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Why We Must Stop Calling Menstruation A ‘Women’s Issue’

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When we talk, write, and yes, even sing about menstruation, it is typically discussed from the perspective of cis women. And on the surface? That makes a lot of sense. Cis women are the majority when it comes to the demographic affected by this much-maligned shedding of uterine lining.

However, the fact is that many cis women’s consistent framing of this biological phenomenon as a “women’s issue” does a lot more harm than many know. We interviewed several non-binary people who menstruate, as well as some trans men, about how this sustained exclusion is damaging, as well as how the process of menstruation affects them in general. We also interviewed a few trans women about the dominant narrative of menstruation as a “women’s issue”—which also erodes their sense of identity—but in very different ways. In truth, there were so many interviewees and so many perspectives, we had to cull it all down for the sake of internet brevity and streamlined brilliance.

Together, those interviewed paint a picture of how menstruation affects trans people exclusively, but we also recognize that these answers only apply to each individual and their singular experiences; they do not represent the trans community writ large.


On Dysphoria Caused By Menstruation

Ame: Menstruating does cause me dysphoria. I feel extremely uneasy in the days leading up to my period, and it gets even worse during my period. I counteract this dysphoria by taking a contraceptive pill. I take it in a way that allows me to skip all my periods so I don’t have to deal with them, however sometimes I accidentally forget to take a pill, and end up having my period for the month. When this occurs, I opt for using tampons as I find that I’m less dysphoric with them as opposed to pads. It’s kind of like an “out of sight, out of mind,” deal.

Teddy: It certainly plays a part in my dysphoria, not so much the fact that I have periods, but the feeling that I’m not the gender I am because it’s not seen as a “thing” guys have. That and the fact that my breasts tend to get quite sore during my period. They’re a massive source of dysphoria for me as it is. The pain usually makes it impossible to wear my binder, and so I’m left with a body that doesn’t feel like mine, and it can be really hard to get through the day.

“My breasts get quite sore during my period. I'm left with a body that doesn't feel like mine.”

E.M.: It does, but in a way that it just reminds me I have a body that is gendered by my reproductive organs that I really wish I didn’t have. Trying to counteract it, I usually dress in a manner that’s a little frumpy. I try to hide my body as much as possible under layers of clothing so I don’t have to think too much about having a body.

Lia: I don’t think it necessarily causes me dysphoria to be honest. The reason I don’t feel dysphoria due to menstruation alone is that it’s impossible to say that we all have “default bodies.” I feel like people want to be able to say “Nonbinary people have xyz genitalia,” or that they all look a certain way. They want to discuss us the way they always have, using binary genders and make us into a one-size-fits-all third option instead of a full spectrum. For this reason I don’t experience dysphoria when it comes to menstruation. I know my body is my own and that it is non-binary in its own way, not anything else.

“I know my body is my own and that it is non-binary in its own way.”

On Regulation’s Potential To Combat This Dysphoria

Jess: Yes, I would take medication to regulate or rid myself of my cycle. I would even get a hysterectomy to do so. I know that taking birth control continually can stop your menstruating, and that there are several on-the-market pills that spread out your period instead. I do not currently take medicine that could suppress my period, because pap smears are a prerequisite to getting a birth control prescription, and having a pap smear heavily triggers that dysphoria, so I’m at an impasse.

Ame: As mentioned above, I already take the contraceptive pill to stop my menstrual cycle, and it helps me immensely. I’m definitely more secure in my gender when I know that I won’t have to deal with menstruation each month, and it’s been valuable in easing some of my gender dysphoria.

Sapphire: I once took birth control, but it ended up doing more harm than good. I plan on eventually getting a hysterectomy.

Teddy: I’ve been on the pill before, to help lessen my periods, which helped a little, but dysphoria has ways of creeping in even when I try and do my best to counteract it. Stopping my periods altogether would be great, but I have other health issues that mean I can’t at the moment.

Sparky: I take birth control continuously for this purpose. I have withdrawal bleeds once every three months, and they are lighter and less physically painful than my regular periods were. I worried initially that taking more estrogen would feminize me further, but that didn’t happen; instead, my hormonal balance is more regulated, and I don’t deal with the same mood swings that I used to, which makes me feel closer to my true neutral self.

On Discussions Of Menstruation Indirectly Excluding Many

Ame: I do feel as though I, nonbinary trans people and trans men as a whole, face exclusion from such topics. People often refer to “women’s” bodies when discussing menstruation and reproductive rights, yet these are issues that I deal with and I am not a woman. It makes me feel invalid, and those discussions alone provoke my dysphoria. Hearing these topics spoken about in terms of “women’s issues” associates me with being a woman when I am not.

Sapphire: Yes, I feel excluded, because the discourse is still highly cissexist and binary. I am read as a cis woman even though I am agender, and I wish they could expand their horizons to include women-aligned nonbinary individuals like myself.

Teddy: I have noticed that since I came out, people talk about these things around me a lot less than they ever did before. Which I think stems from the way the education system, and society in general, works. I think kids of all genders being taught about these things is the way forward, because it leads to educated adults who can have these conversations, and a better understanding. Having to yell into the void repeatedly that trans guys have periods too, and that just because I’m a guy I’m not somehow any less important, gets really boring after a while.

“Having to yell into the void repeatedly that trans guys have periods too gets really boring.”

E.M.: Yes and no. I have noticed a trend of people being more inclusive when it comes to talk of menstruation which helps. But obviously not everyone is that inclusive and that feels quite othering. It’s a bit frustrating dealing with topics like this, because access to health care and the things one needs in regards to menstrual health are super important and everyone that’s affected by menstruation needs better access to it. It’s something I definitely need although it’s something I wish I didn’t need. The frustration comes from not having the best access to things I wish I didn’t have to deal with in the first place.

Lia: I do feel excluded because people commonly link menstruation, vaginas, and reproductive rights exclusively to cis women. It’s bothersome because I feel like if I associate myself with these things, I’m giving up being nonbinary. Too commonly people are only taking about cis women even though menstruating people of other identities are standing right there. It makes me feel like if I even mention I have these issues too that I’m somehow no longer “actually nonbinary.”

Sparky: I’m absolutely excluded. Since I’m asexual as well as agender, the assumption that I desire both a) sexual activity and b) reproduction, and that these are fundamental human needs, can be very alienating. I often feel that if I want access to adequate health care, I have to pretend I’m a cis woman because it’s less exhausting than appearing trans—for me that’s a masculine presentation—and cis people are taken much more seriously in the medical world than trans people are.

On How To Be More Inclusive In Discussions About Menstruation

Jess: In general, any time anyone points out a microaggression—listen, take note of it, and remember it for the future. Remove restrictions on hormonal medications. Make them over-the-counter, or at least doctor prescribed without invasive tests. Offer options for hormonal contraception in packs with and without the monthly week-skip pills. Lastly, be supportive of more bathroom options for people. Right now, men’s restrooms tend to sell condoms while women’s restrooms tend to sell menstrual products. If we normalized unisex bathrooms we’d finally have dispensers that sell both!

“If we normalized unisex bathrooms we'd finally have dispensers that sell both!”

Ame: People can be more inclusive of trans people who also experience menstruation by talking about the topic in a non-gendered way. Realising that bodies and body parts are not gendered would help to normalise the idea that you do not have to be a woman in order to menstruate, and also that not all women are capable of menstruating. A simple change in language, such as saying “people who menstruate” rather than “women” goes a long way in terms of having inclusive discussions, rather than discussions which isolate certain subgroups of people.

Sapphire: Stop the whole “lady parts” cis feminist discourse.

Teddy: I think better education, and more accessible resources online is going to be the way forward; I think magazines aimed at “men” and “women” should make people aware of health conditions that affect all body types, about health issues in general, and how to deal with them. There would likely be some pushback, but removing strict gendering of health issues is important. There needs to be a breaking down of barriers, not just about how people act when they have their periods, but about gender itself.

E.M.: Inclusive language is a big step obviously. If you don’t have inclusive language you automatically alienate a great deal of people and will likely trigger dysphoria for them in regards to their body. People also need to consider the differences in access people have to information and the care they need. Living in poverty and being disabled really impacts me in regards to trying to get the care I need. Things like disability can really make things around menstruation hard for me, because I don’t have many options to manage it, as my health issues seriously limit what I can and can’t do. Keeping those experiences in mind is very important.

Sparky: Market menstrual products in a less gendered way. Don’t make menstruation a taboo, but recognize that not everyone who menstruates is comfortable with the fact that they do so, and that it doesn’t make them sexist or misogynist. Allow conversations to happen about periods being weird and gross, and raise awareness that options to regulate, lessen, or eliminate them do in fact exist—they aren’t something one necessarily needs to suffer through.

“Not everyone who menstruates is comfortable with that—it doesn't make them sexist or misogynist.”

On How These Discussions Affect Trans Women

Emily: Menstruation discussion do make me feel excluded in a way. But, it’s not really excluding me in a way that says, “trans women aren’t real women,” but more in a, “women who can’t menstruate or get pregnant aren’t real women,” sense. Even if you ignore intersex and trans women, there’s something around 10% of cis women who have troubles conceiving and carrying a child to term—among those troubles is not ovulating and menstruating at all. It doesn’t make me feel like less of a woman, but more that I’m pushed into this whole branch of women that are for whatever reason considered lesser because they can’t have children. Every single time I’ve talked with one of my cis women friends about periods and menstruation, they’ve mentioned how I’m “lucky” that I don’t have to go through that. And while I’m not wild about the idea of experiencing something painful, I personally don’t consider it lucky at all that I’m othered in such a way, especially as a woman who would love to carry children someday and can’t unless scientific progress gets a lot better very quickly.

“I'm othered, especially as a woman who would love to carry children someday and can't.”

My suggestion is as simple as changing your language to “issues that affect people who menstruate,” rather than inherently gendering the act.

Tolvo: Mainstream discussion of menstruation does make me feel excluded. When a cissexist approach is not taken I do not feel excluded, but in terms of how we tend to talk about women as people who have periods I often feel like there is an experience I do not have that is essential to womanhood—in order to ever be a “real woman.” I realize this isn’t correct, but it’s drilled into my head and causes me to feel doubts and insecurities about my own womanhood.

You can talk about periods pretty easily without being exclusive. You don’t even have to do what is common, tagging a lot on and making it longer to be all encompassing. For instance, a lot of fear of periods and the culture around periods is rooted in misogyny. This is true. It is a simple way to explain it without saying it is a “women only issue.” Because the treatment of a lot of people who do not menstruate or who are not cis women, are also often rooted in misogyny, among other forms of ignorance and systemic prejudice.

Is it so hard to say, “People with periods” anyway? If one of the main focuses is to make it acceptable to talk about periods then why is everyone too timid to just say people with periods when discussing issues surrounding them. Cis women as a whole don’t all experience menstruation anyway. You can also talk about things in a relative nature. While talking about, for example, cis women and the expectations they must live up to, talk about trans people and the expectations they also are faced with.

“Is it so hard to say, 'People with periods?'”

Sioban: It isn’t the discussion that makes me feel excluded, it’s the way the topic is approached by the people in the discussion. I’ve been included in many discussions on this topic. The problems come when I’m told I can’t be a part of it. This is part of why calling it a “women’s issue” is harmful not only to me, but to trans men and nonbinary trans people as well. It equates womanhood with a single biological process and is simply a scientifically inaccurate understanding. It has the effect of othering anyone who doesn’t fit that narrow criteria. It contributes to a mindset that there are tests one must pass to determine your womanhood.

Stop gendering people and things automatically. Menstruation isn’t a “women’s issue,” it is an issue for people who menstruate. We have a tendency to try and guess gender from the moment we talk to or about someone and it adds vast assumptions the second that guess is made. In everything from honorifics to bathrooms to relationships, assumptions about a person’s gender brings in assumptions about who they are and what they do. It is inherently harmful to place these roles on people. I’m a woman and I’m trans, but these are hardly my only defining qualities or ones from which the rest of me can be derived.

A Final Note On What We’d Like To See From Cis People

Jess: I really loved the brand Thinx’s “Underwear for people with periods” campaign, but when I went to their main site, I was disappointed to find that the page mentioning “people with periods” was buried and basically inaccessible from their main page. You could only reach it if you had directly known about it and were searching for it. Meanwhile, “Modern women with periods” was everywhere on their main site. Having their “people with periods” page so  segregated from the rest of the site felt like such a queerbaiting tactic that I lost interest in the product. I would have loved to have seen Thinx actually embrace supporting “people with  periods.” My advice? Make things like that genuinely accessible.

Ame: The main thing that cis people need to do is actively change their language when talking about topics which they wrongly assume only affect women. They need to listen to trans people, recognize what we’re saying, and actively make the changes needed to include us in their discussions, as well as letting us start our own discussions.

“Cis people, listen when trans people speak up.”

Teddy: Cis people, listen when trans people speak up. We are aware it is all new to you, it’s all new to a lot of us too. Trans guys aren’t any lesser because they have periods, so please don’t treat us like they are.

E.M.: If you want to take on a stance of being an educator or advocate for these kinds of issues, be aware of how people relate to these issues and the varying intersections of their identity that will impact those experiences. Consider people of color, trans people, the poor, and the disabled, in everything you do, since there are so many things that can co-mingle and effect how you deal with and experience things.


Lead Image: Katie Tandy


The post Why We Must Stop Calling Menstruation A ‘Women’s Issue’ appeared first on The Establishment.

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How an Ad Campaign Made Lesbians Fall in Love with Subaru

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Subaru’s marketing strategy had just died in a fit of irony. 

It was the mid 1990s, and sales of Subaru cars were in decline. To reverse the company’s fortunes, Subaru of America had created its first luxury car—even though the small automaker was known for plain but dependable cars—and hired a trendy advertising agency to introduce it to the public. 

The new approach had fallen flat when the ad men took irony too far: One ad touted the new sports car’s top speed of 140 MPH, then asked, “How important is that, with extended urban gridlock, gas at $1.38 a gallon and highways full of patrolmen?"

After firing the hip ad agency, Subaru of America changed its approach. Rather than compete directly with Ford, Toyota, and other carmakers that dwarfed Subaru in size, executives decided to return to its old focus on marketing Subaru cars to niche groups—like outdoorsy types who liked that Subaru cars could handle dirt roads.

This search for niche groups led Subaru to the 3rd rail of marketing: They discovered that lesbians loved their cars. Lesbians liked their dependability and size, and even the name “Subaru.” They were four times more likely than the average consumer to buy a Subaru. 

This was the type of discovery that the small, struggling automaker was looking for. But Subaru had been looking for niche groups like skiers and kayakers—not lesbian couples. Did the company want to make advertisements for gay customers? At the time, in the mid 1990s, few celebrities were openly out. A Democratic president had just passed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, and after IKEA aired one of the first major ad campaigns depicting a gay couple, someone had called in a bomb threat on an IKEA store.

Yet Subaru decided to launch an ad campaign focused on lesbian customers. It was such an unusual decision—and such a success—that it pushed gay and lesbian advertising from the fringes to the mainstream. 

If you’ve ever wondered why people joke about lesbians driving Subarus, the reason is not just that lesbians like Subarus. It’s that Subaru cultivated its image as a car for lesbians—and did so at a time when few companies would embrace or even acknowledge their gay customers.

You Are What You Drive

How do you advertise a car that journalists describe as “sturdy, if drab”?

That was the question faced by Subaru of America executives in the 1990s. After attempts to reinvigorate the company’s declining sales with a sports car and a hip, young ad agency failed, they turned to their niche marketing strategy.

“That was and still is a unique approach,” says Tim Bennett, who worked as Director of Advertising. “I’m always amazed that no one copied it.” Instead of fighting every other car company over the same demographic of white, 18- to 35-year-olds living in the suburbs, Subaru would target niche groups of people who particularly liked Subarus. 

In the 1990s, Subaru’s unique characteristic was that the company increasingly made all-wheel-drive standard on all its cars. When Subaru marketers went searching for people willing to pay a premium for all-wheel-drive, they identified four core groups who were responsible for half of the company’s American sales: teachers and educators, healthcare professionals, IT professionals, and “rugged individualists” (outdoorsy types).  

Then they discovered a 5th: lesbians.

“When we did the research, we found pockets of the country like Northampton, Massachusetts, and Portland, Oregon, where the head of the household would be a single person—and often a women,” says Bennett. When Subaru marketers talked to these customers, they realized these women buying Subarus were lesbian.

“There was such an alignment of feeling, like [Subaru cars] fit with what they did,” says Paul Poux, who later conducted focus groups for Subaru. The marketers found that lesbian Subaru owners liked that the cars were good for outdoor trips, and that they were good for hauling stuff without being as large as a truck or SUV. (In a line some women may not like as much, marketers also said Subaru’s dependability was a good fit for lesbians since they didn’t have a man who could fix car problems.) “They felt it fit them and wasn’t too flashy,” says Poux. 

Many of them even felt an affinity with the name. 

‘Subaru’ is the Japanese name for the Pleiades, a six-star constellation. When Kenji Kita, the CEO of Subaru's parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries, chose the name in 1954, he chose it to represent how six Japanese companies had merged to form Fuji Heavy Industries. But in English, the constellation is also known as the Seven Sisters—the same name as a group of American women’s colleges. 

An example of Subaru's niche marketing—in this case to appeal to outdoorsy types. Photo courtesy of Subaru

Of all the niche groups, lesbians may have exhibited the most fervor. "These women were practically commercials for Subaru," John Nash, the creative director of the ad agency that ultimately made Subaru’s gay and lesbian advertisements, recalled in 2004. 

Subaru’s strategy called for targeting these 5 groups and creating ads based around its appeal to each. For medical professionals, it was that a Subaru with all-wheel-drive could get them to the hospital in any weather. For rugged individualists, it was that a Subaru could handle dirt roads and haul gear. For lesbians, it was that a Subaru fit their active, low-key lifestyle.  

But it was easier to get senior management on board with making ads for hikers than for lesbians.

From Subaru to ‘Lesbaru’

Talking with people involved in Subaru’s 1990s marketing campaign, the constant refrain is how different the environment was back then. 

“I can’t emphasize enough that this was before there was any positive discussion [of LGBT issues],” says Tim Bennett. Gay causes seemed to be on the losing side of the culture war: the Clinton Administration had just created its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding homosexuality in the military, and in 1996, Congress would pass the Defense of Marriage Act. 

Pop culture had also yet to embrace the LGBT cause. Mainstream movies and TV shows with gay characters—like Will & Grace—were still a few years away, and few celebrities were openly gay. When Ellen Degeneres became a rare exception in 1997, and her character in the show Ellen came out as gay in an episode of the sitcom, many companies pulled their ads. 

''We don't think it is a smart business decision to be advertising in an environment that is so polarized,'' a spokesperson for Chrysler explained after the company pulled its ads. ''The environment around this is so angry we feel we lose no matter what we do.''

Gay-friendly advertising was largely limited to the fashion and alcohol industries. When a 1994 IKEA ad featured a gay couple, the American Family Association mounted boycotts, and someone called in a (fake) bomb threat on an IKEA store. 

Today, this IKEA ad of a gay couple shopping for a dining room table seems mundane. But in 1994, the film crew was tense, and its airing incited backlash and New York Times op-eds.

As marketer Paul Paux explains, the attitude of most businesses toward LGBT advertising was: “Why would you do something like that? You’d be known as a gay company.”

In the 1990s, Poux worked at Mulryan/Nash, an agency that specialized in the gay market. Early in his career, he made cold calls to ask companies for their business. “All the rules of marketing went out the window at this fear” of marketing to gays and lesbians, he says. “People would choke up on the phone. It was tough.” 

It was in this context that Subaru marketers like Tim Bennett and Director of Marketing Tim Mahoney hired Mulryan/Nash, the ad agency, and pitched Subaru’s Japanese management on ads for lesbian customers. Reporter Ron Dicker ably captured some of the cultural confusion that followed:

When one Subaru ad man, Tim Mahoney, proposed the gay-targeting ads in talks with Japanese executives, the executives hurriedly looked up “gay” in their dictionaries. Upon reading the definition, they nodded at the idea enthusiastically. Who wouldn’t want happy or joyous advertising?

“It was certainly a learning process for everybody,” says Bennett. 

According to Bennett, who is gay, they never faced disrespect within Subaru. But Bennett did not reveal his sexual orientation, fearing it would overshadow the effort, and it took a year and a half to get everyone at Subaru onboard. For a car company, openly marketing to gay customers still felt new, if not taboo. Bennett recalls holding company meetings with names along the lines of “Who Are Gays and Lesbians?” 

A fifty-year-old business conglomerate like Fuji Heavy Industries, the parent company of Subaru, is not normally where you’d look for a leader in social progress. But the corporate environment did have its advantages. 

For starters, there was a great business case for the marketing campaign. Subaru was struggling, and its niche marketing campaign was plan A for redemption. 

The internationalism of global business also had its advantages. The Subaru team knew they had to support their gay and lesbian employees if they wanted to appeal to lesbian customers. So they scheduled a meeting with a senior Japanese executive to make the case for domestic partnership benefits. 

Bennett and his colleagues had prepared to argue their case at length, but the meeting lasted 20 seconds. The executive, who had worked for Subaru in Canada, already knew about benefits for same-sex couples. “He said, ‘Yeah that’s fine. We did that in Canada years ago. Anything else?’” says Bennett. “It was the easiest thing we did.”

By 1996, Subaru ads created by the Mulryan/Nash ad agency were appearing both in gay publications and mainstream media.

Although the marketing team worried about conservatives mounting a boycott, Subaru developed a public stance: Since Subaru sold cars to a “diverse and well educated” group of people, their customers wouldn’t be offended by the ads. 

Inside Subaru of America, though, not everyone was united on the effort. There was public backlash, and Tim Bennett says the campaign survived naysayers inside Subaru only because their team really cared about the project and had the support of straight allies in the company.

And the Subaru company line did have some truth to it. In response to the ads, Subaru received letters from a grassroots group that accused the carmaker of promoting homosexuality. Everyone who penned a letter said they’d never buy a Subaru again.  

But the marketing team quickly discovered that none of the people threatening a boycott had ever bought a Subaru. Some of them had even misspelled “Subaru.”

Like nerds who grow up to confront their bullies, Subaru executives realized that the people opposing the acknowledgement of gays and lesbians were not as imposing as they seemed. 

An Open Secret

Lesbians’ affinity for Subaru is a popular punchline: Like wearing birkenstocks, it’s the stuff of Saturday Night Live sketches and self-deprecating jokes about lesbian stereotypes. 

Subaru’s seminal role in gay advertising is famous in the business and marketing world, but the carmaker’s role in cultivating its lesbian-friendly image is less well known among laypeople. That’s likely because so many straight people were blind to the advertisements. 

For their first Subaru ads, Mulryan/Nash hired women to portray lesbian couples. But the ads didn’t get good reactions from lesbian audiences. 

What worked were winks and nudges. One ad campaign showed Subaru cars that had license plates that said “Xena LVR” (a reference to Xena: Warrior Princess, a TV show whose female protagonists seemed to be lovers) or “P-TOWN” (a moniker for Provincetown, Massachusetts, a popular LGBT vacation spot). Many ads had taglines with double meanings. “Get Out. And Stay Out” could refer to exploring the outdoors in a Subaru—or coming out as gay. “It's Not a Choice. It's the Way We're Built” could refer to all Subarus coming with all-wheel-drive—or LGBT identity.

"Each year we've done this, we've learned more about our target audience," John Nash, the creative director of the ad agency has said. "We've found that playful coding is really, really appreciated by our consumers. They like deciphering it."

The delight among niche audience groups in “uncoding” the hints in Subaru ads surprised the marketing team—and in the case of its gay-friendly ads, so did straight audiences’ ignorance. While gay and lesbian consumers loved the shout outs in the license plates, straight people would only notice features like a bike rack. Paul Poux, who helped come up with the license plate idea, says he held focus groups with straight audiences where he’d show ads featuring gay couples. Even after an hour of talking about gay issues, they’d think a man was shopping with his uncle. 

In articles at the time, Subaru executives said they felt uncertain about the “intrigue” created by the perception of “secret coding.” But Paul Poux says there was some comfort to the fact that the gay marketing went under the radar. As more companies began marketing to LGBT audiences, secret coding became something of a playbook known by the term “gay vague”—a way for companies to reach queer audiences with minimal risk of a conservative backlash. 

This famous Volkswagen ad, which was perceived as gay-friendly, is incredibly subtle. But it aired in 1997 during the famous "coming out" episode of the sitcom Ellen

That said, Subaru did not hide its support of gay and lesbian customers. While Volkswagen played coy about whether an ad perceived as gay-friendly really portrayed a gay couple, Subaru sponsored events like gay pride parades, partnered with the Rainbow Card, a credit card that instead of cash back offered donations to gay and lesbian causes, and hired Martina Navratilova, a lesbian and former tennis pro, to appear in Subaru ads. 

Navratilova’s role in Subaru’s ads held a level of poignancy. She had been publicly outed against her will, and while she spoke honestly about her identity, she had lamented that gay athletes had “to hide in the closet to sell [themselves] to Madison Avenue.”

For her to become the face of a car company during her retirement because she did not hide that she was gay, says Rainbow Card co-creator Pam Derderian, was a beautiful, full circle moment. 

The Subaru Legacy

Subaru’s gay and lesbian focused marketing campaign was a hit, and the company’s efforts continue today.

Not only is the association between lesbians and Subaru part of pop culture. But in focus groups and online polls, gay and lesbian customers consistently choose Subaru vehicles as their favorite cars or Subaru as the most gay-friendly brand. As one participant put it, “Martina Navratilova is a spokesperson. What more do you want?” 

That reputation translated into financial success. As a Harvard case study on the lesbian-focused ad campaign noted, Subaru’s flat sales turned into steady growth. Subaru’s parent company recently rebranded the entire company under the Subaru name due to the car’s surging popularity. In the 2010s, only Tesla grew faster than Subaru, which led Subaru’s president to worry that Subaru could get “too big.” 

Lesbians buying Subaru cars did not single-handedly resurrect the carmaker—lesbians were just one of five niche groups Subaru targeted in the nineties. But the gay market was one of the best for Subaru. The carmaker tracked the effectiveness of its niche marketing by partnering with 40-50 organizations—like outdoor associations and the Rainbow Card—to offer discounts on Subaru cars. Every year, Tim Bennett says, the LGBT organizations were in the top 5 in terms of cars sold.

Subaru was not the first company to create advertisements for gay and lesbian consumers, but it was the first major company in the United States to do it so transparently and consistently. Subaru’s lesbian-focused ad campaign was widely discussed in the New York Times, Washington Post, and trade magazines, and its success helped spur wild growth in gay and lesbian marketing. By the early 2000s, marketers were writing articles that called gays and lesbians an “underserved market” and “perfect consumers.”

It was an uncomfortable embrace. The perception of the gay market as “a goldmine” relied on a misperception of all gay people as part of Dual Income, No Kids couples. A number of academics criticized corporate America’s embrace of the LGBT community as commodification: While companies wanted the profits that came from marketing a gay sense of style, they focused on upper-class and white gay identities—never gay people of color or those unable to afford medical treatment for HIV/AIDS. 

But according to Pam Derderian, who co-created the Rainbow Card with her partner Nancy Becker, that perspective underestimates the intelligence of LGBT consumers. 

To show that Subaru cared about its gay and lesbian customers, she says, the carmaker supported causes that they cared about. Through its sponsorship of the Rainbow Card, Subaru, along with other companies like Visa and British Airways, contributed millions of dollars to HIV/AIDS research and LGBT causes that helped both their customers and gay and lesbian people who could never afford a Subaru. 

Moreover, Derderian, like many gay people who see a company advertising to the gay market, vetted companies interested in sponsoring the Rainbow Card by seeing if they ensured fair policies (like benefits for same-sex partners) for their employees. This led to a trend of companies making their internal policies more gay-friendly when they wanted to advertise to gay customers. When Ford created gay-friendly ads, it revised its policies for its workforce of over 100,000 employees. 

There’s a tendency to view companies’ involvement in causes as greedy ploys. This author feels that way, especially given the cynicism-inducing conclusions of previous Priceonomics investigations. Looking into the history of engagement rings led us to marketers who made up the tradition to sell more diamonds. Searching out the origins of the phrase “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” revealed that it’s a 1944 ad campaign designed to sell more breakfast cereal. 

In this case, it’s heartening that the origins of lesbians’ stereotypical affinity for Subarus is not a cynical marketing campaign, but a progressive one. In a sense, all Subaru did was notice a group of customers and create ads for them. But that was a big deal. Subaru's ad campaign acknowledged a group that often felt unwelcome and invisible. 

So today, in 2016, which group is next?

Our next article looks back at the 1970s ad campaign that branded bottled water as "Earth's first soft drink". To get notified when we post it    join our email list.

Note: If you’re a company that wants to work with Priceonomics to turn your data into great stories, learn more about the Priceonomics Data Studio

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1 day ago
"Paul Poux, who helped come up with the license plate idea, says he held focus groups with straight audiences where he’d show ads featuring gay couples. Even after an hour of talking about gay issues, they’d think a man was shopping with his uncle."
Portland, OR
2 days ago
Richmond, VA
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1 day ago
"What worked were winks and nudges. One ad campaign showed Subaru cars that had license plates that said “Xena LVR” (a reference to Xena: Warrior Princess, a TV show whose female protagonists seemed to be lovers) or “P-TOWN” (a moniker for Provincetown, Massachusetts, a popular LGBT vacation spot). Many ads had taglines with double meanings. “Get Out. And Stay Out” could refer to exploring the outdoors in a Subaru—or coming out as gay. “It's Not a Choice. It's the Way We're Built” could refer to all Subarus coming with all-wheel-drive—or LGBT identity."
2 days ago

Australia: Listen to Dami Im’s performance with only her microphone

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The YouTube channel escTOP has managed to filter out all the music and backings and upload the performances of all the Eurovision 2016 acts with just the microphone sound of the main performer. You can watch most of the countries from the top-10 of the contest here, including the powerful performance by Australia’s Dami Im.

Among the top finishers, we can hear that they all slay their vocals:









The post Australia: Listen to Dami Im’s performance with only her microphone appeared first on ESCDaily.com || The latest Eurovision 2016 news from across Europe and Australia.

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7 days ago
Richmond, VA
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This Year’s Eurovision Finale Will Be More Suspenseful Than Ever

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Brace yourself, it is time for the annual Eurovision Song Contest finals, a televised ode to the cross-cultural power of lamé and platform boots. On Saturday a group of European countries (plus Australia) 3 1 will put their national characters on display in the 61st iteration of this singing contest. Sometimes those displays defy description, logic, or really anything that you and I may consider terrestrial: 4 2 The contest has included singing orcs, a levitating Dracula flanked by nearly nude henchmen, and Ireland’s puppet turkey DJ assisted by terrifying showgirl backup dancers.

Depending on whom you ask, it’s also a hotbed of geopolitical intrigue. Participating countries rank all the acts, which leads to suspicions that Europe’s factionalism rules its pre-eminent talent show. Russian twins on a teeter-totter were booed in 2014 after Russia invaded Crimea, for example. Will their acts keep being punished for as long as Russia holds on to Ukraine’s territory? Have the threats of a Grexit and now a Brexit doomed Greece and the U.K.’s chances with their European peers? And what will this year’s rule change mean for these alleged feuds and alliances?

An analysis of Eurovision voting published in the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation in 2006 by Derek Gatherer, a former lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University, compared the voting results to ones generated in random simulations to see whether certain nations agreed more often than chance would suggest. And sure enough, Gatherer found past voting patterns suggested that countries often did appear to be voting in blocs (among the most powerful lately: what he calls the Balkan Bloc, including nations such as Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia; and the Viking Empire of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Estonia). But that may not be a smoking gun. Neighbors may vote together because they share similar taste in music, not because they’re nursing grudges over who invaded whom in the 1800s.

Still, some countries’ residents remain convinced that the fix is in. According to a 2013 poll of seven European nations by YouGov, Brits were the most likely to believe that other regions were conspiring to deny them victory. 5 3 Seventy-five percent of Great Britain’s residents thought that politically motivated voting kept the best countries from winning Eurovision. Only 33 percent to 48 percent of residents of six other countries 6 4 were similarly pessimistic.

This year offers better opportunities than ever for post-loss carping and conspiracy theories, because the scoring rules are changing. Previously, the Eurovision score a country awarded was a combination of two rankings — one given by a panel of judges from that country and one from its residents watching at home. Those two were averaged into one overall score for the performer. (The same process would happen with dozens of other countries, all evaluating the same performance.)

At the end of the finals, each country takes turns announcing its top 10 performers, along with the points awarded. So France would stand up and say its top 10 was Denmark, Holland, Switzerland and so on. The trouble is, this made for boring TV. It was often clear early who would win, as favorites emerged.

This year, Eurovision changed the rules in order to introduce a little more suspense. Now, the judges’ scores and the home voters’ scores aren’t averaged together. The scores from the judges will still be announced one by one, but the people’s scores from every country will be added together and tacked on at the very end.

This is basically Eurovision’s equivalent of the snitch in Quidditch: A huge number of points being awarded at the very end means anything could happen.

I wanted to know whether these new rules would change who wins Eurovision (instead of just the drama of the process of finding out). So I reran the results from 2014’s and 2015’s competitions, using the new scoring scheme. 7 5


The good news for the integrity of Eurovision is that the winner didn’t change under alternative rules. But there were some notable shifts. In 2015, the rules change would have bumped Russia from second place to third. And the United Kingdom’s aggressively art deco rendition of “Still In Love With You” would have gone from a forgettable fourth to last to dead last.

In 2014, the top five would have stayed in the same order, but Malta’s “Coming Home” (which I would have assumed was from the Country Music Awards) would have jumped 10 slots from 23rd to 13th, while Denmark’s “Cliché Love Song” (somehow even worse than the name suggests) would drop out of the top 10 to 14th. Those big swings tend to happen when the judges and the people disagree. For example, Malta was ranked in the top 10 by 22 nations’ judging panels, but only four countries’ at-home voters. Under the old rules, averaging the judges’ and the people’s scores dragged Malta down.

So here’s your cheat sheet for blaming the new rules if your favorite entry gets shafted. Just give a very European, ennui-laden sigh and say that judges and everyday people should have to mingle, and so should their scores. But now either the snooty elites or the xenophobes at home have too much influence over the outcome.

To make this complaint in true Eurovision style, deliver it while on a unicycle, dressed like a disco cadet or, failing that, as a duet with a hologram of yourself.

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13 days ago
I love Eurovision so much.
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Massive Frozen Vegetable Recall Linked To 2 Deaths, 8 Illnesses

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Federal health and safety regulators have opened an investigation into a listeria outbreak related to the recent recall of more than 350 different varieties and brands of frozen vegetables after eight people from three states — two who later died — became infected with strains of the bacteria. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the Food & Drug Administration, are collaborating with state health officials to investigate the outbreak that may have begun three years ago.

According to the CDC, eight people infected with the outbreak strains of listeria have been reported from Maryland, California, and Washington since September 13, 2013.

Two of the illnesses were reported in 2016. The remaining six illnesses were reported between 2013 and 2015, and were identified through a retrospective review of the PulseNet database.

The CDC reports that all eight people were hospitalized, including one from Maryland and one from Washington who died. However, officials say listeriosis was not considered to be a cause of death for either person.

Three of the eight ill people, or their caregivers, were interviewed by health officials using a questionnaire that asked about a variety of foods.

Two of these three people reported buying and eating frozen Organic by Nature brand frozen vegetables in the month before the illness began.

The CDC reports that listeria was first found in CRF products during a routine product-sampling program conducted by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Officials with the Department collected packages of frozen vegetables from a retail location and found listeria contamination in True Goodness by Meijer brand frozen organic white sweet cut corn and from True Goodness by Meijer brand frozen organic petite green peas.

“Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence available at this time indicates that frozen vegetables produced by CRF Frozen Foods of Pasco, WA and sold under various brand names are one likely source of illnesses in this outbreak,” the CDC says. “This is a complex, ongoing investigation, and updates will be provided when more information is available.”

Investigations are ongoing to determine if food sources used to manufacture CRF Frozen products could explain some of the illnesses.

“CDC and state and local public health partners are continuing laboratory surveillance through PulseNet to identify additional ill people and to interview them,” the CDC says.

The massive recall of CRF Frozen-produced vegetables began last week when the company announced that 15 frozen vegetable products sold at Costco and Meijer may contain listeria.

CRF suspended operations at its Pasco facility following the initial voluntary recall, so a thorough review could be conducted.

Since then, CRF revised the initiative, recalling all frozen fruits and vegetables processed at its plant in Pasco, WA since May of 2014. That includes 358 different varieties of frozen fruits and veggies sold under 42 brand names at major retailers, including Walmart, Safeway, BJ’s, Costco, Aldi, and Meijer, in all 50 states.

If you have any questions about a product that you’ve purchased or about the recall in general, call CRF Frozen Foods at 844-483-3866. You can also e-mail CRF8364@stericycle.com.

Here are the brands that you should look for in your freezer. If you identify any of them, check the item against the FDA’s recall list. Unfortunately, there isn’t really any way to simplify checking, with almost 350 different products involved.

  • Bybee’s
  • C.H. Belt’s
  • Chef Maxwell
  • Columbia River Organics
  • Correct Choice
  • Earth’s Pride
  • Emerald Farms
  • Endico
  • Farmer’s Bounty
  • Fiesta Mart
  • Great Value (Walmart)
  • The Inn
  • James Farm
  • Kirkland Signature (Costco)
  • Life Foods
  • Live Smart
  • Mity Fresh
  • Mountain Mist
  • Northwest Growers Select
  • Organic by Nature (Costco)
  • Parade
  • O Organics (Safeway)
  • Overhill Farms
  • Panda Express
  • Pantry Essentials (Safeway)
  • Price First (Walmart)
  • Quirch
  • Safeway Kitchens
  • Schwan’s
  • Season’s Choice (Aldi)
  • Simply Nature (Aldi)
  • Trader Joe’s
  • True Goodness (Meijer)
  • USDA Bulk Packs
  • VIP
  • Wellsley Farms (BJ’s)
  • Wild Oats
  • Veggie Maria
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20 days ago
Richmond, VA
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Depression-Busting Exercise Tips For People Too Depressed To Exercise

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If you’ve struggled with depression at any point in your life, you’ve probably heard some well-meaning soul say “just try to get some exercise, it’s good for your mood!” Annoyingly, they’re right; I don’t think that exercise can single-handedly cure depression or treat its symptoms, but it’s clearly helpful for many people who struggle. In the 10 years I spent in the fitness industry, both as a personal trainer with depressed clients and as the depressed client myself, I’ve seen physical activity provide focus, routine, comfort, and even assistance with physical health when it feels like everything else is going to hell.

But there’s one thing that never, ever helps people who are dealing with situational or clinical depression: telling them that exercise will help.

When it comes to having a mental illness, the G.I. Joe doctrine is meaningless: Knowing what will help you isn’t close to half the battle. It’s a tenth of the battle, at best. Most people with depression are already aware—often too aware—of all the things we could or should be doing to combat our condition. But where the well-meaning mentally healthy person sees a straightforward progression toward improvement, we see the paradox: yes, if we could do those things, it might help our depression, but not being able to do those things is a major part of being depressed.

“There’s one thing that never helps people with depression: telling them that exercise will help.”

The fitness industry talks a lot about “exercise lifehacks for depression!!!”, but it seems to be coming from a place of ignorance about the cold war going on in the average depressed person’s head. Most of these training tips and listicles read like they came from people who have faced very little adversity in their lives, and who think that their own health is entirely the product of their own hard work. Even if that’s not true, these pieces are certainly written by people who haven’t let their hardships add any nuance to their argument. The introductions talk about how great exercise is for you, and then they jump straight to tips on motivation, routine, and the physical activity itself. Those tips aren’t necessarily wrong, but when you’re actually suffering, they sound about as realistic as South Park’s underwear-thieving gnomes. Step 1. Realize that you should exercise. Step 2 ? Step 3. HEALTH!

When you’re depressed, that question mark can be a barely navigable labyrinth of garbage fires fueled by physical and mental exhaustion, self-loathing, defeat, and frustration. The last time I found myself trying to hack through that mess during a particularly dark period, I started to come up with my own list of bare-bones, practical tips to help me face the idea of moving again. Now I’m sharing them, in case they might help someone else in a similar position. I stress the word “might.” If you’re depressed, the last thing you need is another asshole telling you what you should do. But if you’re looking for somewhere to start, I’ve been there too.

You don’t have to exercise.

Be honest with yourself. Why do you want to exercise? If you’re doing it because it’s a positive step you want to take for your health, that’s great. If it’s something you used to like doing and you think you might enjoy doing it again if you can just push through the misery and inertia? That works, too. If you’re just doing it because you think that you should, though, or if it becomes just another way to punish yourself, that doesn’t work. If you can find an activity that safely works with both your abilities and your mindset, go with that. If you can’t come up with a single plan where the risk inherent in the attempt itself won’t outweigh any benefit you might get from it, then don’t do it. Take a break from the very idea of exercise and come back at it again in a few days to see if your perspective has changed. If not, repeat as necessary. Unless that repetition itself is only exacerbating your depression—then step away from that, too. In short, exercise can’t help with your depression if even thinking about exercise is making you more depressed.

Forget perfect.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the fitness industry’s unrelenting fixation with finding the best possible exercises, diets, and bodies. It’s easier still to get confused by the constantly shifting goalposts of what constitutes “The Best” within that world. Cardio is in one year and out the next. The ideal glute size keeps shifting. Even the perfect tightness for the pelvic floor is in flux right now. It’s arguable whether or not any of these trends actually help any population, but they’re particularly useless for the depressed exerciser. Ignore them. The perfect exercise is anything that you will actually consider doing. The perfect body is a breathing one. Anything that serves those ends is worth considering. Everything else is noise.

“The perfect exercise is anything that you will actually do. The perfect body is a breathing one.”

Choose the right venue and plan accordingly.

If you can afford—both in terms of finances and resilience—to go to a gym, and going somewhere else at a specific time helps get you into a feasible routine, or you just happen to like it, go to the gym. If going outside works better for you, find outdoor workouts. If you’d prefer not to leave the house, then get a video, a book, or research other things you can do within the confines of your own space. If you can’t get out of bed, think of things you can do there. Seriously. The barrel roll is regaining popularity in some martial arts and animal-style training, so who’s to say you can’t start with tossing and turning when you can’t do anything else? Even the smallest movement counts as some activity.

Break the entire workout experience into the smallest pieces possible.

I get overwhelmed even more easily than usual when I’m depressed, and all but the smallest things seem insurmountable to me. Which is why I started breaking up every part of my workout, including getting ready and cleaning up after, into tiny pieces, getting rid of any potential stumbling blocks along the way. If getting into workout gear felt like too much effort, I worked out in whatever I was already wearing. It wasn’t entirely pleasant or comfortable, but neither is crawling through mud as part of an obstacle course race, and that’s a socially accepted thing that people do all the time in the name of being fit and tough. If the idea of showering after seemed like too much work on top of everything else, I’d promise myself that I’d could consider my hygiene options again after I was finished. This is potentially gross, but then so are mud races. If a whole workout was intimidating, I’d start with a warm-up and then see how much I felt like I could add to it after that. I usually kept going. But even when I didn’t, I’d still done a decent warm-up.

“If getting into workout gear felt like too much effort, I worked out in whatever I was wearing.”

Find an instruction style that works for you.

Whether you’re learning from a trainer, a video, or a book, seek out material that at least somewhat appeals to your personality. I find both perky cheerleading and bootcamp derision, which are the predominant tones of most exercise material out there, alienating even when I’m at my best, and defeating when I’m not. So I’ve started to seek out smart instruction from people who share my ambivalence and humor toward exercise. I’ve become particularly fond of Rushfit, the DVD series that UFC veteran Georges St-Pierre released a few years ago, because St-Pierre spends most of the workouts laughing about the amount of agony he’s in. Watching one of the world’s most dedicated and gifted athletes attack his workout with such amiable misery turned out to be the kind of motivation I needed. It made me feel better about grumbling through my own workouts and made me want to grumble through another one. Maybe it’s overly romantic of me, but I believe there’s a Rushfit equivalent out there for everyone who wants to exercise. Maybe it’s a yoga app that emphasizes inclusivity and body positivity like Cody or YogaGlo (I haven’t personally tried either, but I’m intrigued by what I’ve seen). Maybe it’s Dance Dance Party Party, the women-only judgement-free dance sessions that take place across the globe. Or maybe it’s a fun running app created by someone with some really smart opinions on fitness, like Naomi Alderman’s Zombies, Run! Whatever it is, once you find your Rushfit, physical fitness won’t suck quite so much for you.

Listen to your body.

If something seriously hurts while you’re exercising, stop doing it. (See point one.) If you’re too tired to execute a move safely and effectively, don’t do it. If you’re pushing yourself beyond your limit out of some misguided effort to prove your worth when you feel like nothing—which is my depression’s preferred way of screwing up exercise—then back off. An unfinished workout only affects today, but an injury could put you out of action for far longer and mess with your head even more. If you’re afraid that you’re not pushing yourself hard enough or cheating, keep this in mind: Depression loves to lie and tell you that you’re doing an insufficient job, but when does it ever tell you that you’ve done enough or too much? If, as a depressed person, you start to worry that you’re pushing yourself too hard during a workout, there’s a good chance that you’re really overdoing it.

Give yourself some credit.

Congratulate yourself for a completed workout. Celebrate the parts of an incomplete workout that you did manage to do. Don’t beat yourself up too much for a workout that you missed or skipped entirely. Tough love is probably the last thing you need at a time like this.

“If you’re staying alive, you’re already doing the hardest workout imaginable.”

I genuinely don’t believe I’m going too easy on anyone when I say this. As a depressed personal trainer: I’ve done weight training, plyometrics, mixed martial arts training, and running. I once taught six cycling classes in a week on top of all of that other training. I’ve done every sort of burpee workout you could think of. And nothing has ever left me as physically and mentally drained as the simple act of staying alive. So if you’re still here, you’re already doing the hardest workout imaginable. If you want to, when you want to, there’s still time to figure out the rest.

The post Depression-Busting Exercise Tips For People Too Depressed To Exercise appeared first on The Establishment.

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21 days ago
Richmond, VA
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