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Western cosmetics in the gendered development of consumer culture in China


  • Barbara Hopkins


This paper examines the changes in China's gender regime during the reform period, especially during China's accession to the WTO. The analysis provides a framework to relate these changes to the consumption behavior of women, especially the increased consumption of cosmetics, to interpret the impact of accession on the gender regime in China. Institutionalist theories that model consumption decisions as a personal display of group identity are extended to the special case of gender identity. According to this framework, the desire to display identity, such as social status or lifestyles, shapes the decision to consume commodities that also display gender such as cosmetics. Thus, the new gender regime is an unintended consequence of a complex pursuit of identity. When consumption is understood as a performance of identity, we can see how the expansion of aggressive marketing tactics affects consumption by influencing the associations of goods with social status.

Suggested Citation

  • Barbara Hopkins, 2007. "Western cosmetics in the gendered development of consumer culture in China," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(3-4), pages 287-306.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:femeco:v:13:y:2007:i:3-4:p:287-306
    DOI: 10.1080/13545700701439416

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    More about this item


    Consumption; gender; identity politics; JEL Codes: P36; B52; B54;

    JEL classification:

    • P36 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions - - - Consumer Economics; Health; Education and Training; Welfare, Income, Wealth, and Poverty
    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • B54 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Feminist Economics


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