token girl: like a girl, but better

Friday, 22 July 2005

'we will still shop because we can't change the world'

while everyone else left their offices early and got the hell home, i hung around the west end. after work i ambled down tottenham court road, by now transformed by police tape into a pedestrianised boulevard and hummed along merrily to kim wilde on my pod.

i was on my way to the ica for a debate on shopping entitled 'She's Gotta Have It'. The esteemed panel comprised Elaine Showalter, writer and critic, and Professor Emerita of English at Princeton University; Alexandra Shulman, editor, British Vogue; Rachel Bowlby, author, Shopping with Freud. helicopters roared over the mall outside the wide open windows, but the speakers just leaned in closer to their microphones and for an hour and a half shopping really was the most important thing in the whole world.

i sat shoulder-to-shoulder with phoebe in self-possessed defiance and listened carefully. there is an idea, Rachel Bowlby said, that throughout modern history, the image of the fashionable woman is a signifier of her Age or in the translated words of Baudelaire, 'The Painting of Modern Life'. this is a validation of the oft-dismissed art of aesthetic image-making. shopping, she explained was a way for women to enter and possess, at least temporarily, urban spaces.

the first department stores were our playing fields, and while i would never condone indulgence in the competitive shopping habits championed by grazia and H*ppy, shouldn't we be allowed to have our fun?

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