Guest post: “The vacancy where same-sex families should be is blinding”
Blogger LesBeMums writes about the lack of visibility of the LGBTQ community in mainstream media and advertising.
Posted on: Wed 26-Jun-19 12:38:14
(86 comments )
This month is that of Pride, a time when the LGBTQ community commemorates the Stonewall Riots at the end of June 1969. It's a time when the community comes together to increase its visibility and raise awareness of the lack of equality LGBTQ people still receive.
We’ve actually come a long way since then, when it comes to LGBTQ achievements. In 1967 when the UK government decriminalised sex between two men (provided they were both over 21 and it happened in private), and continuing in 1992, when the World Health Organisation declassified same-sex attraction as a mental illness. LGBT individuals can now serve in the UK military, we can marry, we can adopt and, as of 2009, same-sex female couples now have equal rights on their child’s birth certificate (when that child is conceived via artificial insemination).
But, despite these huge achievements for the LGBTQ community, one area we - and many other minority groups - are still struggling in is equal representation in mainstream media. The amount of same-sex couples and heterosexual couples you see in the media is still so disproportionate. In the last decade, I can probably recall a few dozen adverts, films, or television programmes from mainstream media that have featured a same-sex couple. Worryingly, many of these were characters were presented in a negative light, perpetuating harmful stereotypes.
In the last decade, I can probably recall a few dozen adverts, films, or television programmes from mainstream media that have featured a same-sex couple.
Now I’m a parent, I fear it’s even worse. Despite being ‘legal’ in every sense, my four-year-old son is unable to see himself or his parents on TV, in advertising or in films. We all know how important it is for children to see themselves in the world around them - it helps them to understand it and feel secure. And yet, in 2019 it is still so very rare to see a same-sex family on my screen. Even on Instagram I have to actively look for LGBTQ representation by using a hashtag or visiting a dedicated page.
Jump to June, however, and you can’t scroll a few seconds without a rainbow avatar or a rainbow-themed product popping up - everything from mouthwash to shoes, all in aid of ‘Pride’. Some brands are getting the balance right - 100% of the proceeds from the Levi’s Pride Collection went to OutRight Action, for example. But many are simply capitalizing on a season to increase their revenue and, once June is over, the rainbows disappear like Christmas trees in January and so do those supposed corporate allies. Dig deeper still and some of the companies celebrating Pride will often have poor LGBTQ representation or equality policies within their company - which is an even bigger issue.
Perhaps a better strategy then would be for brands not to focus on Pride, but to include LGBT families in their advertising as part of the norm rather than as a commodity. For example, Tiba and Marl’s #WeAreFamily campaign in March included several diverse families, Gilette recently featured a transgender male celebrating his first shave, and last year Vauxhall featured a same-sex couple going into labour - all without a rainbow in sight. To my knowledge, the inclusion of LGBT families in these campaigns didn’t harm their bottom line.
At the end of the day, we’re all people just trying to find our place in the world, and those of us who are parents are trying to help our children do the same. Unfortunately, we in the LGBT parenting community also find ourselves having to prove we are not harming our children, that we don’t have ‘an agenda’ and that we’re something safe for children to be ‘exposed’ to.
Society is now a vibrant, interesting, and colourful spectrum of people from all different backgrounds. So why are the media and brands failing to reflect reality? The vacancy where same-sex families should be is blinding, and the regular silence from media outlets, PR and marketing agencies, and brands is deafening. In today’s climate, where people are protesting outside primary schools, where a female couple is beaten on public transport for not carrying out the perverted wishes of a group of teenagers and violence against the LGBT community has doubled in recent years, more needs to be done - now, more than ever. Now is the time we need true allies. Everyone in this world deserves to be represented - all year round.
Do we know what the stats are for same sex families vs opposite sex ones?
I'm just not sure it's disproportionate, perhaps it might be out of balance compared to the true ratio in some places but not in others? I don't know.
It is definitely a good thing for children to see themselves represented on TV etc, and I have no problem with seeing more same sex families at all. I'm just not convinced it's completely out of balance with society's actual make up.
Do you think the current atmosphere at Pride is conducive or unconducive to same sex parents standing up and bring counted?
Great question! I think families attending Pride is so important, and they need to continue attending, as it broadens the scale in which prejudice can affect us as a community. It all comes down to visibility at the end of the day. People won't know we exist unless we get ourselves out there.
Thanks for reading and thanks for your question.
Thanks for reading.
Whilst I don't know the official stats - it's certainly something I can look in to - I would be confident in saying it's still incredibly disproportionate. It's still very rare to see a same-sex family in an advert, so much so that when we see a family like mine we gasp! which I think speaks louder.
It is important but i think lesbians particularly would feel unsafe in the current climate taking their children along. It's no longer a safe space for them and the fetishistic side has now started to target children (see other thread about 'Pups' seemingly grooming kids at pride). It seems to have lost its original purpose of celebrating same sex relationships.
I agree that lesbian families need much more visibility.
It's a shame then that OutRight Action through pushing the Yogyakarta Principles and Pride itself seem determined to erase lesbians through their homophobic determination to do away with women's sex-based protections and refusal to allow lesbians a voice
I agree with @RuffleCrow that most families- gay, lesbian or straight - won't want to be associated with Pride as it is now seems more to do with normalising sadomasochist and fetish lifestyles (which are abusive sexual practices, practiced by a minority of gay and straight people, and nothing to do sexual orientation). It's not a safe place for lesbians- female homosexuals who are same sex attracted- either as they are being bullied, abused and prevented from participating by authoritarian 'queer' people who believe that lesbians should consider male partners if those males call themselves 'women' or be called 'transphobic'. It's gross and offensive coercion and attempted conversion therapy. Pride is a right old mess
Rufflecow, I'm not sure where this comes from but we've never felt unsafe taking our son to Pride, if anything I feel more safe at our local Pride (Brighton) than other places in general sometimes!
He has a wonderful time, dancing and seeing other children from LGBTQ families, and we feel safe letting him do that.
Of course I don't know what it's like at other Pride events, but it's certainly not something I've heard about within the community.
Thanks for posting, I definitely feel my family isn’t represented enough and there are absolutely more of us here than people think. I live in a small town in East Yorkshire and since moving here have found there are loads more of us than I imagined there would be.
@Lesbemums I very much suspect it comes from a place of hatred of trans. Last year we took our dc to Pride in Slovakia where we live where it is still very much needed because there is still so much open homophobia across society and particularly in politics. We've just elected a female President who, gasp, is in favour of LGBTQ rights so hopefully we are moving in the right direction. Pride was a wonderful day and we'd be going again this year if we were in the country.
I used to be so proud of the levels of tolerance in the UK but I no longer am and it makes me particularly sad to see so much open hostility and so much peddling of utter nonsense regarding the trans community. I guess at least here people are open about their intolerance and don't try to pretend that it's some awful threat to the existence of women. I agree that there aren't enough same sex families in the media but be grateful for any because here they only recently (2015) tried to enact a law that a family is one man, one woman and their children - thankfully it failed - and there is absolutely no representation in the media at all.
What 'comes from a hatred of trans' WelshMama?
I think RuffleCrow was talking about the Puppy fetishists at Lancaster Pride Welsh.
I don't think they're anything to do with trans are they? Or are you implying transpeople are dodgy fetishists?
Children (and people in general) do need to be exposed to families that aren’t just mum at home and dad at work.
But we also need to think about how people are represented on TV. Look at Coronation street, three gay male characters, two female gay characters, all single. Think about Rocketman, a ‘graphic’ sex scene was two men literally laying naked, if it was a man and a woman it would be referred to as nudity/mild sexual content.
There are music videos featuring straight women virtually naked in very sexual poses throughout the day, yet one which features a fully clothed gay man licking a car windscreen is only shown after 9pm.
There was outcry when Troye Sivan released Bloom, a non-graphic song about making love, because he is gay. Yet there is very little outcry at the multitude of songs about straight sex.
Personally for me, the number of gay characters isn’t a problem, it’s how gay people/characters are still portrayed in the media. We’re generally joke characters, we don’t have sex and we rarely have a major role in TV/films. Lesbians are still regularly portrayed as being a phase, gay men are still regularly portrayed as either being seedy or sexless.
A persons sexuality should make no difference to their character/the way they are represented in the media. The only way I have seen this done fairly well is Daniel and Viktor in Years&Years, they do have sex on screen, however the focus on their relationship is love and living as a normal couple.
I'm curious (and of course you may not want to answer and that's fine, but @RuffleCrow, @OrchidInTheSun and @Sunkisses, are you lesbians/in same-sex relationships?
I'm a lesbian and take my kids to Pride every year. We all love it and look forward to it.
Advertising is the wrong place to start looking for inclusion. It’s only about selling. If a same sex couple are in the ad, it’s because that is going to play well with their target market. Maybe it will make their brand appear to be open minded, young, modern or whatever. It’s not incidental and it’s not about wanting to make a political statement. It’s always about communicating a brand message. None of these brands will use this advertising in less accepting countries, for example. And none of them stood up here and had anything to say in the 80s or 90s when homophobia was much worse.
There are lots of people not portrayed in adverts though. No authentic rural people aside from occasionally having some middle aged bloke farmer producing food for Waitrose or Lidl or joke male farmers They are all from a view all about suburban towns or city life.
Very few Oriental faces except for when it’s a tech advert or food.
There are definitely same sex couples in adverts although it’s only the pregnant woman driven in the car air can remember. Conversely I know of no same sex couples with children personally. So I do think it’s probably just a ratio thing.
Absolutely OP! It's all well and good changing your profile pic to a rainbow, but what good is that really doing? You're so right, we need more LGBT families in our media - especially parents with children. Never forget that when Bob and Lee in Desperate Housewives finally adopted a daughter, we saw her three times 🙄
@WelshMammaofaSlovak i think you're confused. Men in restrictive leather 'puppy' masks on leads playing with small children in a tent whilst sporting huge erections - that's not Trans. Is it?
I completely agree that gay families (or characters) should be just ordinary occurrences in the media, certainly not a quota but do be aware that I'm not sure how unrepresentative they are, I can think of several adverts featuring gay families, the think is that families headed by two adults of the same sex isn't that common, I've seen 4% quoted but I suspect it's more, just not that much more.
The only similar issue is when people cite underrepresentation of ethnic minorities yet as the country is actually 87% white, much of the tv over represents ethnic groups, especially when set outside of large cities.
We need to get to a stage where nobody is even noticing the family make up - all that matters is that children have loving families
No, I disagree. Same sex families are a very small minority and we could all grumble about whether our particular niche is being represented or not.
For example -- disabled people. Certain ethnic groups. Older people. Unattractive people. Members of certain religions. Arguably many of these are underrepresented on ads etc.
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