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Mum’s the word

P&G has been beating its ‘Proud Sponsor of Mums’ drum for a few years now, largely in support of its Olympics sponsorship. And, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day, it’s launched another heart-string tugger that’s already clocked up six million views. But not everybody appreciates the sentiment, with Mia Frazier laying into the patronising, regressive stereotypes in the New Republic

Following on from last year’s Shriver-themed spot, ‘What I See’ from Wieden + Kennedy features Special Olympian Molly Hincka and her mother Kerry, who tells the touching story of her journey. And while it’s hard not to feel the tingles (and to say well done for helping to raise funds for the Special Olympics), Frazier takes issue with the way mothers are portrayed in the world of advertising.

As she writes:  

Today, no stock character is as ubiquitous in advertising as the sacrificial mother. She is the conquering hero of childrearing, endlessly in demand, yet always devoted. She may be fiction, but no matter—she makes us cry. And tweet and share and like. 

The laudatory-mom spot is having its social-media moment. Though it’s embraced as celebratory, it is in fact a patronizing insult—restricting mothers to the domestic sphere with empty sentimentalizing. It limits not just mothers; it confines all women to the home, burdening mothers with duties fathers and society at large should share.

Perhaps no advertiser has spent more perpetuating the archetype of the devoted supermom than Procter & Gamble. A marketing machine with a nearly $10 billion per year advertising budget, its products—Swiffer, Tide, Bounce, among many others—promise domestic order, while its marketing demands a dated ordering of domestic life. It has long courted moms, starting with its sponsorship of the 1930s “soap opera” radio shows, which eventually morphed into daytime dramas. 

And she finishes with a bang: 

P&G says its ongoing campaign “is based on the insight that moms never get thanked enough for the work they do to raise good kids.” Yet all this saccharine praise works merely as a distraction from what mothers really deserve. What women really need this Mother’s Day isn’t another emotion-soaked viral ad. Equal pay in the workplace would be a good start. And maternity leave even remotely comparable to the rest of the industrialized world. Only then can we say honestly, and without irony, Thank you, Mom.

Speaking of Mother’s Day, what the hell is this?

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