Several people contacted me on Tuesday about Nestlé’s public relations stunt designed to show that people stare at women’s breasts.
The Daily Mail newspaper reported: ‘How many times a day are YOUR breasts stared at? Hidden ‘bra cam’ demonstrates just how often men – and women – steal sneaky glances’. It posted a link to its article to Facebook with the comment, ‘Ladies, beware’.
Nestlé’s youtube clip is headed, ‘Nestlé’s hidden “bra cam” shows just how many times breasts are ogled’.
My first thought was I don’t want to encourage people to pay attention to this story, but I thought about it more on my evening run (I am training for the Wirral Half Marathon to raise sponsorship for Baby Milk Action).
It struck me how this initiative is in keeping with so much else Nestlé does to promote its own business interests over the public interest.
The film is over a minute long and shows a woman fitted with a bra camera having 37 people stare at her breasts as she moves around London. At the end of the clip, there is the message:
‘Your breasts are checked out every day’.
Followed by: ‘So, when was the last time you checked your own.’
So ostensibly the purpose is to encourage women to look for signs of breast cancer.
But the message that is going viral is ‘how many times breasts are ogled’.
Because the biological function of breasts is to feed babies and many women would like to breastfeed their children when they are hungry, at home or out and about. In some places more than others making that culturally acceptable and mothers feel at ease is a struggle.
In the UK 81% of mothers initiate breastfeeding, but breastfeeding rates then decline rapidly. Most mothers who stopped after a few weeks said they wanted to breastfeed for longer. They face obstacles such as lack of support and, in some cases, fear of being ogled while breastfeeding.
This is such a real concern that the Single Equality Act and sex discrimination legislation in the UK protects the right to breastfeed. It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender and the Act states, ‘less favourable treatment of a woman includes less favourable treatment of her because she is breast-feeding’. Asking a woman to get off a bus or leave a restaurant – or move to the toilet – because she is breastfeeding, breaks the law.
In Scotland, where breastfeeding rates are lower, the government has taken to advertising breastfeeding, even if it spends only a fraction of what formula companies spend promoting their products.
In 2007 it produced this 40 second advertisement (youtube) – included below. This is the message Nestlé is trying to counter with its bra cam, so please give this a watch and share this message, not Nestlé’s.
And if you want information on breast cancer, why not share the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Touch. Look. Check. page.
Breakthrough Breast Cancer was so concerned about Nestlé’s hypocrisy when it offered it £1 million in 2004 to link their names while undermining breastfeeding (which reduces breast cancer risk to the mother) that it turned down the money.
But would Nestlé really be so cynical and stoop so low to undermine women’s confidence in breastfeeding in public using this bra cam strategy? Couldn’t this just be a well-meaning attempt to encourage women to check for breast cancer?
Maybe it could, but this is the company that claims to support breastfeeding while promoting its formula with the claims it is the ‘natural start’, ‘gentle start’ and ‘protects’ babies. It employs staff whose primary responsibility is to ‘Stimulate retail sales through the promotion of infant formulas and cereals to gain Healthcare Professionals recommendations’.
(The new feature film, Tigers, dramatises what happened when a former Nestlé salesman in Pakistan decided to blow the whistle on the company with the help of IBFAN).
This is the company that promotes high sugar, high salt cereals to school children by offering 10 pence tokens for books on the tops of packets and encouraging teachers to ask their pupils to collect them (i.e. eat unhealthy cereal). They call it ‘Box tops for education‘.
This is the company that sponsors school sports in various countries – but links its sponsorship to high sugar drinks, such as Milo. With both the unhealthy cereals and drinks, Nestlé highlights added vitamins, implying they are healthy because of these.
This is a junk food company that calls itself a ‘nutrition, health and wellness’ company.
It is the company that appropriates community water supplies, destroying an historic spa park in Brazil and extracting water during drought in Canada, but then sponsors the London Marathon with its ‘Pure Life’ brand of bottled water.
Nestlé Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, says it is extreme to suggest people have a right to water, then gave Matt Damon an award (and a Nespresso advertising contract) for setting up a website supporting water projects in developing countries (will Matt speak out on Nestlé’s water policies or keep quiet and follow George Clooney’s example and say he is only ‘trying to make a living’?).
It’s the company that makes much of sourcing less than 3% of its cocoa through Fairtrade-certified suppliers, while fighting a legal battle against former child slaves who hold it responsible for their treatment on cocoa plantations in Sierra Leone.
It is the company that says it wants to hear from its critics, but sent spies into a campaign group in Switzerland and then argued in court that campaigners do not have the same right to privacy as other people.
This is the company that entered the mass formula market in the UK at the end of 2012 when it completed its takeover of the SMA brand of formula and is driving down standards by importing some of the aggressive marketing practices it uses elsewhere.
Would Nestlé really try to undermine government and public efforts to normalise breastfeeding with a viral campaign that tells women their breasts are ogled when they go out in public?