Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rhiannon Johns
Briana Gutierrez
Christina Sanchez
Travis Harr
Natalie Garcia
            Commodity Lesbianism

Description of Topic:

                The author sets out to study the lack of representation of the lesbian community in a consumer culture that is largely based on heterosexuality and heterosexual norms.  The article concludes that since lesbians have not been targeted as a separate consumer group they essentially have a different relation to consumerism.  It carefully looks at the relation between lesbians and consumer culture, current representations of lesbianism and consumption in media, and the role of the lesbian spectator as a consuming subject.  Clark looks at economics, homophobia, and heterosexism as reasons why the lesbian community hasn’t been targeted and has been inadequately represented.  She examines fashion layouts from Elleand Mirabella as well as mail-order catalogues such as J. Crew to explain how advertisers are capitalizing on a dual market strategy known as “gay window advertising” which speaks indirectly to the lesbian consumer market without alienating heterosexual consumers.

Summary of Key Points:

                Clark discusses how lesbians have not been targeted for several historical reasons.  Initially, lesbians have not been attractive to advertisers because they are not economically powerful.  Since lesbians represent all races, ethnicities, income levels, and ages they are not easily identifiable as a social group, which also creates a problem for advertisers used to separating these categories.  Advertisers also fear that the product will be associated with homosexuality and heterosexual consumers will not buy it, thus many companies feel it’s too risky.  This is why advertisers have come up with the dual market strategy referred to as “gay window advertising.”  These ads avoid explicit references to heterosexuality or homosexuality and models often emit an androgynous style which allows for the onlooker to perceive the ad however they want.  Lesbians can read into the ad’s elements which may be representations of the gay and lesbian culture as they see fit.  If the ad is successful, heterosexual consumers don’t notice the subtexts, and advertisers are able to reach both the homosexual market with the heterosexual market without revealing the ads true intent.                    

Discussion Questions:

1.       Can anyone recall ever seeing an advertisement or commercial that featured a lesbian model or celebrity?

2.       Would you be less interested in purchasing a product if it was advertised to lesbians?  If so, do you think it should be allowed during regular viewing hours or after midnight with other late night provocative commercials?

3.       What type of insecurities do you think some viewers may have with advertising directly to the lesbian community?