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.
- 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!
- In the way I seem to be offended by other 1-way communications like bumper stickers and these fucking hats.