How much of our perceptions about highly emotional and controversial topics are shaped through our own personal experiences? When and why do they change, if ever?
Can we ever be truly “rational” about an emotional topic? Should we have to take a “side” in the first place?
I’ve been thinking about these questions for the past couple days after Similac, the formula company, sponsored a summit on Tuesday for mothers. They’ve launched a new campaign that they’re calling “StrongMoms” as a “call-to-action” for moms to stop judging each other. Their message is supposed to be encourage other moms — no matter what their choices in feeding, employment, parenting — support each other, rather than judge.
Who would have a problem with that, right?
Well, it turns out lots of mothers do. And it also turns out that other mothers have a problem with the fact that some mothers have a problem with the campaign in the first place. Whew.
Is this a collection of moms out to provide emotional support to all mothers, to help them feel that their choices for their babies are more socially acceptable? Is criticism of formula feeding “mom on mom” bullying? Is it a corporate conspiracy to use mass marketing techniques to create a more “mom-friendly” image for their brand? Should a company be telling moms how to think about other moms?
I have no idea. I can’t answer that question. But check out a few great pieces and a WSJ piece about the Similac survey and form your own conclusions:
- New York Times’ Motherlode writer, KJ Dell’Antonia: “Similac’s Dubious ‘No Judgment’ Marketing”
- Suzanne Barson of Fearless Formula Feeder: “Getting a Grip on the StrongMom Empowerment Pledge“
- Kimberly Sears Allers on the Broad Side: “When Big Pharma Strong Arms Moms We All Lose“
As a commenter on my Facebook page said this morning, aren’t our roles already predetermined on this issue? Whose minds are going to change?
The day before — even before I knew about the Similac campaign — I read what I thought was a funny amusing piece on Scary Mommy by Sara about how difficult breastfeeding was for her : “15 Things They Don’t Tell You About Breastfeeding.” It resonated with my own experience, I chuckled, and I then moved on to the comments.
Here are a few sample comments:
1. (caps are not mine) QUITE SIMPLY YOU BREAST FEED FOR THE BENEFIT OF YOUR BABY.YES IT CAN BE HARD BUT YOU GET THROUGH IT BECAUSE THE BENEFITS TO YOUR BABY ARE INCREDIBLE…BREAST FEEDING SAVES LIVES….FACT…..DOES FORMULA????…..NO…
2. What a load of utter tripe written by a clearly incredibly ignorant person most probably affiliated in some way with a formula company
3. And quite a few of these comments prove exactly why women who choose not to breastfeed or can’t breastfeed feel like abject failures. Quit the judging ladies. It makes other’s feel awful about themselves and makes you look like a total bitch.
There you have it: the breastfeeding wars so easily revived that it’s like a pile of newspapers with kerosene on them just waiting for a match.
We as humans across all cultures have trouble keeping two opposing — or what we perceive as opposing — views in our heads at the same. You’ve heard of “cognitive dissonance,” right? It’s that feeling of psychological discomfort you get when you’re trying to hold two competing philosophies or points of view in your head that may or may not conflict with your real life behavior.
When you’ve made a choice about something — whether it’s to go to a certain college, to buy a particular model of car, or, yes, the decision to breastfeed or formula feed or to stop breastfeeding — you’re more likely to rate your choice more highly after you’ve made it than you did before the decision was made, no matter what conflicting data you come across in the meantime.
This is true in politics, in the brands we choose, in our lifestyle choices of all types. And I think that the more emotional the topic is, the more tightly we guard it in our brains and the more vehemently we discount opposing sides.
Because honestly I can’t understand the vehemence behind women’s judgments of other women. I’ve written about my own experiences with those judgments. I can understand how individual women come to make a personal decision about breastfeeding or formula feeding or a combination of the two, but I simply cannot comprehend what would motivate others to judge so harshly.
Where do you think the strong emotions about breastfeeding come from? How did you form your opinions?
And, most of all, what do you think of Similac’s campaign?