Monday, November 5, 2007

Subaru Lesbians.



In early 1990, my mom's best friend bought a brand new Subaru Legacy station wagon. She had short hair and a golden retriever. I just got my driver's permit a few months before and Nancy was cool enough to offer me the keys for a spin around my shitty hometown of Concord, California. When she pulled into the driveway I ran out only to be face-raked: the Subaru had a stick-shift. Oh well.

Subaru-driving lesbians proliferated throughout the 90's and into this decade, and I started to wonder what it was about lesbians that compelled them drive these cars. It started to bother me. Was the Subaru an advertisement of sexual disposition or a subconscious coincidence?

I wondered the same about short hair and comfy shoes, golf clubs, high-waisted jeans, big dogs, polar fleece and precious acoustic music. Having lived in the lesbian-havens of Minneapolis, Seattle and now Portland, Maine1, I've felt like these cues are heavy-handed subtexts: passive-aggressive and, well, offensive.2 Moreover, a notion of wagon-circling, if you will, is implied, equivalent to pickup-truck ownership being mandatory suburban-macho accoutrement. I get that this perceived cliquishness may all just be a backlash to repression, but still...

Recently, this Washington Post article from back in 2000 made me realize that there is no subtext afoot:

"Coincidentally or not, the Subaru-lesbian connection seems to have spread throughout the car-buying lesbian community. 'We call [Subarus] Lesbarus,' said Pam Derderian, CEO and principal partner of Do Tell Inc., a gay niche marketing firm that created the Rainbow Card program."
(Subaru was a founding sponsor of the Rainbow Endowment, whose Visa Rainbow Card has raised more than $1.5 million for health, civil rights and cultural causes.)

I found more clarification here, where I was surprised to read as the opening line of Subaru president Rick Lociano's annual address to his dealers in 2004:
"O Forester! O Forester! It is as if thou hast dropped from heaven itself onto the Island of Lesbos!"
Further, the entire keynote was campy to the max:
"A crack team of psychoanalysts worked non-stop with top-tier engineers to design a body shape that breathes 'rugged utilitarian frumpiness' while avoiding the obvious pitfalls of what I call 'overphalluscizing'. In a stroke of genius, one of my junior marketing execs suggested that dealers add a deluxe dog cage at no extra charge. And we did it all at a price that even a substitute P.E. teacher can afford.
Then there were the Subaru print ads with taglines like: "Get Out. And Stay Out.", "It's Not a Choice. It's the Way We're Built." and the most provocative: "Likes to be Driven Hard and Put Away Wet."

Ironically, now that I know the Lesbaru phenomenon is merely the result of willful marketing, it seems less nefarious and even a little bit light-hearted. See? Writing can be therapeutic.


End Notes:
  1. My girlfriend insists that the majority of Subaru-driving women here in Portland are not gay, but rather "rugged New Englanders" who happen to also wear polar fleece, LHBs, and high-waisted jeans. Let's just say it's probably no coincidence that there is a history of L.L. Bean Edition Subarus. Bonus factoid: L.L.Bean has a Subaru Edition women's 'fitness fleece' pullover!
  2. In the way I seem to be offended by other 1-way communications like bumper stickers and these fucking hats.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am reluctantly providing you with a page view as I felt it neccessary to tell you how retarded you are. Posting advertisements for you blog in craigslist is bad enough, but this drivel is a waste of the electricity it takes to provide it for viewing. I will be passing my complaints along to craigslist as well. Until then, try finding your way to an education, would ya?

InBonobo.com said...

Found your article while searching for Subaru pics. I sold mine a few years ago. As a male, I find your musings about the sexuality of Subaru owners enlightening. It may also explain my pattern hair loss and subsequent head shaving.

Cortney said...

Genius! I was actually searching for a reason to the lesbian/subaru phenomenon and google suggested that your post might be of some assistance. Thanks for the enlightenment.

P.S. My guess is "anonymous" is a subaru-driving lesbian upset at being used as a marketing tool.