Are We Missing the Ms.?


Beverlee B. Anderson (1972) ,"Are We Missing the Ms.?", in SV - Proceedings of the Third Annual Conference of the Association for Consumer Research, eds. M. Venkatesan, Chicago, IL : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 436-445.

Proceedings of the Third Annual Conference of the Association for Consumer Research, 1972      Pages 436-445


Beverlee B. Anderson, University of Kansas

[This research was supported in part by the School of Business Research Fund, University of Kansas.]

[Beverlee B. Anderson is Assistant Professor of Business Administration, The University of Kansas.]

In 1963 Betty Friedan's book, The Feminine Mystique, was published. This marked the beginnings of the Women's Liberation Movement. Since that time much has been written about the Liberated Woman. Traditional women's magazines have featured articles on the working woman and new roles for women. Widely read magazines such as Life and Time have devoted entire issues to woman's changing role in society and her liberation from household duties.

As this movement has gained momentum various organizations have formed to spearhead some of the issues involved in the liberation. Membership in organizations such as NOW, WHEAL, Women's political Caucus and Women's Coalition has had tremendous growth. This indicates that more and more women are becoming concerned about the role of women in society. Many women are beginning to question the traditional roles they have been playing and the functions they have been performing.

These changing attitudes toward the role of the woman have presumably led to changing "self-concepts" of the women who have joined the liberation movement. Various researchers have studied the relationship between self-image and actions, including purchase behavior (Grubb and Hupp, 1968; Grubb, 1965; and Grubb and Grathwohl, 1967). The positive relationships between self-image and purchase behavior have led some researchers to claim that the self-concept is a meaningful mode of market segmentation.

If a woman who considers herself a liberated woman has a different self-concept than her non-liberated sisters, it is possible that her behavior patterns are different. These differences could then serve as a basis for market segmentation.


To explore the possible behavioral differences between liberated and nonliberated women, personal interviews were conducted with 139 women in their homes. The respondents were selected from two sampling frames in Lawrence and Topeka, Kansas. One frame was a listing of all women employed by the State of Kansas in Topeka or the University of Kansas in Lawrence. One-half of the respondents were selected at random from this list. The remaining respondents were randomly selected from the telephone directories of Lawrence and Topeka, Kansas. Although the first sample frame is a subset of the second, no duplications occurred.

All respondents were between the ages of 18 and 75. Data was not collected on race; however, several of the respondents were considered to be minority group members. The average level of education was high school graduate, but the range was from sixth-grade education to the completion of a Ph.D.

The respondents were classed as "liberated," "not-liberated," or "undecided." This classifying was done by a question at the end of the interview in which each respondent was asked if she considered herself to be a liberated woman. The self-identification technique was used because it is believed that as a self-concept, there is no objective method which can be used to identify a woman as being liberated. This belief was supported by this research when it was found that liberated/non-liberated was not significantly related to 1) whether a woman works outside the home; 2) a woman's age; or 3) her level of education. .It was interesting to note that several older women, with an average level of education, who had never worked outside the home, considered themselves to be liberated. This is certainly in conflict with the stereotyped women's libber characterized by many articles.

Four areas of purchase behavior are explored in this research. These areas are 1) the shopping trip, 2) store preference patterns, 3) awareness or use of new products and 4) product information sources. These are areas where it was thought the liberated woman may be significantly different from other women.


The trip to the grocery store has been a traditional role of the woman for many years. As role concepts change, it is possible that the trip to the grocery store is no longer the primary responsibility of the woman or perhaps this role is now shared with her spouse. To explore the behavior of the shopping trip, three aspects of the trip were examined, 1) the,number of trips per week to the grocery store, 2) the number of grocery stores patronized on a regular basis, and 3) companions on shopping trips.

Trips per Week

If the liberated woman was less inclined to feel the trip to the grocery store was her responsibility, then it was thought that perhaps she would make fewer trips per week than would the non-liberated women. Table 1 shows the average number of trips to the grocery store per week for the respondents. The figures show that most women tended to make only one trip per week to the grocery store. However, the chi-square statistic of 9.96 is significant at the .10 level. It is found that the liberated women tend to make more trips to the grocery store per week than was expected. Table 1 shows the observed and expected frequencies on the average number of trips per week.



These findings tend to refute the hypothesis that the liberated woman would make fewer trips to the grocery store per week than would other women. Since this question did not differentiate between major shopping trips and fill-in trips, lt is possible that the liberated woman tends to make more fill-in trips, or it may be that she tends to buy in smaller quantities than other women, buying only what she needs rather than stocking her shelves.

Number of Grocery Stores Patronized

Some women like to do all of their grocery shopping at one store, while other women like to "shop around" at several stores in the area. It was thought that there may be a relationship between number of stores patronized and a woman's self image. Approximately 74 percent of the respondents shopped at only one store, while the remaining shopped at more than one. The chi-square statistic of .89 for 2 degrees of freedom is not significant, therefore, it is doubtful that there is any relationship between a woman's self image and the number of stores she patronizes. Table 2 shows this finding.



Companions on Shopping Trips

Some women are independent and like to go shopping alone, while other women prefer to have companions on shopping trips. Since many liberated women are thought of as being more independent than other women, it was thought that the self-identified liberated women may tend to shop alone.

About half of the respondents (67) went shopping alone, while 72 of the respondents had companions on their shopping trips. When comparing the companions of liberated and other women, it is found that the liberated women are just as likely to have companions on their shopping trips as are the nonliberated or undecided women.

Of the 72 women who said they did have companions on shopping trips, it was found that the majority of these women went with their husbands or children. Very few of the respondents went shopping with friends or relatives. However, there does not appear to be any relationship as to a woman's liberated status and her choice of companions on a shopping trip. Table 3 shows the frequencies of various companions on shopping trips.

The findings indicate that when examining shopping trip behavior, the number of trips per week to the grocery store is the only area where we find a significant difference between the self-identified liberated women and other women. The other two aspects of the shopping trip analyzed, number of stores patronized and companions on shopping trips, do not show significant differences between the liberated and other women




There are many evaluative criteria a woman may use in -choosing the grocery store she will patronize. The relative importance of seven criteria were examined in relation to store preference. The seven criteria evaluated were: 1) location, 2) prices, 3) large assortment, 4) store personnel, 5) quality of meat and/or produce, 6) efficiency and speed of shopping, and 7) store decor. These seven items were rated on a 1-6 Likert Scale with a 1 being extremely important and a 6 being extremely unimportant.

Of the seven factors examined, prices and quality of meat/produce were the most important criteria in store patronage while store personnel and store decor were the least important.

Table 4 shows the relative importance of each of the factors and the chi-square statistic when the ratings of the three liberation classifications are compared. The only factors which had significant chi-square statistics were location and speed and efficiency. Tables 5 and 6 show the responses of the various classifications of women on these factors.

Location as a factor is more important than expected to the "undecided women," while it is less important than expected to the non-liberated women. Speed and efficiency also appear to be more important to the liberated women. When considered together, these two factors indicate that the non-liberated women are probably less concerned about convenience and speed of shopping than are other women. This could be explained by the possibility that the nonliberated woman considers the trip to the grocery store to be an important part of her role; therefore, she is not so concerned about speed and convenience






On the assumption that liberated women may be more "venturesome" (Rogers, 1962, p. 189) than other women, it was thought that they may be more likely to have heard of and purchased new products. To examine this possibility the respondents were asked if they had heard of or purchased seven new products which are carried in grocery stores. At the time of this survey, all products had been on the market for less than four weeks. The seven new products tested were: Max Pax, Aires Tissues, Armour Taco Meat Spread, Stretch and Seal, Campbell's Chunky Soup, Soft Plus Fabric Conditioner, and Corn Diggers. It was thought that these products covered a range of products normally purchased at the grocery store; therefore, were representative of new grocery products.



Aggregating all seven new products it is found that there is no significant difference between liberated ant other women in their awareness of or purchase of new products. Table 7 illustrates these findings.



Apparently the liberated women are no more likely to have heard of or be innovators with new grocery products than are women in general.

When each of the new products was analyzed individually, Max Pax and Chunky Soup had significant chi-square statistics. With Max Pax, fewer than expected non-liberated women had heard of the product, while more than expected "undecided" women had heard of the product. When analyzing the Soup finding, a different pattern emerges. With this product fewer than expected undecided women had purchased the soup, while more than expected non-liberated women had purchased the soup. Both of these differences concern the nonliberated and the "undecided" women, rather than the liberated women. So, regardless of the products tested, the liberated women did not tend to be more likely to have heard of or purchased these products than other women.


There are many sources of information available to the consumer today. Research has shown that not necessarily the same sources are used for finding out about new products and getting a consumer interested in trying a new product (Robertson, 1971, p. 155). For this reason, two aspects of information sources were examined: those which are most important in finding out about a new item on the market and the importance of information sources in getting a person interested in trying a new item for the home. Six information sources were analyzed in this research, magazine advertising, friends and relatives, co-workers. television advertising, newspaper advertising and neighbors.

Finding Out About A New Product

Table 8 shows the relative importance of each information source in finding out about a new product. Friends and relatives and TV advertising were ranked very closely in relative importance by the respondents. One possible explanation why co-workers ranked so low is that not all of the respondents worked outside the home; therefore, many of the respondents did not have any co-workers with whom they could identify.

The chi-square statistics in Table 8 indicate the statistics which were found when comparing the importance of each information source among the three liberated classifications. Magazine advertising was the only information source where there was a significant difference between the three groupings of women. Table 9 shows these frequency distributions.

The analysis of Table 9 shows that liberated women tend to consider magazine advertising less important than expected while the undecided women tended to rate it more important than expected. The analysis of TV advertising, although not significant, tends toward similar findings. It appears that the liberated woman does not consider TV and Magazine Advertising, two of the most important marketing dominated information sources, as important as women who do not consider themselves to be liberated. It may be that she is a little less attentive to advertising messages, or she may tend to give less credence to them.

Interested in Trying a New Item

The relative importance of each of the six information sources in getting a person interested in trying a new item are shown in Table 10. Friends and relatives and TV advertising are rated as the most important information sources in this analysis. Magazine and newspaper advertising are considered to be the least important sources.





The significant differences between groups of women as related to friends and relatives and TV advertising are attributable to differences between the non-liberated and undecided groupings of women. In both instances, the undecided women tended to rate these information sources less important than expected, while the non-liberated women rated these sources more important than expected.

Even though there were some significant differences among the groups and evaluations of the importance of information sources, it cannot be said that liberated women tend to use different information sources than do other women. So from a practical standpoint of market segmentation, it seems unlikely that we could segment these women on the basis of the information sources they use.




In this research self identification as a liberated or non-liberated woman was used as a surrogate indicator for self image in the hopes that a relationship would exist between self-image and purchase behavior. This information could then possibly be used as a basis for market segmentation. The results of this exploratory research were not clear cut. It appears that there are some differences between the liberated woman and other women, such as the number of grocery trips per week and importance of some factors in choosing the store they will patronize. However, the reasons for these differences are not explained by this research. As exploratory research, this has just scratched the surface of some possible differences among women.

Liberation is not an absolute, but a continuum; therefore, by treating liberation as an absolute, it is possible that the differences in the extreme positions on liberation are clouded by the more moderate women. In future research, a scale or continuum would probably be a better instrument for measuring liberation, if a unidimensional measure is used.

It is also possible that a multidimensional measure of views on women's liberation would give a more accurate picture of a woman's self image. Future research in this area would probably be more fruitful if a multidimensional measure was used and if attitudes toward shopping as well as behavior were studied.


Grubb, E. L. Consumer perception of 'self concept' and its relationship to brand choice of selected product types. Proceedings, Winter Conference, American Marketing Association, 1965, 419-422.

Grubb, E. L. & Grathwohl, H. L. Consumer self-concept, symbolism and market behavior: a theoretical approach. Journal of Marketing, 1967, 31, 22-27.

Grubb, E. L. & Hupp, G. Perception of self, generalized stereotypes and brand selection. Journal of Marketing Research, Feb., 1968, 58.

Rogers, E. M. Diffusion of innovations. New York: The Free Press, 1962, 189.

Robertson, T. S. Innovative behavior and communication. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Inc., 1971, 155.



Beverlee B. Anderson, University of Kansas


SV - Proceedings of the Third Annual Conference of the Association for Consumer Research | 1972

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