Cheerios and Genocide? Who'd a Thunk It?!

Have you heard and/or seen this new--new, meaning that I saw it for the first time last night--slogan for MultiGrain Cheerios?
They probably spent millions developing this slogan, and it's clear that the Cheerios people want consumers to think about "fat" and a healthier lifestyle... or so that's what their lawyers will assure us. General Mills is clearly positioning this product to compete head-on with Kellog's Special-K, by targeting the same mid-twenties to early-forties college educated, middle-class women who, like all women, are weight conscious.
And how can women not be weight obsessed these days, right? And this is the type of ad campaign that both aims to profit on, as well as contribute further to women's obsession with weight. And why not? It's an incredibly profitable industry generating billions and billions of dollars worldwide. Americans alone spend between $34 billion and $50 billion a year on diets.
Incredible numbers when considering that the entire industry relies on manufacturing a lack of confidence in order to create false needs, by instilling a desire to attain an unrealistic (and unattainable) version of one's self. The role assigned to women throughout history seems to make them more vulnerable to all sorts of products and tactics that feed on and perpetuate the inequality issues that concern feminists, but advertisers are increasingly finding new ways to target men as well; anorexia is no longer just a "woman's disorder". Cheerios is careful how they go about it, and they can easily argue that they are merely trying to promote a healthier lifestyle, but the ad I saw did feature two women doing laundry... all the elements were there... And here's their product page. The text is pure conjectures about grains and weight "control".
But think about it. "More Grain, Less You." How does that make you feel? What if a lover, a friend, or family were to tell you, "I wish I saw less of you," or, "you'd be better if there was less of you"? How would you react to that? And yet you accept it from anonymous breakfast cereal pushers?!
"Less You" on its own is not all that surprising to hear in this epoch marked by the loss of individuality, just surprising that a company would be so forward about it. Should I say more?
But "More Grain, Less You" is an especially odd slogan considering the current worldwide food crisis and the devastating effects continually rising grain prices are having on impoverished populations around the world. Droughts and natural disasters; a sudden need to produce major amounts of ethanol; trade policies; the causes are varied, but according to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), the price of grain staples increased by about 132% since March 2007. The price of wheat increased by 181% over a three year period. The price of rice, already swelling, grew by 50% over a three month period in 2008, and hasn't stopped rising since....
Entire third-world populations are on the brink of famine, unable to buy food because of the growing price of grain, while North Americans are suddenly having it beaten into their heads that they need as much grain as possible in their diets. Breads, noodles, breakfast cereals, snacks, granola bars, chips, etc.; all the smart companies now offer a healthy alternative multi-grain version. Clearly, and despite their claims, corporations are getting fatter off of these price hikes... but could there be more behind all this? The rising prices and the World Trade Organization are allowing foreign governments and companies greater control in poorer, developing countries, while proposing a de facto instrument of population control by "eliminating the poor" through "starvation deaths". In the words of Henry Kissinger: "Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people."
According to Brahm Ahmadi, an advocate with Food Justice, "in order to discuss issues of hunger, one must also discuss the underlining issues of racial and class disparity and the inequities in the food system that correlate to inequities to economic and political power."
Gives a new definition to "More Grain, Less You".

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© 2009, Pascal-Denis Lussier

1 comment:

Susan said...

pdl~~liked your article...reminded me of a guy darwin looked up to, creepy guy: "In 1798, Thomas Malthus, an English clergyman and pioneer economist, published Essay on the Principles of Population. In it he observed that human populations will double every 25 years unless they are kept in check by limits in food supply."

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