Sunday 20 August 2017

Why Dove's latest ad is divisive, discriminatory and down-right dangerous for mums

Chrissie Russell with her son Tom. Photo: Pacemaker
Chrissie Russell with her son Tom. Photo: Pacemaker
Baby Dove UK's latest ad is "dangerous" says Chrissie Russell

Chrissie Russell

Whatever choice you make as a parent, we support you.

It sounds like a lovely sentiment doesn't it? Unilever could have made such a positive ad campaign for their Baby Dove range. Instead they've created a 'What’s Your Way' advert that is divisive, discriminatory and down-right dangerous.

Baby Dove UK's latest ad is
Baby Dove UK's latest ad is "dangerous" says Chrissie Russell

The skin care brand has produced a poster of a baby being breastfed with the tagline: '75pc say breastfeeding in public is fine, 25pc say put them away. What’s your way?'

No Dove, breastfeeding in public is not 'fine' – it is a right, protected by law in Ireland and the UK. No-one can be asked to stop breastfeeding in public, made to leave a premises or pushed into hiding away in a toilet. If doing those things is 'your way' you are a bigot. You are as guilty of discrimination as you would be if it was 'your way' to think same sex couples shouldn't marry or it's okay to fire someone for being a woman.

Jenny Powell, spokeswoman for La Leche League Ireland fears the skin care company’s message will actively stop some women from breastfeeding. "I think definitely it will affect women starting out who already might feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public," she says. "The message we want to get out to those mums is that they are protected by law and they should feel supported to meet their babies’ needs wherever they are. No one bats an eye at a baby with a bottle, no one should bat an eye at a baby being breastfed."

"Honestly I’m not sure what Dove thought they were doing running this ad," adds lactation consultant Nicola O’Byrne.

"Ireland has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world and one of the reasons new parents are anxious about breastfeeding is because of the fear of feeding in public areas.

"Planting an idea that it’s okay to oppose breastfeeding in public, is fuel for those who are uncomfortable with it.  Igniting the ‘mummy wars’ helps nobody and I’m guessing it’s a huge marketing mistake’."

Chrissie Russell with her son Tom. Photo: Pacemaker
Chrissie Russell with her son Tom. Photo: Pacemaker

She could be right. There have been over 150 complaints to the ASA and, despite the fact the ad campaign is based in the UK, enraged Irish parents have flooded the ASAI with complaints. "The ASAI has received a very large number of complaints concerning a current Dove Baby advertising campaign," reads their online statement. "We are presently assessing the complaints to establish the jurisdiction of ASAI code and how it may or may not apply to complaints received." Given what it calls as ‘extensive volume’ of complaints received so far the ASAI is no longer taking new submissions.

One Irish mum, Fiona Carey from Bray has responded by creating her own billboard style poster challenging the Dove Brand. The image of her nursing her child, carries the text 'I 100pc don’t give a f*** where people think I should breastfeed. And I will be buying 0pc Dove Products. Dove’s not with me. It and other responses calling for a boycott on Dove’s range have been gathering momentum on social media.

In countries like Ireland and the UK – both boasting some of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in Europe, and the world – the message that it’s okay to think nursing mums should ‘put them away’ is particularly damaging. Breastfeeding can be hard. For the new mum, who has managed to make it out of the house with her baby and is sitting down to her first hot cappuccino in weeks when her baby needs to feed – she doesn’t need to be worrying about what the next table thinks. It is stressful enough fumbling around, fearing that a flash of flesh might offend those nearby, without feeling their potential disgust has been validated by a multinational company.

"We’re baffled that Dove and Unilever think it’s ok to have a legal right brought up for debate,” fumes Maryline Waters from Irish support organisation, Friends of Breastfeeding. “We believe that a woman’s choice on how and where to feed her baby is hers and hers alone. You might feel comfortable breastfeeding in front of others or you might decide to go to a more private space, but no one has the right to decide that for you or to make you feel like you should isolate yourself."

The skin care brand has responded to complaints saying "Our campaign simply aims to celebrate the different approaches and opinions around parenting, including whether or not mums choose to breastfeed in public, recognising that it’s ultimately what works for you and your baby that matters the most." And there will of course be people out there saying ‘you’re entitled to you own opinion’. But if you think it’s not okay to breastfeed in public then actually it’s you who needs to change your behaviour, not the person breastfeeding, because one ‘way’ is natural, normal and protected by law, opposing it isn’t.

Plenty of people already feel women should ‘put them away’, what we need are companies challenging this misconception. Not endorsing it.

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