As marketers, as Americans, as humans, we long for simplicity. When faced with complex concepts, that often include contradictions we immediately reach for our virtual gardening shears (the big ones that require two hands) and start lopping (can you tell I've been pruning my rose bushes back...). This make sense as simple is both communicable and actionable and ultimately, we all want to get stuff done. However, increasingly, it is an approach you pursue at your own peril. Forget just today's women (I have yet to attend a conference where research on women is presented where the vast majority doesn't make us sound like we are all selfless givers who put everyone else first, drive out of our way to recycle, and write checks to non-profits in lieu of shoes and make-up) tomorrow's are even less easily definable. In this NY Times piece, Peggy Orenstein points out the complexity of understanding what appropriate "girl" behavior even means today (for boys we are holding at: don't get caught playing with girl stuff) and how this generation of mothers, who learned that "you can do anything" translated to "you will do everything," is still negotiating the messages they want to pass on to their own daughters. Hillary Clinton's ongoing attempts to strike the right feminine balance is citied at the beginning of the article as the real-life illustration of this paradox. She's also examined in this Wall Street Journal article by Peggy Noonan, which asks if Mrs. Clinton even has the capacity to lose gracefully. The theory is that she has not spent much time on the losing end over the course of her life, so either she will discover some previously unimaginable reservoir of grace or her head will explode (my words, not Noonan's).
This Either/Or analysis doesn't give enough credit to the complexity of the world's most analyzed woman today (Britney Spears notwithstanding) and it's not an approach that should be taken when trying to understand your own female customers. Whether they love her or hate her, those who write about Hillary most often choose to reduce her to simple terms and ignore any of her characteristics or behaviors that don't support their conclusion. More of a woman or less of one because [fill in the blank]... Guess what, this is just the tip of the iceberg. As women continue to graduate in greater numbers and have children both sooner and later and flow in and out of the workforce, we as marketers will have to come to terms with the fact that a) broad categorization and cute catch phrases - soccer mom, hot mom, etc. - are archaic and woefully inadequate; b) contradictions are inherent and not to be ignored.
Get used to Grey. It's the new Pink.