I work in Iowa, where same-sex marriage is legal (whoot for equality), and I was recently asked by my workplace to put together a brochure about the wedding rental facilities we have available — pavilions, parks, that sort of thing.
I am already planning on including a “We rent to everyone, regardless of who you’re in love with ” in the FAQs, but I want to make a bigger statement with the actual design.
On the flip side, I don’t want to seem like I’m blatantly pandering for the sake of it — I guess in my mind, I just feel like it’s somewhat exploitative to include a picture of two brides or two grooms just because “See how different they are? AND WE DON’T EVEN CARE!!”
I’ve spoken to a number of my friends about this, both straight and non-, and it seems like everyone has their own opinion on things. I’ve spoken to queer couples who won’t even consider a vendor unless they specifically show same-sex couples in their materials, and others have said that they feel pandered to and would be uncomfortable renting from a vendor who purposely includes same-sex couples as a means of showing how “diverse” their clientele is.
What do you think? What’s the best way to advertise in a non-gender specific way? How would you do it?
As you point out, there’s no right answer to this question, and I certainly can’t speak for an entire community or make blanket statements for what will feel like pandering vs what feels inclusive. I think the best non-definitive response I can give here is to share some of my own thoughts as a business owner who caters to LGBT clientele, and let you make your own decisions about what might work best for you.
So first, a few obvious points that you’ve already considered:
- Avoid all gendered language like “brides and grooms” or “his and hers”
- Language like “partners” instead of “couples” can be a subtle cultural indicator
- Instead of showing people, show non-peopled imagery like decor, food, or rings
- Include a small line of text emphasizing your organization’s inclusivity — this is a great way to voice that you accommodate not just LGBT couples, but also those with disabilities, or those with other unique needs.
- Don’t make the mistake of over representing LGBT couples (even in states with marriage equality, the vast majority of couples planning weddings are het)
My goal is to make my sites feel inclusive, without feeling like I’m specifically calling out or highlighting same-sex couples as anything other than just another couple. We encourage folks to identify however they like (meaning that some of our same-sex weddings have titles like “Jane and Jill’s backyard BBQ lesbian wedding” — because that’s how the couple identified it), but we also feature a ton of same-sex weddings from couples who don’t self-identify as same-sex, with titles like “Jane and Jill’s backyard BBQ wedding.” If you look at the pictures or read the post, obviously it’s a same-sex wedding… but the same-sex-ness is not the point, any more than it’s the point that the wedding happened in NYC, Iowa City, or Seattle. It’s a wedding that’s awesome that happens to also be same-sex. On Offbeat Families and Home & Life, we feature tons of content written by LGBT writers that has nothing to do with their LGBT identity.
I also allow the breadth of my content to speak for itself — I don’t usually promote Offbeat Bride as LGBT-friendly, because anyone who reads the site for even a week can see that about 20% of our content is LGBT, roughly the same percentage of our readership that identifies that way. For me, it’s important to have my product (aka our posts) reflect our readership.
As a resident of Washington State, it was super interesting for me to see how wedding vendors here responded to the political shift — which of course has impact for the wedding industry. I was the most impressed by vendors like Jenny Jimenez who immediately volunteered their time to support the cause. I have to admit that I was a little uncomfortable when I saw vendors promoting discounts for same-sex clientele to “celebrate” the passing of Referendum 74. Discounts just felt a little too much like, “Yay, you! Now you can give me money!” I know that’s not the motivation, but it’s a delicate balance when identity, politics, and business intersect.
Clearly I don’t have any great answers here — but I’d love to open this question up to readers: where’s the line for you between advertising that feels inclusive, and advertising that feels pandering or exploitative?