Nestle, BlogHer and Why I Will Not Attend (Oh My!)
Long, long ago, before kids and when I worked outside of the home, I was head of a department that helped parents locate quality child care. One of the projects I supervised was a special unit dedicated to corporate parents (think EAP).
At the time I managed this department, I was serving on my local NAEYC board. We were holding an event for the Week of the Young Child, and we needed a venue. I tasked the woman in charge of this special unit with locating a suitable venue for the event due to her numerous corporate contacts. The event was a flop. A dud. Few came. I didn’t understand it. I had planned successful events before, on a much larger scale even. At the event, as I lamented about this lack of “awesomeness,” a friend and fellow board member pulled me aside. The venue? Nestle’s San Francisco headquarters.
This was fifteen years ago, and the first time I had ever heard of the Nestle boycott. And, though I don’t think you need to be a parent to know about it, my ears weren’t attuned to that frequency yet. I wasn’t the “political dynamo” I am ascribed to be now, nor did I know much about global issues.
It seems incredulous, I know. Because of what I do, and the people I talk to on a weekly basis, I’m often asked for my political opinion. In fact, it’s how I drew the attention of BlogHer to speak at this year’s BlogHer ’10 conference. But I’m much more savvy now, and this was a lifetime ago. So, to continue:
Enter motherhood. Your whole world, and by extension, your whole worldview changes. I read every parenting magazine I could get my hands on. It was the beginning of my transformation into a politically aware person. As a mom, I read labels, researched everything I could. I didn’t like some of the things I was reading. I even canceled subscriptions to magazines that told you to “schedule” your baby and let them “cry it out.” Do you like people telling you when to go to sleep and when to eat and when to wake up? But, I digress.
When I told my mom I wanted a co-sleeper and that, when the time came, I wanted to homeschool, she was aghast, like it was a plot to subvert the government or something! I remember that shortly after my son’s birth, I began to write about this thing called “Attachment Parenting” because I had just discovered that all these feelings and things I wanted to do had a name! In typical Marie fashion, I didn’t agree with it lock, stock, and barrel, because I don’t really agree with anything lock, stock and barrel, except the Bible.
As I attended La Leche League classes, and became more of a “lactivist” and read magazines like Mothering, and continued writing about Attachment Parenting, I met (online) a man named Mike Brady with Baby Milk Action. I read about Nestle, and what they were still doing (which I won’t rehash here because many have said it better than I). Then I read Milk, Money and Madness, and went into overdrive. I volunteered for ProMom, writing some of their “3 Minute Activist” letters for the site to use as templates. I hated nursing in bathrooms (do you eat where you potty?). I continued writing about these issues, and it resonated with people.
So, I began to boycott Nestle. It was not a difficult decision at all (though hubby had a hard time parting with some of his candy!). It was simple. Nestle was engaged in heavily documented unethical practices that hurt other people and infants. I scoured the internet, personally verifying lists of products they were associated with throughout all their subsidiaries, and felt dirty (really!) every time I clicked on their website and gave them a “hit.” (Akin to how I feel now whenever I am scanning channels, so now I manually skip over MSNBC!)
Fast forward a decade. I was unhappy with the direction our country was going in. I kvetched at the kitchen table and realized I had to do more. I couldn’t just talk about stuff I didn’t like. I needed to model a better way for my three children. Complaining without action wasn’t very productive or empowering. Our country (currently) allows for political dissent. We have first amendment rights permitting us to speak out. So, I began to do that. It led to my first political interview and that’s how the show was born (again, not to rehash stuff that’s documented and known here, and hijack the current convo!).
So, when all my political activism came to the attention of BlogHer, they invited me to speak on “Radical Blogging Moms” and being a change agent. I inked the deal back in February or March. Much to my dismay, this past Monday, I found out that Nestle (Stouffer, a subsidiary), will be one of many sponsors for the event. It took me a New York minute to say, “adios.”
Now, in all the research I’ve done myself, what I’ve been told, and what I’ve read, many people are talking about the issue, but only 4 (5 with me) have withdrawn, and I’ve been told I am the only speaker to do so. I can’t speak as to why those numbers are so low, I can only speak for me. I’ve been asked if I’ve written about it, so here it goes:
Like everything else in my ADD life, I see things so differently. My mind turns things over, and sees them from such a different perspective. This was an easy decision for me because:
So, for me, the decision was an easy one. I stick to my principles. My code of ethics. My beat; my drummer. It isn’t, and never was, about Nestle or BlogHer. It was about one radical mother: me.