I know, I know, we’re all tired of this topic. I just have to get a few more thoughts out.
Thought One: “Why the ad is so bad.”
This has been explained in so many places, including at Babywearing International, that you’d think people would understand, but many still don’t. Here goes another try:
The ad uses the language of babywearing. Right off the bat, it talks about “wearing” a baby, not just “carrying” a baby. It talks about the wide variety of carriers available. It talks about bonding, and about worn babies crying less than others. These aren’t just random words and concepts. These aren’t words and concepts that the average Snuggli user necessarily relates to. These are words and concepts that people who self identify as babywearers use.
People who self identify as babywearers are growing in numbers every day, but we’re still in the minority. And some of us have been harassed and ridiculed for babywearing. Babywearing might not actually be a minority practice — lots of folks have frontpacks — but people who identify themselves as babywearers are definitely in the minority for now.
So, I’m a member of a minority group, and the Motrin ad is reaching out to me and speaking my language … but it’s not really speaking my language. Remember the Saturday Night Live skit about when something was translated into Japanese and back into English? (I only vaguely remember it … but you get the idea.) Yeah. It really isn’t using my language like I would use it. It’s like it was translated into Japanese and back into English by someone with a bad attitude.
If you’re going to use language I identify with, use it in a way I can identify with. Motrin did NOT. The persona portrayed in the ad is a bizarre caricature … she’s all about appearances, following a fashion and “totally looking like an official mom.” Who does that?!
But wait! There’s more! Not only is she shallow, she’s stupid. She wears her baby to the point of tears. Babywearers can’t relate to that. We’re sling geeks with skills. Either we find it comfortable or we’re working on our skills to get it comfortable. What we’re NOT doing is whining about it, popping pills, and doing it anyway. Babywearing is not about martyrdom.
So there, that’s why the ad is offensive: It speaks to a minority group in a disparaging way. It’s not just bad, it’s really really bad.
Thought Two: “Why the backlash is so off-base.”
There’s been a lot of backlash against the mothers who found the ad offensive and had the nerve to say so. It comes in different varieties.
To those who are offended that the “motrinmoms” wrote about something “so trivial” that offended them, I can only say, “gee, you’d think that people who don’t think people should post about trivial things that annoy them wouldn’t waste their time posting about trivial things that annoy them.”
To those who are in a huff that the “motrinmoms” aren’t in a huff over more weighty subjects: many of them are indeed in a huff over lots of issues, and they have enough guts to speak out on lots of them. But please don’t belittle this issue. For a lot of people, portraying babywearers as nincompoops is a deeply personal insult. As I’ve mentioned before, some babywearers have been harassed and ridiculed for babywearing, and stories of those unpleasant encounters travel through social media too. So having an ad put forth such a negative image of a babywearing mom is a slap in the face to someone who’s been slapped before. You can hardly blame the moms for sticking up for themselves and for other babywearers. Just because it’s not your issue doesn’t mean it’s not an issue worth getting worked up about.
And to those that think McNeil Consumer Healthcare/Johnson and Johnson erred in pulling the ad, please see the explanation above about why the ad is offensive. Would you expect a company to continue running an ad that (even inadvertently) disparaged a minority more familiar to you?