The Growing Autonomy of Women and Children
Updated: Apr 9
My work has led me down an unexpected path of awareness while researching brands and products for companies large and small. I discovered, just as consumers struggle with concepts of tradition and modernity, natural and augmented, mothers and children are laid out on a battlefield of commodification that affects every part of the economy.
I had the opportunity to interview mothers and children about food brands for a few research projects in the same time period. The research bothered me and I could not figure out how come. A colleague explained to me later that mothers feeding their children was a gatekeeper relationship. The colleague saw mothers as controlling and projected her own negative feelings onto the research.
My takeaway is a bit more balanced. Feeding is an act of love and care however, defining what a child eats (or does not) is also an act of power. This kind of blew my mind at the time and also created a sense of internal conflict. Concepts of love/power and control/care get entangled all the time.
What also bothered me was the realization that emerging kids brands were attempting to break, on a subconscious level, the mother/child bond. By giving children their own food brands they began to make choices for themselves traditionally reserved for mothers. The mother actively accepted this severing by buying the products. Disrupting a sacred relationship that is not always as precious as it should be. At the time I was a horrified by the idea. Years later, I understand better why, to a limited degree, this is happening.
Since the 1970s emphasis has increasingly been placed on giving young people (and woman) more autonomy. The Equal Rights Amendment was put forth to congress for ratification (which still has not happened almost forty years later) for women in 1974.
Then came the call for the children, deemed ‘Children’s Rights’ through legal entitlement. Most people do not know that Hillary Rodham Clinton advocated for children’s rights, heavily in this time period. It was phrased through the legal system as:
“Understanding the moral and political character of historical definitions could and should enrich our current interpretation, for the sake of children’s overall well-being; their need for both protection and greater autonomy. Hillary Clinton has urged in the past that the traditional presumption of a child’s incapacity to make legally binding decisions be reversed in certain circumstances in order to allow the child to have greater control over decisions affecting his or her future.” (NDJ Journal of Law)
The need for Equal Rights for women and children is still playing itself out in salary suppression, legal bias, institutional prejudice and social movements. As I look around at the children in our particular milieu I see many parents indoctrinating their sons and daughters into an antiquated system of expectations and gender biases. When I look to our institutions, especially those created to protect, I see our children abused and used as pawns in power games between adults that betrays an inherent trust in a system that claims children are valued.
Luisa Nims Nims Consulting develops the emotional connection between consumer and product or service. Maximizing the ROI of marketing and communication budgets.
Stay tuned for Part II How the #MeToo and BLM's movements are connected to autonomy of minority populations and what this means for brands.