My mother was a single mom, and most of the women I know are strong. —Regina King
We tend to think of mothers as being tender, gentle and nurturing creatures who kiss away our boo-boos when we’re little, mend our broken hearts when that first crush dumps us, and cries when we finally get around to leaving home. Certainly, moms are all those things. But your mom is so much more. In fact, I’ve not known a mom who isn’t just as tough, as hard-working, as creative, and as persevering as any man she might come up against. Moms not only know how to get the work done, they know how to clean up the mess when everything explodes in your face. They’re due a bit more respect than what they’ve been getting.
I don’t like losing jobs, but when I see positions in advertising that have traditionally gone to men not only going to women, but going to a mom, I don’t feel I have any room to complain. Not only does that mom deserve the same opportunity as old white guys like me, chances are pretty high she can do the job better and is going to leave all us old white guys in the dust. As we’re beginning to see more women in top executive roles at ad firms, the tenor of ads both for and about women has changed. Slowly but surely, that condescending tone of ads that permeated advertising through the 90’s and well into the early part of this century is beginning to change perspectives and put in its place is one more real and understanding of women’s lives.
For example, with Mother’s Day coming up in a couple of weeks, we’re seeing ads from the usual places beginning to crop up but they’re not all sweet and smarmy as they’ve been before. This ad from Teleflora does a much better job of depicting exactly what all a mom does. Take a look:
In case you don’t recognize the voice, that’s the late NFL champion coach Vince Lombardi’s famous speech on what it takes to be a winner. All those words about grit, being tough, never giving up, and doing whatever it takes have traditionally been applied to football players. What this ad shows, though, is that they apply just as much to your mom, my mom, and every mom who’s ever given birth to a child. The road isn’t easy.
Even in cultures where women have traditionally been treated as little more than slaves, we’re beginning to see some change. I was struck by an ad from India, a place where patriarchy and misogyny still have a strong hold on the culture. Taking on the perspective of a father who sees late in his life just how hard his daughter works both as a mom and a business person and takes on the stereotype of men not helping around the house. Every father-to-be, in every country, needs to see this:
As we pass from a male-dominated perspective to one that is hopefully more balanced, one of the things we begin to realize is that just the act of becoming a mom is more than we’ve ever imagined. Not only is it painful to become a mom, it’s dangerous. A statistic of which I was not aware until late last year is that almost 300,000 women still die every year from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Think about that a moment and do some math. That means someone is losing their mother at least once every two minutes.
Don’t go thinking that statistic is limited to third world countries, either; it’s just as applicable here in the United States and every time some goddamn holier-than-thou politician introduces yet another idiotic bill limiting women’s access to free and/or low-cost healthcare and birth control, he’s ratcheting that number higher. Fortunately, there are organizations like Planned Parenthood and Christy Turlington’s Every Mother Counts (EMC) program who are there to address the issue of mortality among mothers. EMC operates in seven countries, including the US, to not only bring awareness of childbirth issues, but to partner with organizations to address issues such as poor education, transportation to doctors and hospitals, and supplies. They’re directly meeting the needs of moms like yours and mine every day, and not only do they get little thanks for it but often they are ridiculed and bad mouthed and even threatened because they dare to further the cause and life quality of women.
Seeing more women in traditionally male roles, such as advertising, communications, medicine, technology, and pretty much everywhere else is good for us all, good for our society, and good for our economy. Let us not lose sight, though, that many of those strong womens are also the people someone calls mom. They deserve more than flowers. They deserve our respect.