Lies We've Been Told Pt. III "You Get A Toaster"
It was a moment in LGBTQ+ History. Ellen made history by being the first woman to ever say "I'm gay" on network television, coming out as her character and subsequently in real life. (Auntie O appears in the episodes as her therapist). The episode ends with Ellen signing a "lesbian contract" and then her crush Susan is presented with a toaster oven as a reward for turning Ellen gay. The joke is there is a secret society of lesbians that reward lesbians for "turning straight women gay." (see me sarcastically air-quoting hard AF)
Ain't no toaster B! This untruth has been circulating for over two decades and seems to have originated with the two-part "Puppy Episode" of Ellen DeGeneres' sitcom Ellen.
"But Malaika, I haven't heard that saying..." Trust me, it's a thing.
This is old! Exactly, how old are you? I'm old enough to have watched, celebrated and remember the puppy episodes .
The truth is I thought that this lie had died a thousand deaths, but nope! I heard it recently in a conversation, as it has become a long running joke in the community (who knew). This joke is ranked 2nd in the lesbian joke cannon by some. 1st place going to "What does a lesbian bring on a 2nd date?" I will dispel/explain that lie in Part IV of the series, but for now let's deal with toaster ovens and why you are not getting one!
The saying could be a reference to "recruiting" someone to play for the same team or bedding a straight woman. Either way it's incorrect at best and offensive at worst. The idea that a person can be turned into something they are not is a destructive notion. At its' core it is the premise of many prejudiced views and ideologies around homosexuality. It really plays into a fear that LGBTQ+ folx are predatory. Listen, ain't nobody trying to be "Miss Steal Ya Girl!" I mean that in a very broad sense because of course there are exceptions to every rule.
Whether a woman identifies as lesbian, bi, bi-curious, or questioning the propensity to discover her truth is already there. Maybe she is experimenting and figuring out how it all works for her. Either way she has to be present and available to the possibility of having a woman-to-woman encounter for it to happen. Unless of course she has not consented and that is a whole other thing. Point being, you cannot turn somebody into something they are not or that they already are. Perhaps you can be instrumental in the process of their self-discovery, but single-handedly "turning" somebody is BS. Sorry not sorry to all you ladies who have taken great pride in "turning out" straight women, she was already going sis.
Another troubling idea about the meaning of the joke is that a straight woman will burn a lesbian, not physically (safe-sex practices are real preventative measures loves) but emotionally. Lies!!! Emotional terrorism is not entirely owned by hetero or homosexuals. Any person who is unclear in communication can be a burner. The person who is straight (again a heterosexual person generally would not be inclined to participate in same sex activities) has a responsibility to be upfront about their sexual orientation. Having that clarity allows the other party to make an informed decision about their level of involvement. If a person willingly enters a relationship with a person knowing that they are in a period of self-discovery, then they are making at least a tacit agreement to be apart of that and the associated risks. You can choose to participate, but don't cry foul if she does not take that one way boat to the Island of Lesbos. Quite simply, straight women should not be demonized with such a tasteless joke that strips them of their humanity.
Maybe it's a joke. Maybe the Pink Mafia is a real thing and they are out here holding secret meetings and giving away whole toasters. Perhaps this is all a humorous commentary on being rewarded for starting a new relationship, like receiving a present for opening a new account or meeting a new goal for your multi-level marketing campaign. The closest origin story for this joke is that it was most likely born out of those episodes of Ellen. As it continues to make the rounds two decades later, I am forced to ask myself and the community why do we find this funny? Why do we continue to share a joke that is rooted in stereotypes? Why are we entertained by the thought of reaping a reward for participating in what for many is a deeply life-changing experience?
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