Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Kid Stuff

People who are not childfree do not appreciate all the subtle and insidious ways we are made to feel invisible. Even when not expressed directly, the message that adulthood equals parenthood and that parenthood is the ultimate purpose of life is so tightly woven into the fabric of society that it gets to the point that I sometimes wonder if I exist.

An example:

I was flipping channels the other day when I came across one of the home shopping channels. I paused because they were hawking a product that caught my attention - it was a scanner that you can put your old photo slides in, and it translates them into digital color photographs which you can then download onto your hard drive.

Since I am something of a shutterbug, I listened and watched while they displayed how the device works. I started to think of all the old slides I have that I would love to use this for.

As the company representative demonstrated the device, the host of the show began gushing about how marvelous the scanner is - "Just think of all the uses for this! That photo of your child's first Christmas, his first day of school? His first birthday? All those moments with your child that you want to preserve forever can be achieved with this device!"

Okay, so I am asking myself, is this some kind of device FOR PARENTS? Are parents the only people who have valuable slides and photographs that are important to them? Are children the only subjects worth taking photos of? I waited to see if she would talk about other types of important photographs that someone might want to save - travel photographs, wedding photographs, nature photographs, photos of beloved friends and pets. Nope. The entire presentation pitch was geared toward parents who want to preserve photos of their children.

Just flip on the t.v. and notice how many sales pitches are made to parents that shouldn't be - cleaning products, cars, even shampoo - products that all types of people use, yet are marketed primarily to parents.

I am not naive. I know it all comes down to dollars and cents. Parents are the biggest consumers in our society -they certainly consume a whole lot more than childfree me. I imagine my consumption is 1/5 the consumption of a parent. When directing their marketing dollars, I am sure the companies are thinking let's get the most bang for our buck - and that's why they target parents as their potential customers. Restaurants go out of their way to be "family friendly". Shopping centers roll out the red carpet for pregnant women with Stork parking spots. She who spends the most money wins, and it's a good thing I am not competitive by nature, because I'm losing this contest.

(BUT, loser or no loser - I'm still zipping into those stork spots like Daisy Duke! Still waiting for someone to try to stop me.)


sara star said...

I think you are being a bit sensitive. Do we really want a bunch of products marketed towards us? Is being child-free about consumerism?

No, in some cases its the opposite, we want to limit our foot print on the environment by not spawning more consumers.

Will you truly feel like an equal citizen when the shopping network channel has a segment of products just for us?

Lol, I doubt it, then you could wonder why they were singling us out!

There are a lot of ways in which child-free people are made to feel less, but advertisements for products we don't need anyways aren't really that relevant and you should not let them get to you.

CFVixen said...

It's crazy how things are marketed. There is always an assumption that everyone (especially females) either has or wants kids.

I'll never forget the time this guy came in to do a sales presentation at our company. He was presenting it on his computer and he was showing it to two groups in our firm: the first group was predominately male; the second predominately female (it wasn't intentional; it's just the way it worked out).

Anyhow I was sitting in both presentations, and when he was presenting to the predominately male group he conveniently "accidentally" showed his laptop wallpaper which was a picture of his sports car. Of course the men talked about it and he conversed about that for awhile. Then during the presentation for the group that was predominately female, his wallpaper (very conveniently) changed to a picture of his kids. I believe he expected many oohs and ahhs. Unfortunately for him, most of the women in the group were not mothers and few were enamored. And even more unfortunate for him, I was making the decision on the purchase. Needless to say, I wasn't amused. And I went to another vendor who didn't employ sexist salespeople.

Cathy said...

You know, I think I've subconsciously noticed it, but never really thought about it before. I'm going to start paying closer attention.

Anonymous said...

We had pregnant parking on our Army base. It was pretty sweet. Most of the time I couldn't get any, since (and I think this is common knowledge) military wives are pregnant A LOT. So there was much competition.

To be honest, it was disappointing to not always be able to get a space (since I knew this was a stage and I wouldn't likely be pregnant again), but it really didn't hurt anything to walk a few extra rows from another parking spot. I actually starting parking at the back of parking lots while pregnant, because I got some exercise out of it. Apparently I was doing something right, because I was back in my old jeans a week after HawkBaby was born. (Mommy secret: "baby weight" is only such if you allow it to be).

I'm actually afraid to park in those spaces now, even when they're completely empty. I feel like I'm going to be sent to moral jail or something. More power to you, though. It's a non-handicap, legal space. Take it if it's available. If a pregnant woman is that messed up that she has to have special parking, she should probably apply for a temporary disability sticker or something. Two birds.

Anonymous said...

ETA: I think I was a tad unfair to mothers in my last post. I'm aware of extenuating circumstances that lead to excessive weight gain (i.e. complications, mandatory bedrest, multiples, genetics). However, I can comfortably say that most of the mothers I've known who are still wailing about "baby weight" almost a year after the baby was born were the kind who had poor eating habits during pregnancy and continued stuffing their faces postpartum, doing nothing in the form of exercise.

Sorry to hijack your topic. As a mother, I just find it offensive that so many women hide behind pregnancy as an excuse to be completely lazy. It makes us all look bad. I hate being grouped in as a "moo". : /

Ellie said...

I agree completely: the pressure to parent can be perceived in a million different marketing gimmicks.

I feel sorry for parents who have to sift through the daily onslaught on their finances. "Buy this for your child...OR YOU'RE NOT A GOOD PARENT!" The "Choosy Moms Choose Jif" approach.

So glad I opted out of this consumer circus.

You're not the only one who notices this stuff, or gets irritated by it. So thanks for the post. =)

Anonymous said...

I think sometimes it works the other way entirely. The sales people lay on a guilt trip to the parent "if you love your kid..." kind of thing. They know parents can take any perceived criticism badly and will open their wallets.

A lot of selling is about making people feel they are inadequate without the product and people with kids are seen as a soft target.

Personally, I think it is one of those times where being childfree has an advantage because they forget to try to sell us stuff!

Dave said...

Much of what I watch on TV is either taped (so I can fast-forward through the commercials) or on ad-free PBS. Otherwise, I mute the TV when commercials are on or I change the channel. On my car radio, I change the station.

Saves me from the endless barrage of commercials, no matter whom they are directed at.

Christy said...

I agree with Wyrdwhorl and Ellie. They are definitely a soft, mushy target. And now, apparently, even "choosy dads choose Jif," so it's not just moms anymore.

I get annoyed with those suave commercials---where the kid is sitting on the woman's shoulders, yanking on her hair like mad---for so many reasons. I guess their idea is that having kids makes you so poor, you have to buy an inexpensive shampoo. Or it could also come across as, if you buy yourself an expensive shampoo instead of buying crap for your kids, you're a bad parent. It is, after all, about the sacrifices you can show others you have made. There's also the commercial where the woman has huge, bouncy, suave "salon" hair, and apparently no clothes on, in the top half of the split screen, and is completely clothed and holding a baby in the bottom half. You can have it all! Yeah, that's realistic.

What about the commercials where the kids track mud in or splatter grape juice everywhere, and the mom just smiles smarmily at the mess, then cleans it up. One could argue that children are messier than adults, but I just get tired of everything being about the children!!! Adults make messes too, doing adult things!

There are birth control commercials with kids, but most are without. I noticed the ones without always feature young women doing fun things, and the commercials with older women show them holding or interacting with their children. How about some older women without kids in those commercials? I guess you're either young or a mom, according to them.

Every single freaking thing has to be either dumbed down for, sanitized for, or made appealing to the children, and it's really getting old. I don't see it going away anytime soon, either.

firefly said...

"Even when not expressed directly, the message that adulthood equals parenthood and that parenthood is the ultimate purpose of life is so tightly woven into the fabric of society that it gets to the point that I sometimes wonder if I exist."

When we first bought our house, I kind of expected that it would be like living in an apartment with no neighbors on the other side of the wall.

I soon found out that because we didn't have kids to 'represent' us in the neighborhood, the rest of them assumed it was fine and dandy to cut through the yard to get to school, and even play on the lawn, front and back. Hell, we weren't using it (according to their measure), so why not?

We also were treated in an interesting way by one set of neighbors, who made moves like they would take us under their wing as home owners and show us the ropes.

Which would have been fine if we were in our 20s, but we are THEIR AGE (mid 40s). Sure, we were new to it, but it wasn't like we were falling off ladders or setting fire to the house with the barbecue. We have figured things out just fine.

The one thing they have that we don't is kids.

We've since politely disengaged, and reworked the yard so there are no shortcuts and no space for play, but it was kind of annoying there for a while.

It was like we didn't even live here.

Fanboy Wife said...

I've noticed this too. I guess because I'm not a kid and I don't have any, I have less products marketed towards me. Actually, I can only think of brilliant marketing techniques that convince me I need to buy. This first one is the Famous Dave’s email newsletter – I’m a sucker for barbeque sauce. The other advertising scheme I feel for every time was the Moo-latte billboard behind the MN Twins’ homeplate.

Lady K said...

Was it daytime tv? It's probably a fair bet that stay at home mums are the majority audience of daytime tv, therefore the gearing towards parenting stuff.

On a similar note though - has anyone else noticed this common contradiction from parents?

"Oh you don't want kids because your selfish - you just want to buy big houses and cars and expensive clothes, wasting all your money on expensive luxury items. You just want to be rich."

often in the same breath as

"Your selfish because having kids supports the economy and my kids' taxes will pay for you in your old age".


So, what part of buying expensive luxury items does not support the economy? What part of being rich does not support me in my old age, WITHOUT needing other people's taxes?

You can't have it both ways!

Lady K said...

PS I have noticed that in Australia, every second ad seems to start with "As a mum, I" blah blah blah.

Apparently mothers are experts on everything from pharmaceutical products to cleaning products (often wasteful and environmentally unfriendly - but at least their little darling won't be gobbled up by nasty bacteria from inside the rubbish bin - what is your kid doing in the rubbish bin anyway?) to nutrition. Strange - I always thought that it took a degree to be a pharmacist, nutritionist, psychologist etc. But apparently you can just pop out a kid and suddenly you know everything that matters.

Mary said...

Have you seen the St. Jude commercials? Now, I think the organization is about curing kids of cancer, so I'd expect kids in the advertising, but they would show kids and then statements like, "thanks to your support, Susie will have children of her own!" (as they picture a 5 year old Susie). And, "Your support helped cure (8 year old) John of cancer and someday he'll have grandkids of his own!"

Of course I am paraphrasing, but every single thing that your donations would allow these kids to do revolved around procreating!

Nothing about, "Your donations cured Jenny who then decided to go into medical research" or "Keith graduated from college because of St. Jude"

Not that they were likely to get any of my charity donations anyway, but that commercial made it certain that they never will!

Dave Ale said...

I don't see why this is a bad thing -- I understand the gripe behind it... but isn't it better that we don't have to put up with having everything shoved in our faces?

I understand the marketing perspective -- parents aren't the most discriminating of buyers. As I said to my friends who have kids --

With all the stuff that was given to you at baby showers/hand-me-downs, you didn't need to buy your kid anything at all. They already had everything they could possibly need. Multiple toy chests full of stuff.

And yet the parents continue to buy. 'Cause it makes the child happy.

Half the time I just want to smack them and say "Dude. He's a two year old boy. He'll be happy with a stick."

/end rant

Anyway, advertising annoys me normally, so I find this to be one of the benefits of being child free.

Unknown said...

hee hee!! I make a bee-line for those "Stork" parking spaces too!! First of all, parents are NOT a protected class of citizens like the disabled are, so go right ahead and keep parking there. You are breaking no law and you are just as entitled to that space as the next person. Secondly, I've been told by more than one preggo friend that the medical establishment recommends that women continue to WALK and EXERCISE while pregnant; makes giving birth go more smoothly. That being said, yes, I should be walking more as well, but the point is, get off your high horse about the Stork parking.

Little Type Amy said...

"Even when not expressed directly, the message that adulthood equals parenthood and that parenthood is the ultimate purpose of life is so tightly woven into the fabric of society that it gets to the point that I sometimes wonder if I exist."

This is something that I feel every single day. Its like since I dont have kids, I feel like I must be invisible or not worth getting to know by moms.
I feel the same about our neighborhood and can relate to Firefly's post perfectly, which seems to be overruled with families. The ironic thing is that the family friendly atmosphere is one of the things that drew me to this neighborhood, since it is safe and friendly. But sometimes we feel like the outsiders and not always treated with the same consideration, as if we dont have to be acknowledged that we live here and need some privacy. Im sure this is why some kids seem that they dont need to respect our property either. I dont get it since they have their own yard and we have a nice park around the corner, so I dont see why they cant find someplace else to play. I know that the some of their houses are close together and some dont have yards, but tht doesnt mean ours is for the public and if parents had an issue with not having enough room for their little darlings to play and run amok, then they should consider moving someplace else..and I know I have that option too if I have an issue with this, and its one that i am strongly considering..maybe a new place one a dead end street might be suitable.

Sherri.S said...

Something that annoys me more than everything being marketed to parents (which of course, assumes that everyone has kids), is marketing things towards married women (assuming that all adult women are married) that really don't need to be. If you watch closely, in every commercial where you can see a woman's hand, you can see a wedding ring.