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Media Critique

Pre-Women's Movement Society Preseved at Circuit City

The archaic saying goes that a woman is either a wife or a whore. Despite the progressive efforts of Susan B. Anthony and Gloria Steinem, modern American women can only be wives at Circuit City. In the electronics retail giant's recent television commercials, women are ignored completely or reduced to opinionless, sweater-set clad companions to their wallet-carrying husbands.

The socially aware TV viewing public may have sensed things were going awry in the commercial that featured several white males, in the 25-40 year old demographic, camping out in front of a newspaper vending kiosk in anticipation of the deliveryman. The viewer is treated to a shot of one of the men on lookout patrol staring out in anticipation similar to that of a child before Christmas morning. The ad climaxes when this alpha male tears through the freshly delivered newspaper and opens it to the Circuit City ad with an orgasmic energy similar to that of Clairol's nauseating Herbal Essences shampoo spots.

Illustration by Ruchika Gandotra

But Circuit City hit a definite low by airing a commercial that showed a man shopping for satellite television. The white male (in the 25-40 age range, of course) is talking "shop" with a Circuit City salesperson that, conveniently, also happens to be male. The customer asks how many sports channels are provided by the service, and the salesman gives him a reply that he likes. But, once he notices the customer's wife approaching, the salesman slyly discusses the educational channels that come with the service. Hearing this, the wife complacently smiles and walks away, leaving her husband, whom the viewers can only assume is in charge of the money, to make the important purchase decisions.

Many moderate Americans may find such faults with Circuit City's ads to be trivial. Unfortunately for half of America, Circuit City's machismo attitudes are not reserved solely for their commercials.

While shopping for a laptop I was completely neglected by the male employees at the Downers Grove Circuit City. As one of the few customers in the warehouse-like store, I noticed that the workers in the red shirt, khaki pants uniform had little to do. Exhibiting all of the interest signals that a trained retailer should acknowledge, I examined the spec labels and toyed around with the keyboard of a particularly sleek IBM Thinkpad.

Alas, I was never greeted. But this snubbing was not an isolated incident. Despite this discouraging experience, I purchased a palm pilot/personal digital assistant from Circuit City to reaffirm my faith in technology. But my new toy did not last very long. I found myself yet again in the doors of the formidable retailer in order to return my malfunctioning PDA. This is where things soured. Although I had purchased a $20 service plan with my palm pilot, I was bluntly told by the "service" representative that my only options were to wait for a new palm pilot of the same model to come in or upgrade to color. Several weeks went by and after multiple phone calls I was still without a working palm pilot. I had reverted to my former ways of writing with pen and paper and just wanted my money back.

Enter stubborn Irish personality: I spent two hours arguing with a man whose "manager" badge lended him a false sense of authority. As someone with years of experience in high end retail, I told him, I would never make my customers wait around for a mythological "shipment" or pay another $150 as an "upgrade" to a piece of plastic with a circuit board that could display my address book in color. Needless to say, I got every penny back, including the crackpot $20 service plan. Circuit City would be wise to use my experience as a demographic study: We stubborn girls are out there, like our technology just as much as men, and don't take no for an answer.

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