Packing Delirium

August 6, 2009 § 9 Comments

Right now I am undergoing the laborious (and ridiculously exciting!!!) task of packing up my belongings to take to my first year of college. I’ve noticed that, like many young women my age, I have a lot of fucking clothing. Not just clothing. I just have a lot of stuff. When comparing packing notes with my future classmate who happens to be a guy, I learned that he is packing way less stuff than me.

While this opening could go in many directions, I’ll probably choose the least rational, least evocative and least coherent one because I am that tired of packing. Here goes:

I’m sure many of you feminists are familiar with the theory about the implications of female and male standards of beauty- females are encouraged to be thin, to disappear, while males are encouraged to take up as much space as possible. This is how society wants us. In my packing, I cannot help but wonder- is the reverse true for material goods? Are women supposed to take up as much space as possible with our belongings? Are we making up for society’s pull for us to be nothing by having as much stuff as possible?

My packing delirium leads me to believe that a lot of the reason women tend to have more clothes, accessories, etc. is a tie to domesticity. Perhaps society wants us to take up a lot of room, not with our bodies, but with our stuff at home. Maybe we are bound with more strength to our homes because of all of these belongings. Do our clothes mark our territory? Do men often ‘travel light’ because, according to our culture, they should not be tied down to one town, and certainly not to one household?

Obviously it would be a stretch to draw very many conclusions like these without researching properly, and even then it probably wouldn’t make much sense. I just thought I’d let you in to see my packing-induced crazy talk.

§ 9 Responses to Packing Delirium

  • Zippa says:

    I don’t know about the conclusions, but I know that I repeatedly “had to bring” a lot more stuff to represent myself than my male friends did. I had a box of stuff that I never even unpacked but couldn’t bring myself to not bring on every one of my 14 college-era moves.

  • mirandanyc says:

    I think a part of it is that we’re encouraged to take up space with our stuff, but not with the substance of our bodies or minds. Men have power simply from being, but we have to collect objects to be seen.

  • Caroline says:

    Oh, god, just the memories of packing freshman year are enough to send me into fits. Good luck!

    I’d be careful about thinking “all men” “all women”. My brother always took (and had) more stuff for college than I do. I also starting taking a LOT LESS after my freshman year, it’s amazing how much less is deemed “necessary” when you are living in a small room with another person.

    Many boys care less about their space? A male friend of mine lived in a room with blank walls, blank mattresses, dirty clothes everywhere, all of which makes a small impersonal space seem just that way. As opposed to my female friends, who plaster the wall with pictures and photos. Does this have to do with the levels of being observant?

    I think you make an interesting point, I want to poll all my male and female friends at college this year. :)

  • Tim Willmott says:

    I think this might also tie in to capitalist culture – with the traditional roles being men as workers and women as consumers (ie. men earn money, women spend it). Capitalism requires a lot of frivolous spending to prop up the system, so encouraging women to accumulate material goods has traditionally been an effective way to keep things ticking over.

  • Kate says:

    The answer is yes. All you have to do is go to the mall to see it in plain sight. How many stores are for women vs. Men? Watch TV, how many advertisements are directed at Women vs. Men? Women also do have the whole nesting instinct going on, they want to make their space their own… I think we tend to be more sentimental about things like photos and mementos as well. All of that = A lot of crap!

  • joelfrominwood says:

    Kind of jumping off Tim’s point, let’s not forget the array of industries all allied in the effort to make people feel insufficient and incomplete without material goods. Male-identified people are not immune to this, but I think it’s a fair generalization that women have been targeted by this psychological assault with a bit more ferocity.

    As a parallel, one only has to look at the performing arts world. An ‘ugly’/short/fat/balding male? Well they’re a character actor. An ‘ugly’/short/fat/balding(?) female? Unemployed or extremely lucky.

    Or look at the work women need to undertake to look ‘normal’, with makeup, hair maintenance, and the whole deal. I probably ought to shave, but the social reprisal is minimal compared to what it is for a woman.

    • ruthelizabeth says:

      Thanks for all these comments! I feel like I’m getting my brain back in shape at a really good time in the summer. I definitely agree with all of the points, it’s obviously a very complicated issue, and perhaps I made too many generalizations in the original post. These generalizations were based on gender stereotypes though, which are definitely part of the issue. overpacking is definitely considered a feminine quality, and I would imagine that many men get insulted for doing it, just as women (i know first hand) get judged for not having enough clothing.

      with all of this said, I FIT EVERYTHING IN THE TRUNK OF OUR SEDAN. woooohooooooooo!

  • ekswitaj says:

    Part of it too is how much stuff is required for women to fit social beauty standards. How many women have extra pairs of shoes not because they looooove shoe shopping but because they know they’re expected to have outfits that match from top to bottom?

  • Goodfriend says:

    I just got home from traveling in South East Asia with my mom for 6 weeks, and all we had with us for the entire time was just 2 (school sized) backpacks each. While comparing notes with other travelers along the journey we ended up packing lighter than just about everyone we met (which we are incredibly proud of) – except for this one guy who just had 1 day pack for 2 months (he didn’t buy any souvenirs)… so this just goes to show that of course there are always exceptions to every ‘rule’ :)

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