are desperate was widespread last year, but the flipside is choice," Gagnot
says.

   "No longer do women feel they have to stay with men they are not happy with,
or have pressure put on them to marry early."

   The concomitant masculinity "crisis" may have been overpainted, Gagnot
thinks. "It's the kind of confusion that happens at any time of change. Roles
are changing and it's disturbing."

   Yet 1999's glass ceiling will remain unbroken. "Figures show that while women
occupy higher ranks, management is still predominantly male. Female supremacy
tends to be in smaller companies."

   The consumer trend-spotters are being underwritten by millennial seers such
as Austin Repath, the "millennium pilgrim," who lectures on the 2000 effect.

   "Woman, or if I may, the feminine energy that is found in both men and women,
is emerging in a rapid and unprecedented way at this moment in history," he
says. "But it will not be a simple case of matriarchy replacing patriarchy.
Women will need to move beyond their anger towards men. There are millennia of
wrongs and pain that will not easily be exorcised."

   Repath advocates a therapeutic ritual process, perhaps "not dissimilar to
Bishop Tutu's Truth and Reconciliation Commission."

   He adds that that "the dark side of the feminine will need to be
acknowledged; women will be asked to take responsibility for it and use it
creatively."

   So, some advice for 1999 and beyond: if you can't be assertive, be a warrior;
launch a small and beautiful business; keep in with the clan; and acknowledge
your dark side.

   And may the force be with you.  

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