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When it comes to advertising food, why do lesbians get yoghurt?

The Christian right in the US is upset by a yoghurt advert that features a lesbian couple. But what is it about dairy produce that says “queer”?

Yoghurt: women love it, so lesbians must double-love it, right? Photo: YouTube screengrab

It had to be yoghurt. Women love yoghurt, right? So lesbians must, like, double-love it. A new ad for American yoghurt brand, Chobani, features some naked, loved-up lesbians and, surprise, surprise, the Christian right is going mental.

In the gay food wars, the homophobic community (yes, they’re a community – they hang out in playgrounds, huffing solvents and weeping about modernity) have pelted The Gays with cake, fried chicken and pizza. Now we’re hitting back with low calorie dairy produce. I like to imagine an army of queer women on horseback charging into battle, hurling creamy white handfuls of gloop and bellowing, “EAT LESBIAN YOGHURT, BITCHES”. But I am, like the baby-eating bishop of Bath and Wells, a colossal pervert. So go figure.

But, I ask you this, why do the heteros get all the fun, fatty, sugary, carby stuff while us dykes are kitted out with milk’s sickly cousin? I get it, Chobani, lesbians are supposed to be all Whole Foods and tantric yoga. You think we’re your demographic and, to be fair, a lot of us probably are. Then again, lesbians are some of the most lactose intolerant and/or vegan people you’ll ever meet, so watch your step.

But back to the actual ad. We see an attractive, but not intimidatingly so, blonde woman in bed, earnestly enjoying a pot of Chobani. Like, why does she start eating it with her fingers? She has a spoon. She has a swanky beachfront property (the bedroom opens out onto a California-looking beach with a guitarist on it) so this woman really has a spoon. A Goop-quality spoon. It was probably hand forged by exquisite, virginal spoon artisans in the Andes. But enough about this woman and the luxury spoon that she refuses to utilise. Someone is lying next to her in bed. It has to be a man, because the only TV lesbians are ones who have tearstained shouting matches and impractical sex. We’re not allowed to be beacons of domestic bliss. Or are we? Hang on a sec, there’s a foot. Is it a lady foot? Oh my shit, it’s a lady foot. The yoghurt lady is in bed with another lady. Glory be, and alert the village elders.

Ad agencies, as we consumers are well aware, rely heavily on shock value. It’s all about, you know, showing a parakeet pecking at its dead owner’s exposed, still throbbing heart, in order to sell artisanal popcorn or something. Still beats me why I never made it in advertising. Anyway, it’s risky, it’s risqué, it’s crunchy, man. But, unless you consider middle class white women, who just so happen to be in a gay relationship, to be edgy, the Chobani ad is about as shocking as Fiona Bruce in Waitrose, buying an aubergine. It’s well and truly beige. If it weren’t for the lesbian aspect, it would be one of those ads where you can’t even remember whether it’s for heartburn tablets or a car. Which is why it continues to baffle me that the likes of One Million Moms, an anti-gay group in the US, are really and truly that bothered by it. The nudity is only mildly suggested. The bedroom floor isn’t even littered with discarded strap-ons and industrial strength vibrators. The pettiness demonstrated by those calling for the ad to be banned is really quite astonishing.

I suppose it shouldn’t be. I’m approaching this from the snug confines of my liberal London lesbian bubble. But sure, at a time in which same-sex marriage is only just being legalised in patches of the western world, the Chobani women – the world’s most wholesome fictional couple – are going to shock a lot of people.

So, in that respect, well done Chobani. From now on, you will forever be known as “that lesbian yoghurt”. So, bold, bold move.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

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For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood