Get junked

Over at Discourse, Samantha Thomas has a post up about a nasty little stunt pulled by The Precinct.*

The ad agency has produced an advertisement depicting a woman offering her child a burger as if it is the same as her injecting him with heroin. Which it totes is, of course. A meal containing carbohydrates, protein and fat which can be legally purchased at any number of outlets and is cheap, filling and deemed safe for human consumption is so easily confused with breaking the law to score a highly addictive and sometimes lethal drug and then forcibly injecting it into the arm of a minor. I mean, god, they’re practically the same thing!

Or, um, not.

(For the full horror, you can watch the video at Samantha’s blog or read my description below**.)

There are so many things I could rant about over this but I’ll restrict myself to two related aspects of UTTER JAW-DROPPINGLY CRAP-ASS FAIL.

The first is the complete glossing over of the realities of food production, marketing, availability and consumption by whichever douche-bag came up with this metaphor and thought it was a clever idea. Setting aside for a moment the obvious fact that ‘junk food’ is not illegal, it is also not a recreational drug. It may not provide optimal nutrition but it is still food and it still provides the body with energy – and whilst we arguably don’t need to get high, we certainly do need to eat. Or we die. Simple. Not only that, but we need to eat what is available to us. We need to eat what food producers provide, what is available to us in terms of budget and location and yes, what is palatable and what we want. Even if there was any worth in the burger-as-drug analogy it would pay to remember not to get the dealers and the users  mixed up, right?

Which brings me to my second point. The Precinct obviously thinks it’ll gain industry cred for being all edgy and original here but there is nothing at all original about laying the blame squarely at the feet of the mother. This is a blame-the-mother narrative pure and simple. To borrow a Lily Allen line, it’s not big and it’s not clever. A mother who fails to feed her child to whatever standard The Precinct would approve is simply painted as abusive. Never mind the systemic barriers to ‘healthy’ diets that some families face, never mind that a burger is not a lethal drug, never mind that it is just one burger, never mind that her child appears to be otherwise safe and happy because a loving home is not enough, people. A loving home will never be enough when the OMG OBESITY CRISIS BOOGA BOOGA could come and kill us all at any moment.

Sure, mothers have a responsibility to their children. And that means feeding them. And hopefully, educating them about their bodies and encouraging healthful behaviours and even, in a perfect world, teaching them how to cook and shop and even grow their own food. That’s all fabulous, no argument from me there.

But what about fathers? What about other family members? What about food producers and retailers? What about regulators of advertising and marketing to children? What about health policy makers (whose current focus on weight loss promotion instead of lifting barriers to healthful behaviours like eating fresh food and moving around a lot isn’t helping anyone)? The Precinct doesn’t seem to care much about them.

I mean, why take on the multi billion dollar food industry, or government health policy, or men, when you can tackle the really difficult targets — like women who are just trying to feed their children?

  • *They say to raise awareness and draw attention to the dire problem of childhood obesity: you don’t have to be a cynic to see it’s more about drawing attention to their agency and yeah, I’m giving them attention for it, so I guess it worked.
  • ** Video Transcript: In a darkened and shadowy room, a boy aged about 3 sits at a kitchen table. He has short blond hair and wears a bright blue t-shirt. He has an open colouring book and plenty of crayons and is studiously drawing. A dark-haired, thin woman wearing a white shirt, knee-length printed skirt and over-sized blue jumper enters the room and sits down at the table. Ominous music begins to play. She opens a paper bag and begins to pull things out and line them up on the table. She has a teaspoon, a cotton ball and a syringe. The camera cuts to a shot of her son happily scribbling. She opens a small package of powder, presumably heroin. She uses a lighter and the spoon to prepare it for injection and fills the syringe. She then produces a black strip of cloth and ties a tourniquet around the boy’s upper arm: he looks worriedly at her but says nothing. She then pushes a napkin into the neck of his t-shirt and suddenly the tourniquet and drug paraphenalia are gone and they are both holding hamburgers. The boy looks at his mother as they simultaneously raise burgers to their mouths and take a bite. The screen goes black and white text appears. It reads ‘You wouldn’t inject your children with junk/ so why are you feeding it to them?/CHILDHOOD OBESITY. Break the habit.’ ‘


Filed under Body Image/Fat Acceptance, Feminism, Motherhood and Parenting

10 responses to “Get junked

  1. And yet again, you rock my world.

    Shout it from the rooftops, sister. That is the most ridiculous piece of drivel… I don’t even know where to start. I wish you were on the board of some of these childhood obesity “task forces”. They are SO missing the forest for the trees, and ads like this just encourage the stupidity.

    • Niki

      This is a double reply to both FFF and Spilt Milk. I’ve long been really bothered at the lack of discussion of privilege in the parenting blogosphere and I recently discovered both of your blogs whilst researching for ones that do actually address it. I’ve been thinking of diving into the blog pool myself for just that.

      Back to the topic at hand. I am concerned about the rise in obesity (my thinking it’s related to something that we just haven’t figured out yet). But I’m tired of everything being linked to obesity, framing fat as the New Evil. FFF linked to a new documentary on breastfeeding (of which I am a huge advocate) and was appalled to see the first woman interviewed on the trailer rail about obesity and formula feeding – thus linking two great New Evils. (And then I watched FFF’s 9 minute movie for a palate cleanser.) I also am not a fan of fast food, but I agree that this video is ‘Blame the Mommy’ for making her child Fat with no context nor any examination of any of the other factors that go into feeding a family.

      You both rule. There, I said it.

  2. Z.O.M.G.

    That is horrid. But not surprising. Your post here is 100% wisdom. I especially liked:

    The Precinct obviously thinks it’ll gain industry cred for being all edgy and original here but there is nothing at all original about laying the blame squarely at the feet of the mother. This is a blame-the-mother narrative pure and simple. To borrow a Lily Allen line, it’s not big and it’s not clever.


    As crappy as a campaign like this is (and extreme and uncalled for as probably many might call it), it is a logical extension of the fears/worldviews/pearl clutching/schadenfreude that many hold deep-down about food, healthy, and fat (not to mention deep-seated beliefs you can shame someone into being thin-er I mean “healthy”). We need to change our attitudes.

    Thanks for posting on this.

  3. …damn. Now I want a burger.

    Also to hurl steamy hot burgers (or would cold and clammy be worse?) at the douches who created the ad.

    But mostly I want a burger. Think I’ll put ’em on next week’s menu plan. Probably between Sunday: organic shrooms and Tuesday: home-brewed methamphetamines (I have class on Tuesdays, after all).

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  5. Pingback: Giving my child a burger does not make me guilty of child abuse! | DISCOURSE

  6. I am still so angry and hurt at that ad that I can’t really coherently talk about it. But I’m glad you have. Because it needs to be called out for the bullshit that it is.

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  9. Jackie

    Well, to be honest I find the ad so over the top and preposterous, I almost find it amusing. However, parents being accused of child abuse for having fat children is no laughing matter.

    Wonder how The Precinct would feel about an ad, showing a fat child ripped away from their loving parents, and being told only thin children get to have loving families. Then show that same child years later in a hospital with a feeding tube, screaming “PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME FAT, THEY’LL TAKE ME AWAY AGAIN!”

    That’s powerful, that is cutting edge, and that’s an ad that would have people talking. Instead of this, blame the parents nonsense, focusing on the children who are victimized by a fat phobic society. Perhaps my ad idea should be followed up with stats of how many children die, from self starvation tactics, because if they become fat they become bullied, and their parents are on par with actual child abusers.

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