Monday, December 21, 2009

ChicagoNow, tear down this wall! (ad)

Another blogger posted a picture of a billboard advertising ChicagoNow publications that says:
"Breastfeeding in public is tacky! Seriously, how hard is it to find a bathroom, mommies?"

Here's my e-mail to the ChicagoNow staff. I hope it and other letters get some quick action.

Dear ChicagoNow staff,

I understand that you purchased outdoor advertising promoting your blogs. One of the comments posted at the Armitage stop on the El reads, “Breastfeeding in public is tacky! Seriously, how hard is it to find bathroom, mommies?” This comment is discriminatory and should be removed immediately.

I get the idea behind the ad campaign. It’s clever, really. You’re posting reader comments and intend for them to incite discussion and interest people in your publications. It’s a good idea. However, the breastfeeding comment goes way too far. I know that you posted a counterpoint board later that says, “Breastfeeding in public is no big deal. Anyone who thinks otherwise should grow up.” While I appreciate the gesture, it’s not nearly enough. The original comment must be removed.

I’d like you to please think about the inflammatory breastfeeding comment in another way. What if a user posted a similarly written comment that discriminated against people other than nursing mothers and babies? Would you use it as an ad? Instead of breastfeeding women, let’s say one of these boards had a similarly worded discriminatory comment about another group of people.

Imagine this:
“Black people are so tacky! Seriously, how hard is it to find a seat at the back of the bus, people?”

Or this:
“It’s weird to see lesbians walking around in public together. Seriously, how hard is it to just stay home where I don’t have to look at you?”

Even if a user submitted these comments (and I truly hope they wouldn’t!), would ChicagoNow choose to use them as ads? I sure don’t think so!

You should also know that breastfeeding in public is a right that is protected by law in the state of Illinois. So by posting an ad that could have passersby thinking, “Yeah, I think breastfeeding in public is tacky so maybe I should suggest a bathroom next time I see a woman nursing,” you are encouraging people to violate the law. As you can read in the Right to Breastfeed Act, it’s illegal for a woman not to be allowed to breastfeed in public

Would you post an ad that encouraged people to think about violating another law via a similar comment? “Driving the speed limit is a drag! Seriously, why not just go 95 mph on the Kennedy?” or “Paying taxes bugs me! Seriously, how hard is it to hide that extra income?”

I don’t think I need to bore you with studies about the importance of breastfeeding, that a hungry baby has a biological imperative to nurse, or that we see far more breast tissue on a summer day on Navy Pier than we ever do when women are breastfeeding. I realize this comment isn’t necessarily your belief, only that of a single commenter on the site. But ChicgaoNow, you are the gatekeeper, and you have chosen to allow an inflammatory comment to be posted for all to see.

Please, remove the discriminatory anti-breastfeeding billboard now. I look forward to your response.

(formerly of Hoffman Estates)

I received this positive response. Thanks!

Hi Sue,

We appreciate your detailed letter in response to the ChicagoNow ad. The campaign has expired and has been taken down. You are correct that the goal of the campaign was to incite discussion and get Chicagoans talking, and we understand how the approach might be viewed negatively. We will keep your comments in mind when we approach our next advertising campaign.

Thanks again,

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