Streets created perfection in 1959 with the peak Aussie ice cream, the Gaytime: an ecstasy inducing blend of toffee and vanilla ice cream, covered in delicious, yet subtle, chocolate coating, and then smothered in the iconic honeycomb crumb biscuits, all on delivered on a convenient little paddle pop stick. It is, quite simply, the finest ice cream creation Australia has ever been lucky enough to experience.
Yes, the Toucan and Twin Poles once reigned supreme, and the Freeza certainly left iced confectionary competitors in the dust, but they’re icy poles, not ice creams. As such, the Gaytime comfortably trounces Magnums, Connoisseur’s, Bubble-O-Bill’s, and Paddle Pop’s. It stomps on the pseudo-elite competition that is the mango and cream blend Weis bar, an ice cream that fits the bill on a hot day, but cannot, will not, and should not, ever feel so egotistical that it can overwhelm the brilliance of the Gaytime.
The genuine joy and comfort that comes from eating a Gaytime is like nothing else. The first bite of soft biscuit, with the blend of chocolate and the subtle toffee flavour, stops you for a moment in time. You might read this thinking I’m being far too effusive with my praise of the extremely ethereal experience of eating a Gaytime, but the reality is, every time I bite into one, the sound of the world around me is sucked away, my sight goes a little blurry. All my senses become concentrated on the taste and texture of the Gaytime. This is not an ice cream you lick, but one that demands you bite into it with conviction, like you intend to eat it completely. Food is an intrinsically sexual experience, and as such, it’s easy to feel that orgasmically tingling sensation that comes with eating something truly sublime.
With my dogs drooling on in anticipation, it’s not long before I’m transported back to reality and away from that confectionary-laden Sugar Rush-esque land, the place that Vanellope von Schweetz calls home. But just like that family friendly cartoon, the Gaytime has a little raunch included in it. Where Vanellope is voiced by comedian Sarah Silverman, the Gaytime is driven by the keen awareness of its LGBTIQA+ focus. The ice creams slogan in the eighties has stuck for decades: it’s hard to have a Gaytime on your own; with the take home packs of Gaytime’s having the equally risqué slogan of ‘4 delicious chances to have a gay time’. Note the deliberate space between gay and time, and the double meaning of the word ‘gay’.
When Brian, a gay man, launched an online petition to have the Gaytime name removed from the ice cream and sent to the history books of Wikipedia, Streets initially responded by saying:
The first Streets Gaytime was released in Australia during 1959 when the word ‘gay’ had not yet been applied to gender preference.
The origin of the Gaytime name was and remains related to having a joyous or happy time and was meant to capture the pleasure that comes with enjoying an ice cream.
The Gaytime name is not and never has intended to cause offence and your petition is the first that we have been made aware of.
There’s a real vibe of both-sides-ing the situation here, with Streets coming across to the public as being both an ally of the queer community, while also suggesting that, hey, it’s just a major coincidence that the word gay means two things now. Streets has continually used the homosexual intonation of Gaytime for its own advertising advantage with its slogans and advertising, such as when they referred to the Oscar winning gay drama, Brokeback Mountain, in this advertisement:
The LGBTIQA+ community is clearly behind the ice cream, as the online response to the petition shows, with some folks tweeting that being against the name Gaytime is homophobic in itself.
While Streets has stood by the ice creams name, it’s not without criticism. Streets fairly received a boycott after its parent company, Unilever, sought to terminate a collective agreement for workers at its factory in Minto, NSW. That would have caused a massive pay cut. Thanks to a boycott, the termination never took place.
But when the queer community needed the Gaytime the most – during the plebiscite on marriage equality – Streets dropped the ball, instead failing to release a much-requested rainbow version, and opting for a generic ‘unicorn’ one instead, alongside some other questionable flavours. (It’s notable that a member of the public, albeit someone who has influenced Streets with their Gaytime products before, put out a prototype in support of marriage equality, instead of the company itself.) Where Skittles was removing the colour of its sweets to support Pride month (even though that act received a fair amount of criticism), Streets was simply happy to just skate along the precipice of being an ally (performative or otherwise) and instead just waded in the murky area of ‘are they queer allies or not?’ Streets, and Unilever, were notably absent from the online petition supporting marriage equality in Australia, just as they were notably absent from any kind of vocal action or support of the gay community during the AIDS crisis.
Now, performative allyship is rife in the corporate world. It’s very easy for a company to just slap a rainbow image on their products, push it out in the world, and say they support equality. As soon as midnight on the last day of Pride Month is over, their social media profile pictures tick back to normal, as if being queer is a choice (it’s not). Additionally, the representation and acceptance of the LGBTIQA+ community in organisations is still lacking. Thankfully, there are organisations like Inclusive Employers that review workplaces and ensure they actively create inclusive and supportive work environments.
It’s funny, I started writing this piece it with the intention of criticising Streets for their absolutely useless flavour profiles that they’ve been putting out in the world: Violet Crumble (no Violet Crumble flavour, pointless), Pina Colada (nice and refreshing, gone too soon), Birthday Cake (doughy in all the wrong ways), Crunchy Nut (neither crunchy, nor nutty, yet still appealing), Froot Loops (the best of the novelty flavours, lime-tinged and delicious, tastes nothing like Froot Loops), Krispy Kreme (the worst of the novelty flavours, impossible to enjoy, pointless), Salty (second tier greatness here, a smart use of salt with sweet, gone too soon), Coco Pops (pointless, utterly pointless, yet better than the Gaytime Coco Pops – see below), Choc Mint McMint Face (fine, and very forgettable), and, of course, Unicorn (it’s like a fluoro colour haired troll vomited breakfast).
And then, I wanted to also have a winking whinge about their Gaytime adjacent products, like the tolerable Golden Gaynetto (the closest variant to the OG Gaytime, just lacks the orgasmic qualities of the stick version), the swing-and-a-miss Golden Gaytime Sanga (who thought that copying Maxibon’s was a good idea needs a dress down, just bring back the OG Giant Sandwich you cowards), the better-in-concept tub of Gaytime ice cream (tastes just like toffee ice cream, just without the vital honeycomb biscuit crumbs, even though you can add your own), Gaytime Coco Pops (very useful if prepping for a colonoscopy), Golden Gaytime Eggsellence (a giant Gaytime-esque Easter egg that is all show and no payoff), the holy grail Gaytime crumbs (like Milo, best eaten with a spoon, also comes in a limited edition, utterly useless, unicorn flavour), and the ultimate, finest, best translation of the Gaytime experience into a different format, the Golden Gaytime popcorn, a confectionary delight that is completely devoid of any of the guilt, shame, or sorrow that comes with eating a bag of sugary goodness, and just leaves you feeling that post-coital glow we all seem to crave so much.
Over the past few weeks, I kept thinking about what makes a Gaytime a Gaytime. Is it the format of the ice cream – ice cream, chocolate, biscuits – or is it the flavour profile? I really wanted to dig into the personality of a Gaytime, to find out why a Gaytime exists, why do I love a Gaytime so much? While I could certainly jump down a rabbit hole of interviewing fellow Gaytime lovers, while also getting in touch with the LGBTIQA+ community to gauge their feelings about the Gaytime and what makes it such an iconic ice cream, I came to the realisation that that venture was best left untapped.
Instead, as I wrote this, I realised that there was something larger than having a light dig at a company for putting out naff flavours of a popular ice cream (with that said, I am deadly serious that I’m very much on board with a Sultana Bran Gaytime, or a Vegemite crossover). The Gaytime is, arguably, Australia’s most iconic and delicious ice cream. But, we are no longer in the 1950’s, and we are no longer peddling the notion of being an archaic, heteronormative society.
As I got higher and higher up my friendly and all too compliant horse, ready to scream down at Streets for leaving the LGBTIQA+ community out to dry, I neglected to do the one thing I should have done in the first place.
Visit the Streets website for more information.
And sure enough, under the Articles section, is an open letter from ‘The Golden Gaytime’. I’m as surprised as you are to find out that the Gaytime team refer to the ice cream as an actual person, given the wording of the header of their open letter, but I’ll let them have it.
Over the past several weeks, the Gaytime team has been taking some time to listen and reflect. Why? Because we stand for inclusion, celebrate diversity and welcome meaningful conversations around these values. We believe that in order to really listen and understand, we must consider all voices.
We’ve had a unique opportunity to hear from thousands of people across the nation about their views on the Golden Gaytime name, and the response has been extraordinary. We’ve heard that there is an enormous amount of love and nostalgia associated with our Gaytime, but it has also provoked some very important conversations around diversity, inclusion and equity.
The meaning behind the Gaytime name has not changed since its iconic debut in 1959 – it is, and always has been for everybody to enjoy, no matter who you are or who you love. However, we are very mindful that the world has changed since the first Gaytime was made, and culture and language has also evolved over time.
We’ve been listening to our fans, consumers, engaging with our customers, and having lots of conversations internally. We also felt it was important to engage directly with the LGBTQIA+ community, so we met with ACON – one of Australia’s leading LGBTQIA+ community organisations – to get their perspective.
Our Streets family has been in communities across Australia for a very long time. Our purpose is to make people happy and that is exactly what our beloved Gaytime name is all about – the happiness and joy that comes from eating ice cream.
Following these conversations and reflection, and with the support of ACON and many other voices in the LGBTQIA+ community, we are proud to keep the Golden Gaytime name. There is a lot of history and pride behind Gaytime, and we have been inspiring a sense of community for many years. Going forward, we want to continue bringing communities together and creating a more diverse, inclusive and equal world for everybody.
Now, a slew of words that include consultation with one of the leading LGBTIQA+ organisations in Australia, ACON, and a clear indication that they stand behind the LGBTIQA+ community, doesn’t mean that they’re off the hook. It’s a step in the right direction, but given we’re right in the midst of LGBTIQ History Month, it’s about time that Streets and Unilever took their support of the LGBTIQA+ community to the next level and supported the LGBTIQA+ communities across Australia with financial support and sponsorship.
This won’t put them in the LGBTIQ history books at all, but it’ll certainly go a long way to establishing the wide varieties of Gaytime’s as the ice cream for the LGBTIQA+ communities of Australia. The LGBTIQA+ community loves the ice cream and does all the heavy lifting for queer allyship for Streets. But, Streets need to listen to themselves: it’s hard to have a Gaytime on your own.
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