“In which lesbian bar should we meet up?” “Let’s go to our place near the lesbian sexshop, my order just arrived there anyway.” “Okay,how about after that we check out those lesbian cruises that are organized by that travel agency I’ve told you about?” The chances of hearing one of these sentences here in Hungary are very low.
While Budapest has many services to offer to gay men, including bars, clubs, saunas, sex shops, it is not equally easy for a lesbian* woman to find the same services customized to her needs. Bárcsak Bar (If only Bar), Vis Major, Pepita - what do they have in common? One: they are all names of bars for lesbians*. Two: they are all closed.
We are not the only country in this situation. This problem is present even in cities known as gay paradises, like San Francisco or New York. Lesbian* bars, clubs are disappearing in all the world’s biggest cities, while places meant for gay men are constantly growing. The affected owners and contractors mostly say lesbians* can’t or won’t spend enough money to keep these spots open.
We collected the possible reasons behind the development of this sad trend, even though we can’t know for sure which ones affected the situation in Hungary and to what measure.
It is our not-so-secret goal to possibly change the situation upon investigating it.
Being a member of a community can definitely increase one’s happiness. This is why we think if we had open spaces where we can be together and have fun, while having services available that are customized to our needs, the Hungarian lesbian community could really grow and develop. The good news is, seeing the reasons we collected, it’s not impossible to change the situation!
We looked through many articles and studies to collect information. Our investigation’s sources were mainly about the United States but we definitely think some of them are relevant to our situation as well. The causes are the following:
1. Increasing acceptance
It may sound strange to hear that the increasing acceptance towards lesbians* might have a role in why our places are closing down, it does. Why is that?
We don’t necessarily feel the need to be invisible
As lesbians*, we feel it’s less important to hide from prying eyes than just a few years earlier - simply because nowadays two women holding hands is not considered an act of rebellion. However, gay men don’t receive the same amount of acceptance, which can be the reason why they rather go to places where they know they are accepted.
For young people, being a lesbian* is entirely natural
The millenial generation grew up seeing Lady Gaga, Ellen Degeneres and Miley Cyrus, so they are used to seeing and accepting diversity. Since they didn’t feel the need to be secretive, they didn’t have to be isolated, so they feel less of a need to support places entirely dedicated to the lesbian* community.
2. Economical reasons
There are many economical factors and trends that we should investigate, since they affect lesbians*’ habit of spending money.
It’s a sad fact that women on average get paid 20% less than men. If we’re looking into the statistics, we can find something very surprising: lesbian* women make 9% more than straight women - however, this is still far less than how much men make. This means that lesbians* have less money to spend than (gay or straight) men - so they can only spend less on entertainment purposes.
We have to add that even the researchers admit it’s difficult to find information about this topic, and these statistics are from the US and West-Europe, so we can’t be sure how relevant they are to Hungary’s status. Even considering this - that payment is higher than straight women’s - it’s still much more difficult to build a career than it is for men out there, because of the possible sexual discrimination (which women are affected by no matter what their sexual orientation is). All of these factors have an effect on their financial stability.
Ads are less likely targeted to lesbians
If we watch a block of ads on TV or scroll through a website while checking the ads that appear, it’s easy to see that all of them are generally heteronormative. Most of the ads are based on the traditional theme of love existing between men and women. The scenes are of how they meet, fall in love and build a family. This doesn’t include problems that LGBTQ+ people face everyday.
Lesbian women are not addressed as lesbian women, while hetero women are constantly flooded with all kinds of marketing methods (which are mostly about how they should seduce men). We can’t underestimate the effect of this phenomenon to people’s consumer habits. By lesbian* women not being targeted to buy many products, they can be left out of consumer society much more than men or straight women.
3. Social and cultural reasons
Cultural and social reasons can’t be entirely separated due to reasons we mentioned earlier, but since we are looking at the topic from a slightly different angle, it’s worth to discuss them further.
We’re not socialized to buy as much as gay men
Gay men’s socialization usually includes being “trendy”, keeping up with fashion or interior design. Everyone knows the stereotype that says gay men have impeccable taste and they love to shop - even if that’s not necessarily true, it’s still an expectation.
Lesbian* women are mostly thought to be frugal, and it’s in connection with the previously mentioned wage differences and the advertised products not being directed to them. Although it is almost refreshing to stay away from the pressure of consumer society, this does not make the job easier for a person trying to open a venue for lesbians*.
We like to be alone with our friends
Instead of the commercial venues, we prefer to be only with our friends, so house parties or trips can be a great alternative. This is also connected to what we discussed earlier (financial possibilities, socialization).
When we find our partner, we get away from the world (Attention! Serious stereotype ahead!)
There’s a well known joke: “What does a lesbian bring to the second date? A U-Haul.” It is a generalisation, but we’re pretty sure everyone knows a lesbian couple who are a little too attached to each other from the start, and it’s almost impossible to meet them in person, because they’d rather be at home by themselves. There are no similar jokes of gay men that we know of. So in all (un)seriousness, this might be a factor to consider.
Online dating apps gaining ground
With dating apps becoming more and more popular, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your home to get to know new people. This does not apply to lesbians only, but it seems like gay men still get out more.
There is hope!
Considering everything mentioned before, we think that
The fact that there are no services aimed at lesbians* is not just a problem, but a challenge and a possibility as well, an audience that has never been targeted before holds a whole lot of potential.
Fortunately there are businesses that can serve as an example and give hope that using the right kind of strategy and communication, both the consumers and the provider can be satisfied. One of the examples is Subaru, being the first company to target lesbians* with their advertisement. This attempt was successful and the number of Subaru cars sold increased highly.
Another example is the freshly started, Los Angeles based travel agency, Partheneia. Targeting lesbians*, their strategy is to emphasize “connection”, so that lesbian* women can spend their free time in a friendly environment, having the chance to become part of a community.
In conclusion, we think that using the right business strategy, there could be commercial venues for lesbians* they could be comfortable in and that could long-term serve the community.
Translated by Éva Csermendy