Is all visibility encouraging? Or are we faced with faux queerness that solidifies the existing patriarchy, all while pretending to dismantle it? One word pieces it all back together- commodification.
Millennials are subject to a new wave a of LGBTQ marketing. At first glance, it appears to introduce a non-heteronormative narrative into the regressive world of advertising. Good news, one might think. Refreshing in a world where femininity is synonymous with passivity, marriage and motherhood. Definitely images many young adults used to long for.
On one hand, images like these may be an efficient campaign championing the cause of a long suppressed community. Its also a way to raise a finger against ancient patriarchal norms. On the other hand, its important to peel away the first layer to get to the root of the more serious drawbacks.
Sexuality for The Straight Male Gaze
Two things that go hand in hand to up the appeal for lesbians- advertisement and pornography. That would explain why 1 in every 5 straight men watch lesbian porn. LGBTQ women are often positioned in advertisements to exude male sexual tension. All while fueling a false sense of self-hood among women and queer persons. Ideally, people who identify as homosexuals shouldn’t be fetishized. This is so often the standard beauty criteria. The focus should be more on the women themselves rather than their bodies or positions.
This trend is more blatant when it comes to representing trans-women in advertising. Featuring women like Jari Jones in beauty campaigns is a powerful move towards inclusivity. But how does one ensure that the iconography doesn’t take the form of ancient exoticizing? To what extent do they sustain a ‘men’acing fantasy referred to on some dating websites as “trans-amorous” or “trans-attracted?” This suggests an inherently trans-misogynistic difference between trans women and ‘real’ women.
Commodification and The ‘DINK’ Dollar
Pascal Monfort, French fashion consultant says, “this is known as DINK, ‘Double Income No Kids,’ an enormous buying power that vaguely adapts the dominant offer for an upmarket gay customer.”
The LGBTQ centered market was estimated in the United States to be at a staggering 790 billion dollars in 2012. This may well be the core issue. A privileged gay man who experiences less oppression than other queer groups might strengthen other forms of systematic oppression. “An ad featuring a gay, white, heteronormative, successful Western couple means it is shutting out any question of intersectionality, all notions of race, gender. This type of gay visibility betrays its own because it claims to represent by reinforcing every other dominant norm”, says Ari de B, Paris-based queer militant, specialized in questions of intersectionality.
The bottom line is that gay doesn’t mean always queer. Gay is a sexual preference. Queer is the questioning of a system and choosing to think around its means of production, utilization, gender. Advertising, propelled by commodification (which thinks in terms of trends and sales numbers) can never achieve this.