The thing about stories about domestic violence is that they start with the same plot and props as any romance.
A home, fat with the kind of objects that department stores catalogue as ‘household essentials’ but sell to us as totems. Plates as promises of intimate feasts. Bath towels to coordinate a neat, his ‘n’ hers life. Coffee machines with lifetime warranties. Things aren’t things but shelf-sized vehicles towards a domestic ideal.
It’s powerful then, how The Give Registry from (Aussie department store) Myer and The Salvation Army borrows the format of a wedding gift wish list to procure donations for victims of domestic abuse. Go online and you can buy household items for women not heading for honeymoons but fleeing their homes because the things inside it – once harbingers of happiness – were used to hurt them. Kettles as weapons. Plates and dreams broken.
As marketeers we have long sold products with a vicarious fantasy attached: Buy Coke Get Happiness Free. Ethically, this is dubious – but Myer has tacitly thrown a new light onto the practice. After all: an initiative that provides household items to abused women is practical when it comes from a charity alone. With a brand involved – who will no doubt continue to sell domestic bliss to newlyweds – it is almost redemptive.
The Give Registry understands the promises mere objects can hold, and Myer has made clear: If we sell a dream we should be prepared to provide it.