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作者:Erin Blakemore




策划:罗玉池 & 王雅婧

Supermarkets represented a major innovation in food distribution—a gendered innovation that encouraged women to find sexual pleasure in subordination.


Open up a vintage LIFE Magazine and you’ll find ads for cigarettes, cold cream, TV dinners: all the accoutrements of midcentury modern life, served up by chipper, attractive housewives. But among the advertisements are something else: ugly documents that bear witness to lives of the women who labored under stereotypes. The magazine’s famously stylish slice-of-life photojournalism often turned its lens on the American woman, and in the era of Howdy Doody and the space race, that woman could often be found dragging her feet (and her children) through her local grocery store.


chipper /ˈtʃɪpə(r)/ adj ( informal) cheerful and lively 生气勃勃的

cold cream thick white oily cream used for cleaning your face and making it softer 润肤膏或是洁面乳

译注1:TV dinners: A TV dinner in the United States usuallyconsists of a type of meat for the main course, and sometimes vegetables, potatoes, and/or a dessert. 诞生于上个世纪五六十年代,通常是一种速冻食品。

译注2:Howdy Doody was an American children’s televisionprogram (with circus and Western frontier themes). It was a pioneer in children’s television programming and set the pattern for manysimilar shows. 美国知名儿童节目。

Take Virginia Newcome, a housewife heralded as “the world’s busiest short-order cook” in a 1962 issue of the magazine. The spread documents the brief highs (a cup of coffee at the dinette, a moment at a candlelit dinner) and the gritty lows (rescuing her 18-month-old son from choking on a peanut shell, cleaning up a bowl an unseen child threw on the kitchen floor) of her life in St. Paul, Minnesota.

gritty /ˈɡrɪti/ adj. showing sth unpleasant as it really is (对消极事物的描述)逼真的,真实的,活生生的

Newcome’s epic struggle to feed her family—50 hours a week in her kitchen—is framed as a heroic act that just so happens to make her the perfect supermarket shopper. “Every vegetable has been cultivated to make Virginia reach out for it, every package designed to make her pluck it off the supermarket shelf,” the writer says. Newcome, according to LIFE, is the consumer equivalent of the chosen one, but she comes across as a frantic servant to her family’s endless, repetitive needs.

comes across if someone comes across in a particular way, they seem to have particular qualities 给人留下……的印象

Then there’s Gloria Tweten, a housewife whose 80-hour work week was documented in an August 1955 edition of LIFE. Housewives like Tweten are praised as “the largest, hardest-working, least-paid occupational group in the country,” and her struggles bear witness to the drudgery expected of a woman in the Atomic Age.


In every picture, Tweten is beset by screaming, twitching children or by her husband. In one photo, her husband snaps her into her girdle while her toddler writhes between them; in another, she stoops near the floor, mainlining coffee and smoking a cigarette while a neighbor’s child literally climbs up the wall behind her. Perhaps the most sobering photos in the story are a series of images showing Tweten attempting to subdue her children at the grocery store. As she shops with her small children, anguish, frustration, and humiliation are frozen on her face. “When I go marketing with the kids on Friday,” she tells the interviewer, “it’s a three-ring circus.”

snap /snæp/ v. to move into a particular position suddenly, making a short sharp noise, or to make something move like this.(使啪地)打开,关上,移到某位置
 /stuːp/ v. ~ (down) to bend your body forwards and downwards 俯身;弯腰

mainline /ˈmeɪnlaɪn/ v. (slang) to take an illegal drug by injecting it into a vein 静脉注射 (此处为一种比喻的手法)

three-ring circus

a place or situation that is confusing because there is too much activity. 比喻一种事情太多而手忙脚乱的状态。

This reality doesn’t exactly square with what we think of the 1950s and 1960s today—or with the lives LIFE sold American women. In advertising’s alternate reality, the supermarket wasn’t the site of an epic battle between mother and child. It was a place of consumption as sensual as it was satisfying.

Supermarkets were places where sexuality and gender strictures collided for American women.

Tweten, Newcome, and LIFE’s readership, however, lived in the real world—one that, by the 1950s, was largely defined by suburban landscapes. Supermarkets were one of the midcentury suburbs’ most important sites—structures as aspirational as they were practical.

aspirational /ˌæspəˈreɪʃənəl/ adj.

something that is aspirational is wanted by people because they connect it with wealth or success 令人渴望的,令人梦寐以求的.(文中强调这些建筑与财富相连而引人向往。

In the organized, well-lit aisles of America’s supermarkets, women could get lost in the color and splendor of perfectly merchandised fruits and an endless parade of brand names. And as historians like Tracey Deutsch and Adam Mack have documented, supermarkets were places where sexuality and gender strictures collided for American women.

Supermarkets weren’t always the massive retail destinations they are today. Until the 1930s, after all, they didn’t even exist. Before then, grocery shopping meant traveling from butcher to baker to greengrocer. Though there were some packaged goods, people bought most items in their original form and prepared them at home. If it sounds complicated, it was. Without modern conveniences like microwaves, dishwashers or even electric stoves, turning all of those raw products into food was exhausting and time-consuming.

It was also women’s work. Many, if not most, men never cooked a meal or shopped for a family’s food. Poor women were the nation’s home cooks—both for themselves and for the more affluent women whose lifestyles they enabled. Cooking was hot, tedious work, shopping a seemingly endless task, albeit one mediated by male clerks.

Inside general stores and at grocery stalls, women handed shopping lists to men, who sought out the necessary products behind the counter and inside their stalls. Food was meted out by men and paid for with money meted out by men.


A Piggly Wiggly grocery store interior (via Flickr/Allen)


There was nothing sexy about this early shopping experience. Food was often unseen, haggled for in a sloppy market. Whole animals, lumpy fruit, cartons filled with splinters, paper packaging that hid the contents within—shopping wasn’t exactly glamorous.

Then, just as the world turned upside-down, so did grocery shopping. First, markets morphed into a kind of omnibus farmer’s market-style setup. Then, in 1916, an entrepreneur named Clarence Saunders did away with almost everything his contemporaries thought of when they thought of shopping for food.

do away with somebody/something to get rid of something or stop using it. 摒弃,摆脱某物某事

Piggly Wiggly—now thought of as the first supermarket—was different than anything else of its age. Instead of clerks who doled out food, it had carefully organized shelves on which shoppers could find food for themselves. No haggling was necessary; like five-and-dime stores like Woolworth’s, Piggly Wiggly’s products were clearly marked with non-negotiable prices. The store’s fixtures were designed to make food appealing not just for its nutritional value, but its looks—a real innovation for the time.

five-and-dime a shop that sells many types of inexpensive goods. 专指一种廉价超市

译注1:小猪扭扭(Piggly Wiggly)诞生于1916年的美国田纳西洲,如文中所说,它彻底颠覆了以往商店的购物模式。1932年,处于鼎盛时期的“小猪扭扭超市”帝国拥有2660家门店。尽管如今小猪扭扭”超市已大不如前:仅在美国17个州拥有600家门店,但它所开创的自助购物理念已经征服了全世界。(引自腾讯网《过于超前,黯淡收场:无人商店还能走多远?》)

译注2:沃尔沃斯超市(Woolworth)创建于1924年,现为澳大利亚市场份额最大连锁超市之一。在其创始之初,便设立“廉价地下室”(Bargain Basement),以更低廉的价格销售一些陈旧或是有瑕疵的商品。在其之后的发展中,也强调以低价和退款保证吸引顾客。

Simultaneously, a revolution began in women’s kitchens. As the economy changed, fewer and fewer women entered domestic service. Concurrently, cooking became easier thanks to convenience products like frozen and canned foods and innovations like the refrigerator and gas stove. And as more and more women began to cook, affluent women headed to supermarkets.

During the Great Depression, supermarkets grew in popularity because of their bargain prices. So did worries about women’s behavior in those stores. The new supermarkets encouraged spectacle and unrefined grabbing at deals; they brought in poor women who needed discount groceries.

They also encouraged what some retailers characterized as animal-like behavior. Retailers were shocked that women wanted to elbow one another for good deals, buy canned foods, and (gasp!) shop at night. “Depression weary housewives enjoyed visiting the… markets,” wrote one retailer, “for the circusy, bizarre atmosphere that prevailed provided release for the suppressed emotions piled up within many women by the dreary monotony of depression days.”


A new aesthetic relied on psychological theories that women needed feminized spaces in which to shop.

That simply wouldn’t do, decided grocers. Besides, the stores couldn’t sustain their price-cutting wars in the long-term. And so they turned on their own customers, assuming that women’s orderly, feminine natures could help subdue the monster of their own creation.

turn on turn on somebody also turn upon somebody to suddenly attack someone, using physical violence or unpleasant words. 攻击某人

“A gendered order, not a price-shaving free-for-all, characterized these second-wave stores,” writes Deutsch. Stores began to pander to upper-class women to, in effect, create the customer they wanted to attract. They remade themselves in the model of the idealized woman—well-behaved, perky, submissive. Shopping became cleaner, brighter, and sexier.


From “Wild Animal Stores” to Women’s Sphere: Supermarkets and the Politics of Mass Consumption, 1930-1950, Business and Economic History Vol. 28, No. 1, Papers presented at the forty-fifth annual meeting of the Business History Conference (Fall 1999), pp. 143-153 (11 pages) Published by: Cambridge University Press

This new aesthetic relied on psychological theories that women needed feminized spaces in which to shop—spaces that could titillate and fascinate them while teaching them how to carry out their role as America’s main consumers of food. Clean and efficient, these stores relied on things like fluorescent lighting, carefully selected colors, and sound-absorbing floors designed to keep women’s eyes and ears on the seductive wonders of the food within.

Adam Mack tracks the astonishing ways in which supermarkets worked sex appeal into everyday shopping—whether through Muzak, carefully placed aromas, or the suggestion that male grocery store employees were there to serve them. Ads, like one that represented a housewife as a bikini-clad model squeezing a juicy tomato, writes Mack, “held out the image of the postwar housewife as a highly sexual being, but one who happily contained her desires within the confines of an institution—the supermarket—that helped her fulfill a conservative domestic role.”

Muzak continuous recorded music that is played in shops, restaurants, airports, etc. 米尤扎克背景音乐(常在商店、饭店、机场等地连续播放) 

hold out If you say that someone is holding out on you, you think that they are refusing to give you information that you want. 隐瞒 (信息)

译注:可参看Adam Mack, SPEAKING OF TOMATOES”: SUPERMARKETS, THE SENSES, AND SEXUAL FANTASY IN MODERN AMERICA, Journal of Social History Vol. 43, No. 4 (summer 2010), pp. 815-842 (28 pages) Published by: Oxford University Press

Mack notes that supermarkets were sites at which gender roles were reinforced, where women’s sexuality was contained and redirected. Midcentury supermarkets encouraged women to seek out sexual fulfillment not from their bodies, their partners, or their own lives, but from the subservient social roles to which they were bound.

Mack was not the first to pick up on the ways in which sex was used to fuel consumption. In 1963, Betty Friedan brilliantly broke down how American advertisers foisted restrictive gender roles on women in The Feminine Mystique. Using market research about American housewives, she revealed the tactics retailers used to shackle women through shopping.

pick up on to notice something about the way someone is behaving or feeling, even though they are trying not to show it. 意识到,注意到

译注:《女性的奥秘》(The Feminine Mystique)于1963年出版,被普遍视为20世纪最具影响力的书籍之一。本书揭示了20世纪五六十年代广大美国妇女的生活状态及普遍存在于她们身上的“无名”的精神问题。书中提到,女性的奥秘在学术上的定义是“女人的最高价值和唯一使命就是她们自身女性特征的完善;女人完美的本性只存在于男人主宰一切、女人在性方面温顺服从和对孩子施加母爱之中。追求事业的成就和接受高等教育会导致女子的男性化,会对丈夫、家庭、孩子都产生极其危险的后果。”这种定义虽然看似深奥神秘,其本质上只是要求每一位女性放弃接受高等教育的权利,放弃自己的职业,而成为一名职业家庭主妇。(维基百科)

“The manipulators have discovered that millions of supposedly happy American housewives have complex needs which home-and-family, love-and-children, cannot fill,” she wrote. “But by a morality that goes beyond the dollar, the manipulators are guilty of using their insights to sell women things which, no matter how ingenious, will never satisfy those increasingly desperate needs. They are guilty of persuading housewives to stay at home, mesmerized in front of a television set, their nonsexual human needs unnamed, unsatisfied, drained by the sexual sell into the buying of things.”

Supermarkets may seem like democratic bastions where all are welcome, but that wasn’t always the case.

Even today, Friedan’s words are chilling. And even today, the supermarket is the place where women are expected to enact their “second shift”—a still-unequal gender distribution of child-rearing and familial obligations like cooking and shopping. And women are still characterized as society’s most important consumers, even if their supposed earning prowess is now expressed in terms like “she-EO” instead of the doting “little lady” language used in the 50s. And they still have less money to spend—for instance, white women make about 80 cents for every dollar earned by a white man. The women who shop at modern supermarkets are expected to manage their family’s money while earning less of it.


The gap is even larger for women of color, and the same supermarkets that were built to contain the sexual urges of white women were designed to lock out African-Americans, Latinas, and others. Supermarkets may seem like democratic bastions where all are welcome, but that wasn’t always the case. As the historian Lizabeth Cohen notes, chain stores took longer to root themselves among working-class shoppers—and to become welcoming for members of ethnic groups like Jews, Italians, and Poles. Ever since their creation, supermarkets have bypassed majority-black neighborhoods, creating a kind of de facto redlining that still affects African Americans’ ability to access nutritious, inexpensive food.

redlining /ˈred laɪnɪŋ/

 n. the practice of refusing to give mortgage loans or insure properties in certain areas because of the race, social class etc of the people living there. 意指因为种族或是阶级等因素拒绝为一些人群提供贷款或是财产保护,文中是类比阻碍非洲裔美国人获得价低质优的食物。

译注:可参看Elizabeth Eisenhauer , In poor health: Supermarket redlining and urban nutrition, GeoJournal, Vol. 53, No. 2 (2001), pp. 125-133 (9 pages)

Women may yearn for a less oppressed future, but the piles of waxed apples, the orderly rows of boxes and bags, the muted music, and the fluorescent lights of modern grocery stores are all reminders that the structures in which we shop were built along strictly gendered lines. The surroundings may be sexy, but the reality is way closer to that of LIFE’s harried housewives than we might like to think.


JSTOR Daily提供了几篇相关阅读文献供读者选读:

1.《从“野生动物商店”到女性专属领域: 1930-1950年间的超市与大众消费政治》

By: Tracey Deutsch

Business and Economic History, Vol. 28, No. 1, Papers presented at the forty-fifth annual meeting of the Business History Conference (Fall 1999), pp. 143-153

Cambridge University Press

2. 《谈到番茄:现代美国的超市、感官与性幻想》

By: Adam Mack

Journal of Social History, Vol. 43, No. 4 (summer 2010), pp. 815-842

Oxford University Press

3. 《大众文化与草根的碰撞:20世纪20年代芝加哥工人的经历》

By: Lizabeth Cohen

American Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 1 (Mar., 1989), pp. 6-33

The Johns Hopkins University Press


By: Elizabeth Eisenhauer

GeoJournal, Vol. 53, No. 2 (2001), pp. 125-133



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