For many people, the word shopaholic conjures images of a colorfully-dressed, designer bag-laden young woman who is unable to peel her eyes away from the newest pair of Prada shoes. However, knowing what we now know about the origins and motivators that drive compulsive buying, we must begin to ask: why is this issue considered a women’s addiction?
Over the past few years, men’s spending habits have been investigated, and the result of this research is speaking for itself: not only do men overshop, but they often outspend women in certain commercial domains. According to an article in Tech News Daily, men outspend women on social game goods and there is evidence from a recent study by PayPal in England, that men are more likely to spend more online than women, come to the Internet to shop more than women, and buy things online, for example health and beauty products that are more traditionally associated with women’s purchasing. Dr. Barış Önen Ünsalver, a Turkish psychiatrist who specializes in this behavior, has recently published a book in which she characterizes shopaholism through a decidedly ungendered lens.
With case study after case study appearing in our media (see The Sun’s article, “Confessions of a Male Shopaholic”), the cat is finally creeping out of the bag. Compulsive spending is no more specific to women than it is to handbags or bracelets. In a world of highly sophisticated advertising and a deeply powerful consumer culture, it comes as no surprise that both men and women are overspending in the hope that they are purchasing what they really need: be it an improved self-image, a more luxurious lifestyle, or even simply the ability to keep up with the spending that the see going on around them.
In The Sun article, the stories of Huw, Ollie, and Chris show us something a little different about the way men spend. While female shopaholism is characterized as the “smiled upon” addiction (picture a woman with her nose pressed to a store window—not hard to do, is it?), a growing body of literature on male shopping behavior shows that men spend in more covert ways. From online spending to sneaking out of the house to snap up a new pair of jeans, men’s overspending habits seem to be skulking under the stigma that this “shopaholic club” is girls-only.
Hopefully, with greater and greater numbers of men coming out of the shopping closet to talk about their spending, this stigma will start to fall away, giving both men and women the opportunity to see that they are not alone, and that their overshopping habits are a misguided attempt to close the gap between their real and their ideal selves rather than their gender.