Mommie Dearest: Similac Takes On The Mommy Wars

Have you seen the new Similac Formula ad? You must have, it’s everywhere. All up in my Facebook and Twitter feeds, with everyone posting it along with a “Hell, yeah!” or some other affirming shout out.

The video takes on the “Mommy Wars,” pitting all the different stereotypical parenting ideologies against each other. We’ve got the formula feeders and the breastfeeders, the working moms and the stay-at-home moms, the babywears and the stroller users. The ad even happens to toss in a group of dads for good measure. All these groups meet up in the park and sling a bunch of tired old one-liners at each other in a sad attempt to throw shade.

“Oh, look. The breast police have arrived.”

“A hundred percent breastfed, straight from the source!”

“Drug-free, pool birth, dolphin assisted.”

“Oh, disposable diapers. Apparently we don’t care about the environment.”

And so on.

While the various mommy gangs (and the one dad gang) all step up like the second coming of West Side Story, one mom loses a grip on her stroller in the frenzy, sending her baby careening down a hill. Everyone stops their beef and rushes to the baby’s aid, coming together in a kumbaya of what’s important. That snaps them out of their Mommy War rage and all is well. Similac closes it out with “Welcome to the Sisterhood of Motherhood.”

Listen, I’m the first one to call out the so-called “Mommy Wars.” I appreciate what Similac is trying to do here, but it all rings a bit disingenuous to me, to be honest. It’s like when Dove or other companies try to serve up the “real beauty” campaigns. I appreciate calling out beauty norms and reminding women that real beauty comes from within, but coming from a company whose goal is to make money off of selling health and beauty products, well…

Evolutionary Parenting tackles the Similac ad and helps give voice to my less than excited feelings about it:

“This ad has perpetuated the mommy wars more than any comment by me could. It has primed women (and men?) to think of parenting, discourse on parenting (including infant feeding, birth, etc.) in “us versus them” mentality. Not only is that mentality out in full force when it comes to how we think or talk about this specific ad (after all, it’s my not liking it that has led to all sorts of negative comments), but also in how any discussion about feeding (or babywearing or birth or work) is now automatically framed in the mommy wars context, even when the comment or discourse doesn’t belong there. This is the kind of attitude that shuts down discussions and in turn, shuts down any hope of change in our society. It’s the way to say, “the status quo is working and don’t rock the boat” when we know that’s not the case because approximately 60% of women who DON’T want to supplement with formula end up doing so.”

The “us versus them” mentality is spot on. And it’s very real. Motherhood — especially as it’s portrayed in the media — is very compartmentalized. Cry it out vs. co-sleep, breastmilk vs. formula, stay-at-home vs. working mom, cloth vs. disposable, strollers vs. babywearing. When in reality, we know that it’s not so black and white, but rather a whole mix of grey. Having a company purport to want to do away with the Mommy Wars by making a commercial personifying all the various aspects of them feels off. Tying it all up with a saccharine ribbon of #SisterhoodUnite is too easy, and undermines the very real issues at play when it comes to what affects and impacts parents.

What if instead of cutesy commercials, Similac put that money toward programs and policies that actually benefited mothers and families? What if instead, these commercials called out the fact that we *still* lack a mandated, paid family leave policy in this country? What if instead of highlighting these manufactured and hyperbolic differences, Similac focused on actual solutions beyond a hashtag?

This isn’t Similac’s first foray into the world of “no judgment marketing.” But their last round didn’t really do much to douse the flames of the Mommy Wars and actually made folks suspect of their motives”. What makes them think that #SisterhoodUnite will be any different?