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Anne Norton: "The Signs of Shopping," pgs 104-110

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kay haughton

on 15 September 2014

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Transcript of Anne Norton: "The Signs of Shopping," pgs 104-110

Anne Norton: "The Signs of Shopping," pg's 104-110
Summary 1
Shopping at the Mall
Summary 2
Shopping at Home
Mail-order catalog
Home Shopping Network
"Shopping Mall"
Reading the Text
Close Reading: Quotes...
"Malls and catalogs are coded systems that not only encourage us to buy, more profoundly, help us to construct our very sense of identity." (104)
Reading the Text Answers
1. These public places where people go to shop are not just a place of escape but a place where people form and are taught identities based on different stores, clothing, and accessories placed in these stores. Owners also control what can be said and sold in their stores, and what it means to have certain types of clothing; this is why Anne Norton believes that these public places are not what they are cut out to be. She states, “As M.Pressdee and John Fiske note, however, though the mall appears to be a public place it is not. Neither freedom of speech nor freedom of assembly is permitted there. Those who own and manage malls restrict what comes within their confines.” (105).



2. Norton describes the “Ralph Lauren” line as expensive accessories that show signs of the rich upper class who can afford it. She describes how everyone from “the architecture critic at New York Times to kinds in the hall” knows what Ralph Lauren means by the symbols of horses, polo mallet and old photographs in the silver frame and that his line is meant to evoke upper class. This also causes the formation of identities because those who feel like they can buy these expensive clothing might feel superior to those who do not.



3. Norton furthermore describes how shopping can be considered a subversive activity for women back in the late 40s and 50s. Women back then were considered “housewives” who were supposed to cook, clean, and take care of children as their husbands worked. Norton describes how taking the bus and going to the stores, using their husbands money to buy things he doesn’t think she needs can be considered an act of rebellion or subversion; because “The housewife who shops for pleasure takes time away from her husband, family and her house, and claims it for herself.” (106).



4. In Norton’s view, mail order catalogs create communities of shoppers because they are permitting people to shop whenever they choose. On page 107 she says “Direct mail catalogues, with their twenty –four hour phone numbers for ordering, permit people to shop where and when they please.” It is further creating a “construction of identity for those who buy things” because catalogues use alluring pictures and words to capture a buyers attention. For example Norton describes the copy of a skirt that is captioned “Women’s Legs” and it is basically describing how the skirt could catch attention of a male who can’t keep his eyes off you.



5 . Norton describes how the Home Shopping Network frame some television screens with red, white and blue designs in order for the people watching this network to think they are devoted to America. Norton thinks that Home Shopping Networks send political messages to convince consumers that by buying these accessories and objects they are Americans who care about their country or they are “patriotic.” She also describes how The Nature Company endorses Earth Day and saving the world and that different things are offered to “save the world” she describes some of these things as “a string shopping bag, solar battery recharger, a home newspaper recycler.” By buying these commodities, Americans feel like they are “saving the Earth.”​

Quotes Cont'd...
"The window displays elaborate scenarios conveying not only what the garment is but what the garment means." (105)



"The home shopping network present its authorizes in an office conspicuously adorned with a picture of the statue of liberty." (110)
1. What does Norton mean when she claims that the suburban shopping mall appears to be a public place but in fact is not?

2. What is Norton's interpretation of Ralph Lauren's Polo line?

3. How is shopping a subversive activity for women, according to Norton?

4. How do mail-order catalogs create communities of shoppers. In Norton's view?

5. What are the political messages sent by the Home Shopping Network, as Norton sees them, and how are they communicated?
"The mall appears to be a public place, its not. Neither freedom of speech nor freedom of assembly is permitted there." (105)
In Anne Norton’s, "The Signs of Shopping", Anne Norton, a Political Science Professor at the University of Pennsylvania determines the ways in which malls, catalogs, and home shopping networks create our sense of “identity”. In the first part of her essay, “Shopping at the mall”, Anne analyzes the ways in which malls and catalogs “tell you who you are by selling you what they want.” Anne first states what she believes the mall was created to be; she believes it was created to be an impulsive gathering place and place of centralized public activity. Anne then goes on to state how she believes the mall has come to exploit the lifestyles and identities of people, especially those of young women. Anne makes the claim that the mall appears to be a public place, but in fact is not. It “seems” public because of the variety it appears to offer, however that “variety” is specifically chosen and designed by those who own and manage the stores in the mall. They put out what they want to put out, which ultimately shapes our identity because we aren’t really choosing for ourselves. “The mall exercises its thorough and discreet authority not only in the regulations of behavior but in the constitution of our visible, inaudible, public discourse. It is the source of those commodities through which we speak of our identities, our opinions, our desires.” (105). Anne also explains how this “identity” becomes especially developed for teenaged girls whose true identities have not yet been developed. These girls, “in prowling the mall they embed themselves in a lexicon of American culture(…) Stores hang a variety of identities on their racks and mannequins. Their window displays provide elaborate scenarios conveying not only what the garment is but what the garment means” (105). The next identity that Anne believes Shopping at the mall creates is the identity of the housewife. Back then, the practice of shopping was long considered the occasion in which women could “escape the confines of their homes and enjoy the companionship of other women.” Shopping created a consumer identity for women back then. They were no longer just homebodies, wives and mothers. They became subversive “troublemakers”, shopping and taking time away from their husbands and their families because they enjoyed shopping. Shopping was a woman’s happiness and with shopping, a woman was able to own her own property. “Their identities were made contingent not only on the possession of property but on the recognition of dependence (…) the housewife who shops for pleasure (…) claims it for herself (106).
By: Juilaina, Serena, and Kayshia
In the second part of her Essay, “Shopping at Home”; Anne states how shopping has conquered its physical limitations and that is, “one need no longer go to the store to shop.” Shopping, an activity that once required one to go out in public can now be done from home. Anne also states how catalogues have a role in shaping the identities of people because of how they target a particular audience. The catalog then advertised what they think that audience might like, think they like, want, or think they need. For example, Anne mentions The J. Peterman catalogue and how it, “constructs the reader as a man of rugged outdoor interests, taste, and money. He wears, “The Owner’s Hat” or “Hemmingway’s Cap,” a leather flight jacket or the classic “Horseman’s Duster,” and various other garments identified with military athlete, and European imperialism” (107). A good example of this same advertisement from the text is, “Some of us work on the plantation. Some of us own the plantation. Facts are facts. This hat is for those who own the planation.” This is how catalogues got people to shop from home. In the rest of the essay, Anne basically states, just as shopping at the mall constructs an identity for consumers, so does mail-order catalogs.
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