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Business, Not Politics

Business, Not Politics: The Making of the Gay Market

Katherine Sender
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  • Book Info
    Business, Not Politics
    Book Description:

    In a hard-hitting book that refutes conventional wisdom, Katherine Sender explores the connection between the business of marketing to gay consumers and the politics of gay rights and identity. She disputes some marketers'claims that marketing appeals to gay and lesbian consumers are a matter of "business, not politics" and that the business of gay marketing can be considered independently of the politics of gay rights, identity, and visibility. She contends that the gay community is not a preexisting entity that marketers simply tap into; rather it is a construction, an imagined community formed not only through political activism but also through a commercially supported media. She argues that marketing has not only been formative in the constitution of a GLBT community and identity but also has had significant impact on the visibility of gays and lesbians.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50916-9
    Subjects: Economics, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. CHAPTER 1 The Business and Politics of Gay Marketing
    (pp. 1-23)

    Since the early 1990s, the United States has seen a rapid increase in the visibility of a new consumer niche: the gay market. A growing number of national corporations, including Subaru cars, Tanqueray gin, Abercrombie & Fitch menswear, and American Express Financial Advisors, court readers of the gay press, and commercials from the travel Web site Orbitz, and insurance company John Hancock, feature gay and lesbian couples on prime-time television. Within a year of its debut, Out magazine—a stylish lifestyle publication for lesbians, gays, and bisexuals—received $271,000 in advertising revenue for a single issue (December 1993), and in the...

  5. CHAPTER 2. Evolution, Not Revolution
    (pp. 24-63)

    Advertising clearly isn’t treating the gay movement as a viable market, deserving of special campaigns and special treatment, as it is now beginning to do with blacks and women and has done for years with teenagers.¹

    So declared Advertising Age in 1972, under the headline:“No Gay Market Yet, Admen, Gays Agree.”² Yet within three decades, the gay market and gay and lesbian media were sufficiently established for Viacom subsidiaries MTV and Showtime to explore the development of a gay cable channel, Outlet.³ MTV executive Matt Farber described this progression as “an evolution, not a revolution,” contrasting the image of a...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Professional Homosexuals
    (pp. 64-94)

    The tensions between business and politics not only shape the history of the gay market but also structure the ongoing, lived experience of gay marketing professionals. Lee Badgett argues that gay consumer culture has not been foisted upon unwitting, GLBT-identified people, nor has a gay sensibility simply been co-opted by mainstream advertisers, but “this latest stage of commercialization is the result of a complex interaction between market forces, corporate marketing practices, gay collective action, less homophobic public policies, and the rise of the ‘professional homosexual.’”¹ “Professional homosexuals” describes openly GLBT people who work in professional-managerial status occupations and whose sexuality...

  7. CHAPTER 4 How Gay Is Too Gay?
    (pp. 95-138)

    Gay marketers are faced with two primary challenges. The first is common to all marketing: how to create credible and desirable connections among people, products, and well-being, as communication scholars William Leiss, Stephen Kline, and Sut Jhally trace in their study of advertising.¹ The second challenge is specific to gay marketing: how to produce recognizably “gay” texts that interpellate gay-identified consumers. As film professor Richard Dyer observes, “A major fact about being gay is that it doesn’t show. … There are signs of gayness, a repertoire of gestures, expressions, stances, clothing, and even environments … that bespeak a gayness, but...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Selling America’s Most Affluent Minority
    (pp. 139-173)

    Like the last chapter, this one looks at gay visibility and the marketing routines that produce it. Yet whereas chapter 4 addressed the routines marketers use to fabricate consumer appeals that are recognizably “gay,” through product, image, or venue, here I look at how GLBT people are made visible as a target market. There are remarkable similarities in the routines of market segmentation across different consumer groups, as chapter 2 shows. Like the African American market, for example, the gay market is not a preexisting entity but must be brought into existence through the assumptions and technologies of market segmentation....

  9. CHAPTER 6 Neither Fish Nor Fowl
    (pp. 174-199)

    The question of the lesbian consumer market pitches marketers pell-mell into the conundrum of femininity. Echoing Freud’s plaintive query—“What does a woman want?”—put to Marie Bonaparte,² Henry Scott’s question about lesbian consumers suggests that although lesbians may want, identifying the object of their desire is notoriously tricky. According to Out’s founding editor in chief, Sarah Pettit, in their efforts to attract national advertisers lesbian publications face a neither “‘fish nor fowl’ dilemma … people won’t take them seriously as women’s books, but won’t take them seriously as gay books either.”³ Heterosexual women are stereotyped as exemplary consumers, either...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Sex Sells
    (pp. 200-226)

    The stereotype of the dour, unsexy lesbian feminist has hindered the construction of a viable lesbian consumer segment. Yet whereas lesbians have been hard to imagine as agents of desire, gay men have long been regarded as sexual—indeed as hypersexual. Gay male sexual culture was fundamental in the formation of the gay niche, bringing gay men to marketers’ attention in the 1970s. It is no coincidence that the first products from mainstream companies advertised in the gay press were for liquor and disco records, or that national gay magazines became profitable because of sexual advertising—classified ads, ads for...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Just Like You
    (pp. 227-242)

    On the eve of the 2000 GLBT Millennium March on Washington, D.C., journalist Hank Stuever crankily wrote,“The Love That Dared Not Speak Its Name now yawns and checks its watch as being gay becomes more market niche than rebellion.”¹ As corporate sponsors flocked to the march in pursuit of the gay market, Stuever expressed concerns shared by many that year: greater gay market visibility had precipitated a decrease in political activism, and gayness had become more a consumer lifestyle than a sexual identity. Twenty-eight years after the first mention of gay-related consumption in the advertising trade press, the gay market...

  12. APPENDIX 1: Pitching the Gay Market
    (pp. 243-252)
  13. APPENDIX 2: The Gay Marketers
    (pp. 253-256)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 257-286)
    (pp. 287-300)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 301-312)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 313-314)