Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Beyaz Commercial, Part 2: Making Myself Clear

I've learned recently that, amazingly, I'm the top Google search result for "Beyaz commercial." I'm really not sure how this happened. But, I now have 19 comments on my previous post regarding the new commercial for Beyaz. And, based on some of the feedback I've received, I feel that I need to make myself clear in a few important ways.

My main objective with the post about the Beyaz commercial was twofold. First, to interrogate the common and almost universally accepted narrative that artificial birth control, especially "the Pill," means liberation for women. Second, to point out the often overlooked but just as widely accepted narrative that children are a commodity. Let me expand a little bit on these points...

(1) I have nothing against artificial birth control, in theory. I do not take the official Roman Catholic position on ABC and do not (necessarily) oppose its use. I do question the idea that ABC means liberation and "choice" for women, particularly women in the West. It is important to understand that I'm not talking about women in developing countries around the world for whom access to ABC may very well make a significant difference in their quality of life (and the quality of life for their family).

What I am saying is that, by and large, the Pill has not delivered what it promised and Beyaz (presented by its commercial) is just another version of this empty promise.

Moreover, I question the presumption that "choice" and family planning are not possible without ABC of some kind (be it Beyaz, condoms, intrauterine devices, and more). Many, many people plan their families without such interventions, for a variety of reasons. There are religious and ideological reasons, yes. But also, environmental and health reasons (health reasons especially for the women taking hormonal forms of birth control). These people limit the number of births in their relationship through natural means. It is possible and it does happen.

(2) As I said above, I have no problem with women and men planning their families and choosing to space children, with or without artificial birth control. But, I do have a problem with the American consumerist notion that children are a commodity, an accessory. This is something that rings loud and clear in the Beyaz commercial: children are an accessory, a valuable, an investment--a commodity to be "bought" and "sold" like everything else in this country. This narrative presumes that the value of something is dependent upon what it does for us--what it does for me, myself, and my life.

Furthermore, this narrative feeds the conception that children are something to be added to life only when the setting is just right. First, one must become financially comfortable, fully educated, settled in one's job, with a good house in a good neighborhood--then, add children and stir. Repeat if desired.

I think the notion that one needs such things to be able to provide a loving home for a child is preposterous. Ideal? Maybe. But, not necessary. If that were the case, then we should be chastising all of the poor women of the developing world for continuing to reproduce despite their sometimes dire circumstances. Life is good. And, children can be loved and nurtured in a variety of circumstances. Not all of them are as easy as others. But, that doesn't mean that having children in difficult situations is somehow irresponsible or wrong. (I might qualify this statement somewhat in cases of women dealing with abusive scenarios, but that's another post for another time.)

Finally, I'm bothered by the modern notion (brought on by advances in ABC) that children really are "choices" rather than the natural product of a sexual relationship. We seem to have forgotten that procreation is what sex does. Its not all it does or all that its for. But, sex makes babies. And, to treat our bodies and live as though that isn't the case is foolish. I'm afraid that the birth control mentality advances this notion that sex and children can be separated. And, again, this is something the Beyaz commercial further advances.

Beyond these two main points, I have one more that I'll add based upon many of the comments that I've received. I strongly contest the notion that you can't have children and have a life. I am a married mother of two with two university degrees under my belt (a BA and MDiv) and working on a terminal degree now (PhD in theology). Is it easy? Absolutely not. Is it possible? Yes.

This is not to say that everyone has it so easy. Single motherhood is the outstanding example here, where being a mom and having a life is very, very difficult. But, I am the product of a single mother, as is my husband, and we've seen them achieve some (though certainly not all) of their dreams while raising their children. Again, is this ideal? Of course not. But, it happens more than people realize. And, I'm certain the notion that a child means the bitter end of one's life is one of the many things contributing to the high rate of abortion in this country.

I hope this has cleared a few things up for my readers. I'm surprised at how much attention that Beyaz post has received. But, thanks for stopping by and offering your comments. I'm happy to continue the conversation, as time permits.

After posting Part 2 of my coverage of the Beyaz TV commercial, I thought of one more beef that I have with it that I only mentioned in passing in my original post: their portrayal of men and their involvement (or lack thereof) in the "choice" of procreation.

First, it is objectionable that the ad features men as objects to be shopped for and acquired. A man is not an accessory to be added to one's life any more than a child is. If women do not want to be objectified by men, then we should protest when men are objectified--especially when it is done is such a blatantly obvious way!

Second, it is highly problematic that the conversation about the "choice" in childbearing is focused completely on the woman in this ad. Because the men are located in plastic cases, added to the shoppers' carts on a whim, they are not involved in the decision-making about children. Notice that the woman waving away the stork is without a companion--a partner with whom she would presumably need to have sex (at the very least!) to make a child. (Last time I checked, that was still the way procreation worked.)

Quietly and unselfconsciously, the Beyaz ad continues the prevalent Western narrative that fertility and childbirth are the primary responsibility of the woman--something she must get "control" over, with all of the perceived positive and negative consequences of her choices being born solely by her. Moreover, the fact that the woman shopper waves away the stork in pursuit of the "Trip to Paris," at least implies that she should (probably) also do the same if she's going to acquire the man of her dreams (previously displayed).

The Beyaz commercial, with or without the intention, suggests not only that women are alone in their responsibility for planning children, but also that a child (whether planned or unplanned), would mean the man she's "shopping" for is out of the question, too.

There you have it. One more reason why I detest the new TV commercial for Beyaz!


*The Old Geezer said...

Interesting post.

Steve said...

Having kids -vs- enjoying a full life? Man, my real life started when I became a dad. I can't imagine missing all this.

The ad described sadly reflects just how media-centric our culture has become, and how seldom people really think about what really matters or lasts.