Consumption and gender: a late-Wittgensteinian view
Digital media SIFO Oslo, Norway
This paper uses female e-gaming as an intake for a theoretically oriented discussion on how to understand the relationship between gender and consumption. Data from ongoing research shows that young men play a great deal more ICT games then young women. In this respect it is a masculine activity. However, figures from other sources show that grown women constitute a substantial part of gamers. One plausible explanation for this variation is that gaming for women is not so much a ludic activity as it is a relational one - playing is a means for relating to male friends and later with their children. In this sense digital gaming is turned into a feminine practice. This contradiction is used as an intake to a critical scrutiny of what we mean by "masculine" and "feminine" and a recasting of our understanding of how we deal with persons in social analysis. What kind of ontological status do we accord "masculine" and "feminine"? Are they stable realities that exist outside their manifestations in actual persons? Are they essential aspects of gendered individuality? I argue that a radical practice perspective, founded on Wittgenstein´s late philosophy, implies that we must rid ourselves of langue-like explanatory forces. Consumption is practice, always context-specific and hence has different meanings in different language-games. In this view there is no "basic", essential meaning to things or processes. This implies that we cannot search for essential, authentic (gendered) identities. Rather, we must look for context-specific identity-work, understanding persons as collections of dividualities. The analytical consequence of this is that we must approach both consumption and gender inductively by carefully studying what kind of consumption that can be said to be gendered statements, how it is expressed, and what it means in various contexts. From this empirical foundation we should be able to provide more nuanced analyses of the relationship between gender and consumption.