Thursday, November 20th, 2008
A Contrary View of the Motrin Ad Discussion
I received the following observation and series of questions from a lurking father regarding the anti-child-wearing Motrin advertisement:
“It almost seems to me that the fuss over the Motrin ads is something that you would only see with women/moms. There is a ton of casually dismissive or insulting media and advertising towards dads out there, but while I see some dad bloggers commenting on the themes, I rarely see anyone getting truly offended — you’d never in a million years get the kind of fervor from guys.
Just from the comments on your blog, the majority of them aren’t even addressing the question you asked and are simply a discussion of the pros and cons of babywearing itself.Â Why do you think the discussion took that tack?Â And why is it that popular media can touch such a sensitive nerve to the point where mothers specifically feel like there is some sort of judgmental vendetta against their parenting choices?Â I’m curious to hear your point of view on it.”
I shall hazard some guesses.
1. Why didn’t the commenters address the stated question, “Can a pain reliever be pitched to baby carrying mothers in a non-offensive manner?”
I deliberately posed a question that was different than the usual look-and-react found on other websites, but the natural thing is for people to look and react.Â People are going to respond to the issues they see, not necessarily the ones I propose. Blog articles are a jumping off point for discussion.
When I asked my wife the same question, she launched into her thoughts about the ad. I had to ask twice because she really didn’t hear me the first time. In the article, if I had proposed an alternate idea for an advertisement, it probably would have steered the discussion. I just couldn’t think of one. Perhaps no one could.
2. Why can popular media touch a nerve to the point where mothers feel there is a judgmental vendetta against their parenting choices?
Hmm, are mothers more incensed than a father would be to an anti-father ad? Probably.
There may be some genetic influence or social engineering at work. I think men tend to internalize feelings. Women more easily express themselves and share their feelings. Some might say they have a need to do so.
When I see a movie clip or other stereotypical depiction of a father hovering over a changing table dressed in a hazmat suit, I roll my eyes. Do I get incensed? No. I guess I’m used to being a minority (dads in the parenting world are minorities), being the butt of jokes in a society that has neatly defined how a mother and father are supposed to perform their roles.
You know, it’s when I tell someone I’m handling childcare today (or taking care of the kids) and the person references it back to me as babysitting. My clients do it. Some members of my family do it. There are a lot of backward people in the world and it’s not my job to correct them. Brush it off and keep going.
But let’s look at this Motrin ad again. Child-wearing is a beloved activity for mothers. I do it occasionally, but I can’t say I love it; I’m so much more comfortable just holding my son in my arms in many situations. But for mothers it can be a very special thing, and it’s an emerging stereotype of a certain type of parent, in some places even an expectation. Mothers have embraced it.
The Motrin ad can be viewed as an attack on motherhood itself, clashing a newer stereotype of motherhood with an older stereotype of superficial womanhood (personal fashion and an obsession with personal appearance). Re-read the transcript, there are two such references. It really stirs up the question of what a woman is supposed to be, a genuine mother or one who is going through the motions to keep up appearances.
And let’s not forget than women gained the right to vote 88 years ago, and only seriously began entering the workforce in the 1960s through ’80s. What it means to be a woman, in society’s view, is rapidly evolving, but not finished. And here we have a mass media advertisement stirring the pot, questioning mothers’ choices.
In a few decades we may see the same outrage from dads as a majority begin to seriously ask themselves whether working full-time is what they really want as fathers, and as mass media voices struggle to realize that they don’t understand us anymore.