You may have witnessed a new trend prevalent among young women on university campuses and in the densely populated areas of the city. Perhaps it is the case that this trend extends beyond those boundaries. I would be interested if you could let me know. In any case, these young women purchase at least one product from a fairly expensive active wear company named “Lululemon.” During the time of purchase the product is placed into a branded “Lululemon” clothe bag. These bags look similar to the reusable bags you might buy for 99 cents at any Canadian grocery store. The only difference, of course, is the branding. There are many cases of women purchasing these bags off of other people who have purchased the product (e.g., through Kijiji, etc).
After all of this, the bag is placed in public view. It is hoisted upon the library or cafe table, held in the hand rather than placed in the empty book-bag, and so on. It does not seem to ever touch the floor. It is elevated, we might say, to the status of THE ‘thing.’ Frequently, the bags are empty, or a small item is placed inside as a token. This indicates to me that the function of the bag is not important. Rather, the importance of the bag is in the way it is both elevated to the status of the ‘thing’ and used to entice the onlooker. The message that is being sent by those who carry the bag is the following: I am a part of the group of women who shop at this store, I am active, and, moreover, I am a certain type of woman. It is the association with femininity through the bag which seems important.
You may recall the dreams of Dora. Freud recounts one of the elements of one such dream in the following discussion:
“’[…] Does nothing else occur to you in connection with the jewel-case? So far you have only talked about jewellery and have said nothing about the case. […] Perhaps you do not know that ‘jewel-case’ is a favourite expression for the same thing that you alluded to not long ago by means of the reticule you were wearing – for the female genitals, I mean.’”
Dora’s dream indicated, among other things, that there was a neurotic question hidden in the depths of the dream: “What am I as a woman?” It is a question posed to the big Other, the more formulaic inscription being “what am I to the Other?”
Isn’t it the case that today we are witnessing the quick retreat of traditional gender roles. It is not puzzling to presume that with such speed of transition, such intensity of integration of the gender spectrum, and so on, there remains something difficult to grasp concerning, finally, the traditional question which remains unresolved. It is during a time of quick retreat from the traditional gender system that we discover fleeting resurgences of hyper-identification via the symptom. The hipster beard, flannel shirts, and thick moustaches, are the hipsters’ attempt to recreate the lost phallic signifier. And the Lululemon bag is perhaps an indication of a resurgence and ever more forceful and desperate attempt to return to and hence resolve the question of femininity. This is my claim. When we submerge the question it returns as a symptom. In this case, it is the imaginary object of the bag which provides a refuge for the missing symbolic function.