Written by Nicole
The latest ad campaign that has ruffled a few feathers on social media was that of some festive pajamas by Burt’s Bees. It hasn’t gained as much traction as previous advertising faux pas, but given that this is a recurrent thing that happens year on year, it bears a few words.
The ad features families in the matching sleepwear, and in the collection that was featured on social media, the bottom right family had a black mother, two black daughters, and no black father to be found. Other photos from the campaign did have a family with a black dad present, but you had to look a little harder to find it….
Art imitating life…but anyway.
What can we learn here?
By this point, we all know representation does indeed matter. And what Burt’s Bees advertised, a black woman with two black children and no father in sight, is mirroring the majority of black families in America. Not because nonblack people and corporations are shining a light on the collective’s dysfunction means it is not true.
Not because you don’t like the representation means it isn’t accurate. Pew Research data shows that this ad is rooted in reality:
We do not exist in a vacuum. People notice what large swathes of the collective hold to be normal (in this case, fatherless black homes), and cater to it. Burt’s Bees was not wrong, and the data proves it. As a collective we don’t have a whole lot of sway as it pertains to representation. Furthermore, it is not the job of nonblack folks to give us the representation we want, either. So it is up to us to be the better representation in our daily lives.
But yet again, folks are mad at the wrong thing.
Perhaps if more black people turned their outrage from Burt’s Bees and instead focused on glorifying an in-tact family unit, we would go somewhere. If people keep chanting “marriage is just a piece of paper” and hosting elaborate baby showers to replace the wedding that will never happen, this recurrent advertising kerfuffle would not continue to be a yearly trend. So rather than preparing the next e-dragging on social media and cancelling Mr. Burt and his buzzy little bees, how about you have a look at why these big-name companies are marketing this imagery back at our demographic.
People are in their feelings about Burt’s Bees, but not mad that this continues to be a pervasive, perpetual problem.
Every year something like this happens, and every year, the reaction is the same.
I remember when it was the baby carrier that featured a black woman and her child, with no father.
Then it was American Greetings, wishing a happy Father’s Day to the baby daddy, featuring a black couple. It even got an article on the New York Times. Formal apologies were issued.
Then it was Hallmark, who featured a Mother’s Day card with a white woman and a biracial kid, with signs pointing to the child’s dad being black.
And next year, it’ll be another thing, I guarantee it.
Why is it easier to demand apologies and restitution from faceless corporations, than fix the problems that they are marketing back to you? It is far easier to deny access to your womb to prevent ending up parenting in a fatherless home, than to fly in the face of some bigshot CEO. Rather than getting mad at businesses doing business, it would be a better use of time and energy to pop over to your friendly neighborhood gynecologist and get some reliable birth control. If you don’t want to be portrayed as a single mother, limit the opportunities that would lead to single motherhood as the outcome. Abstinence, 2 forms of birth control, no wedding, no womb – there are many options at your disposal.
The only way to stop ads like this from being marketed to us, is to stop it at the source. Set hard lines in the sand as to when and how you bring children into the world. It has to be you, otherwise next year there will be yet another ad with a black woman and her children all by themselves, and a chorus of men online screaming how she should have chosen better.
As I am wont to do, I always have a look at the comments in these viral and semi-viral posts. The comment section serves as a pretty good measuring stick of what people are thinking. The comment section under this post was no different. First of all, it was mostly black women, complaining and shaking their head at the imagery. “Wow smh” said one. And one black man who commented even asked “what did I miss?”.
As usual, black women are present and accounted for, and up in arms. Meanwhile, the men are very, very few and far between, and have no idea what’s going on. See? Comment sections are a macrocosm of the microcosm.
Is this sentiment also not a representation of the collective’s values? How so? Well:
The commenter above isn’t wrong. Black outrage is highly profitable. All corporations have to do is trigger a few black people and the Internet will be aflame with dragging from now until the next pandemic. Free press! But the thing is, corporations know that the collective will get angry, but that anger means nothing. Since we have no proper patriarchy of our own, and we rely on everyone else for everything else, they can do what they want with little recourse.
Protesting was a pandemic pastime this year, as black people took to the streets for justice. Oddly enough, there have been little to no marches as it pertains to black women who are the victims of domestic violence homicide. Or the PLETHORA of black children that have been murdered in cold blood this year.
The hypocrisy is astounding, and Burt’s Bees advertising is the absolute least of our worries. And yet, here we are.
By now we all know that absentee fathers was a pandemic long before the Rona. And from what I’ve heard, it’s pretty global. So if we know it to be true, why is it a problem when others point that out?
I hope that as 2021 draws nearer, more black people realize, understand, and internalize that aspiring to get away with what the lowest of nonblack people do, is the very antithesis of “black excellence”. Nonblack men are indeed absentee fathers, and will abandon, abuse, and harm their children just like anybody else. However, THAT DOESN’T MAKE IT OKAY! Why is it that what white and nonblack men are doing is only a concern when it is negative, toxic, and vile? These comparisons are never made when those men are out moving and shaking and making positive impacts. That’s when the excuses come flying right and left. But that’s a post for another time.
Until a critical mass of black people fix the underlying problem that leads to these fatherless photos in advertising, this will continue to happen. You can get mad all you want, but Burt’s Bees, and all the other corporations that have been in similar furors, are not wrong. Instead of boycotting them, boycott the men and women who would make you or encourage you to be the solo single mother year on year.
What do you think of this latest ad? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Disclaimer: This blog was written by me, Nicole, and my ideas are not necessarily reflective of Christelyn Karazin or other writers on this platform.