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Nestle, BlogHer and Why I Will Not Attend (Oh My!)

July 2, 2010

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:

  • Yeah, I blog on our political site, and I podcast, but I’m not a prolific blogger. I don’t really even consider myself a blogger, in the traditional sense.
  • I am not heavily invested in BlogHer. I’ve known about them for ages; have tremendous respect for them; admire what they do; and was thrilled no end that a big time outfit like that was interested in “little old me.” But, it would have been my first year there. I don’t know many of the BlogHer “heavy hitters” and though visiting NYC has long been a dream, it was something I felt was easily sacrificed for something I needed more: my own self-respect.
  • I’ve been boycotting Nestle for well over a decade now. I’ve tried memorizing all the brands, (even had a list on the fridge for the first few years!) and, sure,  we’ve had “contraband” in the house, from time to time, in our confusion over the sub-brands. My kids groan at hearing the very name of Nestle (in fact, my oldest, as a toddler, knew the logo and would remark quite loudly, “Stinking Nestle!” in the market!). Assuming the Johnny Depp version had even been an appropriate one, I didn’t allow my kids to see “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” because Nestle bought the Wonka name after the first movie came out in the 70s. We are hardcore boycotters!
  • If I am a “radical” mother, then I must take radical action. I got into this whole “interviewing big names” thing, not for fame, or fortune, but because I didn’t like something and wanted to do something about it as a way to model acceptable dissent for my kids. Then to get presented with an ethical dilemma, and just go? Because I want to? Nope. Couldn’t do it. Look, I’m the mom who wrote (years ago) about our decision not to teach our kids about Santa because I wasn’t going to lie to my kids. Ever. And wanted that to be on record. I can say to my kids, “have I ever lied to you?” and they know I never have. When those years come when I want them to come and talk to me, I have some “street cred” already banked. That was worth far more than a few years of “awwww, cute!” Now, that’s radical mothering!
  • I’ve talked to some really famous people, but I’m not the star. However, if I do have any celebrity of my own at all, I’m happy to use it if it helps to raise awareness of this issue, or any other issue I’m passionate about.
  • Easiest of all: Hello? Forty years? Boycott? Nestle not listening? Nestle couldn’t care less about me. My attending or not attending isn’t going to affect anyone’s “bottom line.” But, I have to live with me. I have to look at myself in the mirror. I have to “walk the walk” before my children, and that’s why I get the “big girl panties.” So, yeah, easy decision. Ugly dilemma. I hope BlogHer will rethink this strategy (and not just “tiers” or “tracks” but out and out “no thank you, Nestle!”). I’d love it if Nestle would rethink their whole strategy, too. Tasty chocolate doesn’t make up for infant deaths.
  • 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.


    27 Comments leave one →
    1. Jake Aryeh Marcus permalink
      July 2, 2010 9:21 pm

      Big thumbs up for this post. Some things cross political divides and are non-partisan. FYI, here is my blog post on why I am boycotting BlogHer: Your boyoctting as a speaker sends a far stronger message. Thank you.

      • July 2, 2010 9:29 pm

        Thanks so much for the support, Jake! I have appreciated your e-mails & look forward to more conversations:)

    2. July 2, 2010 9:55 pm

      That last line is what everyone should be looking at when making any decision, big or small. My hope would be, at the least, that this is giving one more person pause when shopping at the grocery store. One more organization thinking more carefully about its sponsors. One more more chance to change minds. Nestle still isn’t listening, but that isn’t who we need to reach now.

    3. Erin Michaud, CLC permalink
      July 3, 2010 12:16 am

      Good for you for taking a stand! Thanks so much.

    4. July 3, 2010 12:43 am

      Love this. And so very glad you posted about your decision. I’m not going this year- I’ve been before and full disclosure, my decision to not go was already made before I found out about the nestle connection. I’m a mom, also very deep in attachment parenting, and I [personally] feel BlogHer isn’t worth the time away from my family right now.


      • July 3, 2010 12:52 am

        Steph, thank you *so* much for posting! I remember you from when I wrote for Attachment Parenting at BellaOnline many years ago. I really loved your site!

    5. July 3, 2010 2:24 am

      I won’t be attending Blog Her this year because they fired me from their ad network over my politics.

      They can keep their vanilla network.

      • July 3, 2010 2:31 am

        Wow….sooooo sorry to hear it. Thanks for reaching out to me!

        • July 3, 2010 2:40 am

          You and I follow each other on twitter and your tweet caught my eye. Nice to meet your blog. 😉

        • July 3, 2010 2:48 am

          You & I have so much in common, girl! I was heartbroken about Chuck DeVore. He’s been on the show a couple of times. Depending on where you are in CA, we should have our own little “Conservative Mama Blog Conference” 😉

        • July 3, 2010 3:44 am

          I will DM you on twitter.

        • July 3, 2010 4:33 am

          Got it!

    6. July 3, 2010 5:28 am

      Thanks for this Marie. Your stand and writing about it is already having an impact.

      I know there is a debate going on about whether to attend or not, which is being used by some to suggest hypocrisy amongst boycott supporters, particularly given Nestlé’s PR disaster with its #nestlefamily event last year. But the debate I’ve seen concerns how to be most effective in exposing Nestlé and putting pressure upon it to change. I’ve given my thoughts on that dilemma here:

      People have every reason to still be concerned about Nestlé. Its latest global marketing campaign is to claim its breastmilk substitutes ‘protect’ babies, are ‘The new “Gold Standard” in infant nutrition’ and other claims that do not stand up to scrutiny and are prohibited by the World Health Assembly marketing standards. Nestlé’s response so far is to defend its strategy and claim the marketing standards do not apply to it. We’ve stopped similar strategies in the past and, with enough pressure, will stop this. Your stand – and any exposure of Nestlé at the event itself – increase that pressure. The more messages sent to Nestlé, the more people talk about what it does and the more this breaks into the mainstream media, the sooner Nestlé drops practices that endanger health. If it wants to put an end to the boycott totally, it has only to follow the steps in the four-point plan we have put to it.

      People can find out more and email Nestlé via our campaign page:

      • July 3, 2010 5:36 am

        Mike, you have *long* been my hero in this! I appreciate so very, very much *all* that you tirelessly provide to those of us dedicated to this cause. Thank you so much for stopping by and honoring me with a comment. I have heard from a national publication, and understand they may link to this post, so I am very, very happy to have you get any additional exposure that might provide for this *very* worthwhile cause!

    7. July 4, 2010 7:30 pm

      Thank you for this post Marie. There are so many things each of us must weigh in making a decision like this. I appreciate and have great respect for your accounting of the reasons why you made your decision.

      I sincerely hope our paths will cross at some other opportunity.

      • July 4, 2010 10:05 pm

        Thank *you* for your support, Annie & help in raising awareness! I’ll be following along to see the impact you have at BlogHer ’10:)

    8. July 7, 2010 6:09 pm

      Great to read thoughts from another crunchy con.

      Although I have reached a different decision for different reasons, I really respect the stand you are taking.

      • July 8, 2010 5:33 am

        Thank you, Candace! I love that: “Crunchy Con!” LOL! Are there many of us around? And it’s funny you should write that….I just logged on to post about a similar topic!

    9. July 8, 2010 7:08 am

      A wonderful, incredible human being, and mother, and in all candor, your children will reflect your concern as adults as well. We might not always be aware of the impact that we make, but that’s because our impact ripples outward away from us. What’s that old saying, from little acorns, mighty oaks grow?


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