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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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Debunking Boris Johnson's claim that energy bills will be lower if we leave the EU

Why the Brexiteers' energy policy is less power to the people and more electric shock.

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have promised that they will end VAT on domestic energy bills if the country votes to leave in the EU referendum. This would save Britain £2bn, or "over £60" per household, they claimed in The Sun this morning.

They are right that this is not something that could be done without leaving the Union. But is such a promise responsible? Might Brexit in fact cost us much more in increased energy bills than an end to VAT could ever hope to save? Quite probably.

Let’s do the maths...

In 2014, the latest year for which figures are available, the UK imported 46 per cent of our total energy supply. Over 20 other countries helped us keep our lights on, from Russian coal to Norwegian gas. And according to Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, this trend is only set to continue (regardless of the potential for domestic fracking), thanks to our declining reserves of North Sea gas and oil.


Click to enlarge.

The reliance on imports makes the UK highly vulnerable to fluctuations in the value of the pound: the lower its value, the more we have to pay for anything we import. This is a situation that could spell disaster in the case of a Brexit, with the Treasury estimating that a vote to leave could cause the pound to fall by 12 per cent.

So what does this mean for our energy bills? According to December’s figures from the Office of National Statistics, the average UK household spends £25.80 a week on gas, electricity and other fuels, which adds up to £35.7bn a year across the UK. And if roughly 45 per cent (£16.4bn) of that amount is based on imports, then a devaluation of the pound could cause their cost to rise 12 per cent – to £18.4bn.

This would represent a 5.6 per cent increase in our total spending on domestic energy, bringing the annual cost up to £37.7bn, and resulting in a £75 a year rise per average household. That’s £11 more than the Brexiteers have promised removing VAT would reduce bills by. 

This is a rough estimate – and adjustments would have to be made to account for the varying exchange rates of the countries we trade with, as well as the proportion of the energy imports that are allocated to domestic use – but it makes a start at holding Johnson and Gove’s latest figures to account.

Here are five other ways in which leaving the EU could risk soaring energy prices:

We would have less control over EU energy policy

A new report from Chatham House argues that the deeply integrated nature of the UK’s energy system means that we couldn’t simply switch-off the  relationship with the EU. “It would be neither possible nor desirable to ‘unplug’ the UK from Europe’s energy networks,” they argue. “A degree of continued adherence to EU market, environmental and governance rules would be inevitable.”

Exclusion from Europe’s Internal Energy Market could have a long-term negative impact

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd said that a Brexit was likely to produce an “electric shock” for UK energy customers – with costs spiralling upwards “by at least half a billion pounds a year”. This claim was based on Vivid Economic’s report for the National Grid, which warned that if Britain was excluded from the IEM, the potential impact “could be up to £500m per year by the early 2020s”.

Brexit could make our energy supply less secure

Rudd has also stressed  the risks to energy security that a vote to Leave could entail. In a speech made last Thursday, she pointed her finger particularly in the direction of Vladamir Putin and his ability to bloc gas supplies to the UK: “As a bloc of 500 million people we have the power to force Putin’s hand. We can coordinate our response to a crisis.”

It could also choke investment into British energy infrastructure

£45bn was invested in Britain’s energy system from elsewhere in the EU in 2014. But the German industrial conglomerate Siemens, who makes hundreds of the turbines used the UK’s offshore windfarms, has warned that Brexit “could make the UK a less attractive place to do business”.

Petrol costs would also rise

The AA has warned that leaving the EU could cause petrol prices to rise by as much 19p a litre. That’s an extra £10 every time you fill up the family car. More cautious estimates, such as that from the RAC, still see pump prices rising by £2 per tank.

The EU is an invaluable ally in the fight against Climate Change

At a speech at a solar farm in Lincolnshire last Friday, Jeremy Corbyn argued that the need for co-orinated energy policy is now greater than ever “Climate change is one of the greatest fights of our generation and, at a time when the Government has scrapped funding for green projects, it is vital that we remain in the EU so we can keep accessing valuable funding streams to protect our environment.”

Corbyn’s statement builds upon those made by Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor, whose consultations with research groups have stressed the importance of maintaining the EU’s energy efficiency directive: “Outside the EU, the government’s zeal for deregulation will put a kibosh on the progress made on energy efficiency in Britain.”

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.