Riding in cars with girls – frames of mind – automobile industry’s marketing to lesbians – Brief Article
B. Ruby Rich
It all started, I think, with Volvo. Until then, cars were boy toys marketed to young guys who wanted a chick magnet, older guys in the grip of a midlife crisis, or guys of a certain size in obvious need of compensatory objects. Then Volvo decided to pitch to women. Not just any women, mind you, but, specifically, mothers. In essence, those Volvos were marketed like an egg crate: If only the responsible mom would pack her eggs (well, OK, now children) into the nice hard shell provided by Volvo, they’d be safe on the way home from the grocery store. While the name of the car in English seems to conjure some immediate slippage into “vulva,” clearly it’s the uterus that’s the real focus of the whole campaign. Ain’t nothin’ sexy about a Volvo.
Eventually, the car industry seemed to figure out that there were other women around with other driving needs. Despite the omnipresence of children today in the lesbian universe, many lesbians were still living the free life back in the `90s. Indeed, the car companies initially began to market to lesbians using a hipster approach more in line with the sports cars advertised to guys. Subaru bankrolled Martina Navratilova’s Rainbow Card, put money into gay and lesbian film festivals, advertised in this magazine, and began to make inroads into the lesbian consumer market.
Nevertheless, when I looked around my hometown of San Francisco, the big lesbian winner was the Mazda Miata. For a while it seemed to become the official lesbian vehicle: sleek, stylish, modern, fun to drive, and not too expensive.
In the go-go economic years, lesbians who cashed in dot-corn stocks at the right minute–added to those who lived in towns like Miami or L.A., where your car is you–began to graduate to Boxster or Lexus models. In other cities, pairs of lesbian moms turned to the dreaded SUV. Quite a few even took up the newly hip Subaru Legacy Outback model.
Flash-forward to September 11 and October 7, the start of the warfare era. The world is a different place now, and it’s hard to write flippant columns about automobile purchases. Grrr, I growl to myself as my own lissome gas-stingy vehicle is sideswiped by yet another monster spewing carbon monoxide and taking up way too many feet of curb space in my parking-challenged neighborhood. Damn these cars, I think, without them we wouldn’t have needed the Gulf War or an Afghan pipeline.
Mid growl one day, I noticed something different right outside my house. It was my neighbors Chris and Karla’s brand-new gas-electric hybrid Toyota Prius, finally delivered after a four-month wait. They are modern lesbian consumers, what used to be called DINKs: double income, no kids. They already had an aging Mazda Miata in the stable when their round-town car was totaled by a crazed diabetic off her meds driving a `60s Impala (don’t ask). They were thrilled to get the insurance company settlement and the chance to update their wheels of the future.
Their response to the new world order? A decisive vote for fuel efficiency. The Prius is very cute, but all they can talk about are its mpg statistics. “I’ve gone 350 miles and I’m still on my first tank of gas,” raved Karla, the Miata fanatic, after her conversion experience.
Karla and Chris offer a response we would do well to emulate. It’s insane (and suspicious) that a global war being fought in part for revenge, in part for petroleum access should have temporarily resulted in gas prices lower than we’ve seen in years–at least here in California–and in a Senate vote to maintain SUV gas guzzling without restraint.
We could all be buying these new hybrid models that totally change the economics of the fuel tank. Or the whimsical new electric cars that chirp around town in their fiberglass shells. I know, the lesbian scold is a familiar cultural icon, haranguing everyone else to give up red meat or perfume. This time around, though, we’re right. Think global, drive local. I, for one, will–as soon as I have the cash flow for car payments.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Liberation Publications, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group