It's Mother's Day! Buy Some Things!

It's Mother's Day! Buy Some Things!

Companies market increasingly expensive gifts for Mother's Day

Every single holiday, online vendors come up with boatloads of suggestions for gift ideas. After all, you're not a good daughter/son/wife/husband/parent/etc. unless you prove your love with expensive products. It's a guilt-triggering technique used by all sorts of companies to sell their wares. And for Mother's Day, they've got a whole new range of manipulative gift recommendations.

I find it strange that even a more minor gift-giving holiday like Mother's Day is now being held to the same standards as the more intensive winter purchasing season. On its front page, the Barnes & Noble website insists that you treat your mother to "the best" in the form of their expensive full-color e-reader. Seems like flowers and cards don't cut it anymore. And if you don't have the cash to shell out for a Nook, maybe you're just not a very good daughter.

At least Barnes & Noble is shying away from gender stereotypes by recommending tech gadgets for mothers. The Nook is a genderless product, equally marketed to men and women. Target also seems to want you to buy your mother technology this year. Their weekly ad features holiday-specific savings on an e-reader, a digital camera, and the latest iPod Nano. Granted, they bolster their ad presentation with a saturated pink background, just in case all the gadgetry made you forget that you were, in fact, shopping for a woman. 

Not all company sites are quite so forward-thinking. Macy's features a Mother's Day gift guide whose categories include jewelry, beauty and fragrance, handbags, and "for the home." No tools or technology here--it seems the famous department store remains more domestic and traditionally gendered. I suppose most of the products that Macy's carries are more typically feminine to begin with, so no real surprises there. 

Maybe some companies are becoming more progressive, fostering the notion that women can enjoy the same sort of products as men. Despite some traditional gift guides, there are fewer and fewer ads for things like home products, makeup, fragrance, and jewelry across the internet. Of course, the motive for this trend is almost certainly corporate and not feminist. Technology brings in the big bucks, and people who buy gadgets for Mother's Day will be spending more money than those who stick with traditional gifts. Encouraging pricey presents drives profits, and many products that are both expensive and popular happen to be gender-neutral. The smoothing out of gender discrepencies in gift suggestions seems to be a side effect of a bid for corporate profit, not an end in itself. 

It's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it feels good to see companies trying to sell technology to women. It implies, on one level, that we're equal to men in our ability to purchase and use the latest gadgets. On the other hand, I dislike the growing trend of increasingly expensive gifts becoming the norm for gift-giving holidays. There's an implicit guilt hurled at children and fathers who can't afford to buy the latest technology. It's another example of poor-shaming, driving in the idea that previously standard, inexpensive gifts are inadequate expressions of love. In a society where affection is often implicitly measured in dollars, poorer families lack the resources to compete. Of course, not everyone buys into the assumption that more money equals more love, but companies are still working fervently to further the notion. 

Corporate America may be trying to raise our standards, but I think my mother will be content that I went the traditional Mother's Day gift-giving route. She's a progressive lady, but she tends to be perfectly content with traditional gifts. How about you? Will you be giving gender-neutral gifts this Mother's Day, or will your mothers be receiving the standard flowers?