Wednesday 23 November 2016

Heteronormativity in advertising

Being an LGBT+ 'person' (I identify as bisexual) I tend to notice heteronormativity a lot. The definition of heteronormativity is this: people fall into distinct and complementary genders (man and woman) with natural roles in life. It assumes that heterosexuality is the only sexual orientation or only norm, and states that sexual and marital relations are most (or only) fitting between people of opposite sexes. This "definition", of course, completely disregards non-binary and gender fluid people which is a WHOLE other story...

Basically, it boils down to the fact that society sees heterosexual lives and relationships as "normal" or "the norm". Okay, cool but what about everybody else? I was prompted to write this post when I saw a company on Twitter - annoyingly I can't remember who it was, but I guess that shows the lack of influence they as a company have - promoting a competition to win a perfume for YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONE. Two bottles were on the picture - one 'for her' and one 'for him'.

I wrote this post when I was in a relationship with another woman and although this isn't the case now, the points still stand. So I'm not editing the below paragraph because it still needs to be said.

Odd, I thought, because my loved one is a girl and so am I. We both identify as 'her' - there is no 'him' in our relationship, and neither of us are even that masculine. So, I thought, there's no point in me entering this competition because it doesn't apply to me, or any of my gay friends and lesbian friends and probably a ton of other people too. Heternormativty in advertising is frankly, exclusatory. 

And then I thought about TV adverts - couples necking on to promote the latest fragrance, couples doing the weekly food shop in major supermarkets, and one bizarre advert where a woman is choosing a new dress to impress her ex boyfriend. All these adverts and their respective couples have one thing in common: it's always a man and a woman.

Y'all don't need me to tell you again that I think representation is important - that seeing people we identify with and relate to is important - but it is. Queer kids don't see queer couples enough, and advertising is one place where this is totally stark. I remember seeing the Calvin Klein CK2 advert on the underground in Prague and there were girls kissing, boys leaning on each other, people who didn't fit the heteronormative advertising bill and I was so excited; I was 20, and I was so excited and it shouldn't be so rare, so sought after and so exotic.

We see gay couples and biracial couples and disabled people in advertising more so now, in 2020 when I'm editing this post, than we did when I wrote it. But often it's tokenistic and it always (always) results in angry comments on social media about how the world is pandering to snowflakes and it's "PC gone mad". But representation is still an important matter, and one that's very close to my heart.

What are your thoughts about heteronormativity in advertising?

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