Friday, April 24, 2009

Isn't It Time We Gave Mums Some Respect?

Although I have no hesitation in discussing tough issues on this website, I try very, very hard not to be political. This is hard for me as I am very much a political animal and there are many issues I feel strongly about. With some rare exceptions, I generally restrain myself. However the following is an issue that needs to be raised out of respect for housewives and mothers across the United Kingdom.

The National Health Service and Department of Health in Britain have started an initiative called “Change 4 Life”. It is a campaign to inform people about healthy eating and living. Of course, healthy eating is important, as is watching your weight and exercising. However, one particular advertisement they are showing is not just condescending, it is downright offensive.

Do click here to have a look at it.

Just in case the link does not work, the advertisement is animated and shows a boy sitting at a table. As he speaks, his mother drives a fork lift truck to the table and dumps a huge portion of sausages and mashed potato on his plate. As the animation continues, the dialogue goes something like this. “Mum loves me and thinks lots of food will make me big and strong. But she gives me enough to feed a horse! Good job we have Ben.” (Ben is a dog sitting on the floor to whom the boy gives much of the huge portion he has just been served.) The boy goes on, “She forgets I don’t need grown up portions. My teacher said if we eat too much and do too little food gets stored as fat in our bodies which means we could grow up to have heart disease, cancer or type 2 diabetes. Nasty!” At this point the animated people are looking into a flap the boy has lifted in his tummy to see the horrors going on inside him. This includes train cars full to overflowing with fat making their way to his organs, all afflicted on him by his over-feeding mother. The boy then says, “So I told mum not to feed me till I burst. Now I eat me size meals, just the right amount for my tum.”

I find this advertisement deeply offensive on so many levels I almost don’t know where to start. First of all, it implies that mothers are at best ignorant, and at worst, stupid. Seriously, if we have got people in this country that actually do not know that children need smaller portions than adults, we have got a lot more problems than we think we do already. It’s common sense. Not only that, but you would have to have been living in a sealed fallout shelter, with no access to the media for the last several decades, not to know that over-eating can contribute to heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes - amongst other “nasty” things!

Secondly, this message is targeted squarely at women, specifically mothers. No mention is made of dads, other family members or carers. It implies that mothers may love their children but are just too stupid to know how to look after them without state intervention. They overfeed them because they have no common sense and the result is a lot of overweight children. This tacit implication that mothers are completely responsible for all childhood obesity is not only inaccurate but totally unfair.

In today’s society, mothers are not the only ones who feed their children. Many children are fed by dads, nurseries, their schools, their extended family and friends and goodness knows who else these days. Not to mention the fact that children will even eat things themselves, without asking or telling their parents. Children are influenced in their food choices by the media, advertising and their peers, not just their mothers.

To solely blame mothers by implication for the childhood obesity problem is scandalous. Not only has the government in Britain allowed the development of economic pressures so strong most women cannot be housewives or stay at home mums, they have now decided to blame mothers for this health issue. Perhaps if more women could be stay at home mums and be more in control of what their families eat we might not have this problem in the first instance.

In addition, the “teacher says” piece implies that teachers (who here are representing the state) know better than parents. The “I told mum” piece implies that it is perfectly acceptable for a child to be telling their parents what to do. No wonder we are having problems with the breakdown of discipline and children behaving badly. Government agencies are implying parents know very little and positively encouraging kids to tell them what to do. This shows that many government agencies do not feel that parents - particularly mothers - are worthy of any respect whatsoever.

Just for the record, most women who are mothers are knowledgeable, caring people with more than an ounce of common sense. If any other group of society were being targeted in this way there would be uproar. This deeply offensive advertisement should be taken off the air.

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