Box up your Gender Variance? Manhattan Mini Storage Ad
I saw this ad the other day on a downtown ‘A’ train and I’m not sure how I feel about it. At first glance I saw a gender variant person having a good time dressing female in a storage room. We don’t know if the person is a crossdresser, a drag queen, or transgender. The ad seems to say – I’m being good to my wife and child by not taking up space in our apartment. However, I think it could easily be read as ‘keep your gender variance in the closet’ or ‘hide it away’. Only later when I went hunting for the ad did I see it is named “Cover-Photo-DraqQueen” so we are talking about a drag queen here, but that’s not knowable from just seeing the ad.
I want to say that Manhattan Mini Storage does have a history of LGBTQ positive ads, and I think they meant the best here. (Personally I think storage in New York City is kind of a tax on those who haven’t accepted the fact that they live in New York City, but I digress).
The ad presents a complicated set of questions. What belongs in the home and what gets shoved out? What kind of “accommodations” or “concessions” are being made and by whom? For the married gender variant individual – receiving pressure from a spouse to keep their gender variance hidden is often a very real and painful experience. See a previous post on this issue here with my response to former New York Time’s ‘ethicist’ Chuck Klosterman who took that very stance.
I applaud MMS for their queer positive ad history, and on the one hand, this ad shows a drag queen – good with herself and her life, but I think this one skirts dangerously close to sending the wrong message. Thoughts?
I think you’re right about it skirting the boundary between positive and negative, although, to be honest, when I think about it, I find it hard to see much positive substance here. What follows is kind of a rant, and maybe not particularly coherent. But, anyway, here goes:
The storage company may very well have a history of sending positive messages about the LG/B community, which is great and laudable, and should be to their credit. But LG/B often doesn’t include T, and it’s certainly possible that a company that’s positive and supportive towards gays and lesbians (and possibly bisexuals) is still very much in the dark about gender variance and transpeople. Being in the dark, they’re prone to do much as others do and fall back on old stereotypes that ridicule and demean (and enforce the marginalisation of) transfolk.
The company has a service to sell. They’re selling it via humor. It’s a funny ad, people will laugh, and by making this mental/emotional connection to the storage firm, people will remember the company when the time comes to rent a storage unit. But that connection has been made at the price of enforcing a stereotype of transwomen as secretive “drag queens” who store their things in secretive locations.
In this view, the ad is really loaded. Maybe they did mean well, maybe it’s innocent, who knows? But sometimes even good intentions can’t mask the assumptions and prejudices that lie within.
Counter point that every marriage is, or should be, about compromise. I’m sure there are plenty of well adjusted gender variant people who keep that aspect of themselves in storage.
It’s intent is humor, I don’t think it’s judgemental at all.
TBH, I don’t really imagine it was intentional in the sense that a group of malicious people got together and made a point of creating an offensive advertisement that was deliberately designed to insult and demean transpeople. But I do feel as if there is a river of subtext running beneath the ad which, subconsciously inseeted or not, is harmful to the trans community by way of perpetuating stereotypes at a time when those stereotypes are very much in need of retirement. Later, in twenty or fifty years, if transpeople achieve the same sort of acceptance* as gays have achieved in the present day*, these stereotypes can be revisited in the spirit of fun and irony. But, at the moment, they’re just hurtful and ugly.
This is just my view, of course. It’s okay for opinions to differ. I just feel like even if the company meant well with this ad, it perpetuates a stereotype and sends a very unhelpful message at a time when such an action can be particularly harmful. Certainly there are gender variant people who fit the stereotype, and that’s fine with me. But there are many, many more who do not, for whom the perpetuation of this particular stereotype, however innocently the ad was conceived, is a burden and a hindrance to everyday life.
A couple of things to remember:
This is an ad, designed to sell you an unsexy object (an 8′ x8′ closet) that is non-essential ( I have lived in NYC over 20 years and know nobody who pays for storage. You just learn to live with less.)
Manhattan mini-storage has a seviceable but not exceptionally good product (again an 8’x8′ closet) and they are pricey in comparison to many other storage businesses in the area.
But they are very shrewd in marketing to a NYC demographic.
Many of their ads say just the kind of things that their target demographic wish to hear ( i.e. “Mitt Romney? He couldn’t even beat Barrack Obama!”) but have nothing to do with the actual product for sale.
The reason for this advertising approach is to shift the focus from “what are they trying to sell me?” to ” Just what kind of person are you anyway?”
Some of their ads (like the one above) have a more ambiguous political view but do cause people to discuss just what they mean, which, in turn, draws more attention to Manhattan Mini Storage.
What I found troubling in this ad (just saw it on the train yesterday) was that the man in the picture “likes” his wife and kids but “loves” his storage space……So. He likes the lady he is married to. And he likes his children. But his love is reserved for the 8’x8′ storage room where he can dress up like like a lady.
I don’t feel empathy for the man in the picture. I feel for empathy for his wife and children that have to play second fiddle to his obsession.
If the ad had read ” I like my ex-wife ” …..etc . I would feel totally different.
Of course, one could counter “He only has this storage space because he wants to stay with his wife but she(society) won’t accept him for who he is!”
And I could counter “What about his family?”
And one can almost hear the marketing folks at Manhattan Mini-storage clapping with glee.
Because, that is the purpose here.
This is an ad.
The character in the ad isn’t real, and doesn’t, in fact, represent any issue.
The entire purpose, is to sell us something.
And like any business trying to us sell something , Manhattan Mini-Storage wants us to spend our time time thinking about them.
And if it offends? All the better.
As Oscar Wilde famously said “The only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about”.
In the past, I would have found it a really good way of preserving my ex marriage with my ex wife who couldn’t cope with me being trans, without it impacting on my children; and affordable in the way an extra home would not have been.That would have been without the devastating consequences that a marriage break up had on all four of us including my children. I had tried everything I.could think of to come to a working arrangement with my ex but she refused or was unable to compromise.
In Britain there are still very many loving bigendered/twinspirited/dualgendered people in the closet for historical reasons that are terrified of their marriages breaking up if they reveal this side of themselves. The understanding and the internet wasn’t about when they started those relationships and they all hoped it would go away. Of course it didn’t though!
Nowadays people starting new relationships have no excuse in not revealing their trans nature at the start of the relationship. That is what I did 8+ years ago in my new relationship with my wife now.
However if the hired storage idea had come to mind it could have avoided the meltdown that happened when I couldn’t bear the stress of my situation any longer, and came out at 50. The long term prospect at the time was that after the kids had grown up I would have no chance of expressing my gender needs, as at retirement my ex wife would be around all the time. Hired storage could have tided me over, either long term or the possibility with the changing times, of a wife who could cope.
So whilst these days one would would hope dual gendered people wouldn’t have to live in the closet, some people do.
This ad recognises that and one would hope that it would provoke the reaction as to why should they have to at the same time. It should however have substituted living the wife and children for liking them.
As a “CD” or “TV” to use old school terms, meaning, I’m perfectly fine not transitioning and having a male and female life. Trans comes in MANY flavors. Personally I’ve chosen not to walk thru my building, with my neighbors and doorman knowing my feminine side. If someone chose to I’d defend them, but I’m not interested. I am out in public extremely often. I am comfortable with myself. For some people who are trans, having a separate ‘closet’ works.
The wording of the ad could mean, my wife is cool with this, but isn’t interested in having it in her face. I’ve been in that relationship. Nothing wrong with it.
We’re a touchy bunch for good reason right, we are still the butt of jokes on television. We have a long way to go.