Tennis Talk: Privilege in Sport

The posts following Naomi Osaka’s wins are impossible to define, so I am settling for heartbreaking.

If your immediate instinct is to attack Serena’s actions, it is likely coming from a place of fear. This is often also a place of privilege. It is far past time for us to hold ourselves accountable for our privilege. While you may disagree with how she went about making her point, please remember no one has ever made history or change by sitting down and being quiet.

Serena Williams is a woman of colour, she represents historically, a seriously marginalized and an oppressed population.

As a woman, it is not uncommon to hear that a woman who is yelling is out of line, but often a man is “assertive” or headstrong. There is no denying that women are often bullied for their emotions while men face this on a much smaller scale.

As for the umpire, he did infact penalize Serena for things that again, historically, men in tennis have not been penalized for.  Andy Murray once kicked a ball at an umpires head during masters and faced no consequence. Jimmy Connors referred to an umpire as “an abortion” during the U.S. Open and again, no penalty was given. Roger Federer also yelled at an umpire and received a fine of $1,500 while Serena was fined $10,000 for her verbal abuse.

Alize Cornet just last month received a violation for fixing her shirt while on the court, despite all players being permitted to change their shirts. Just this week, one man changed his shirt 11 times during a match and even sat shirtless courtside with no issue.

These are all objective facts. Women have fought for years to be treated equally. Sport is a field which is blatantly riddled with inequality from the pay of athletes to the fact that men’s sports are by far out viewed and attended in comparison to women’s sports.

For those who have not seen the interview with Naomi Osaka about receiving her trophy, I urge you to watch it. When asked why she was crying when receiving her trophy, she states it was not about the booing but rather because she got to stand next to Serena. Women support women and it’s important for men to as well.

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Shhhh Don’t Say The “R” Word

I was carelessly scrolling through my newsfeed today when I came across a friend’s post with the article, “Remember Brock Turner? From 3 months ago? He’ll Leave Jail Friday”. I was immediately enraged. When the case came to the public eye, I read.  I read for days. I read every article I could find, I read every friend’s post on Facebook, I read every tweet. The case drew me in. It was like a train wreck and I could not look away. Except, I stayed relatively silent.

The article as it turns out, was dated August 30, 2016. Brock Turner has been released. It’s possible I already knew this, but I was preparing to move to Sri Lanka, and I can’t tell you I was particularly paying attention to the news at that time. This does not change the fact that Brock Turner is now out of prison. After serving a mere 3 months of his 6 month sentence for sexual assault and penetration of an unconscious woman, Brock Turner is free. Perhaps more appalling than his freedom is the fact that the word RAPE was never used except for it being decided that Brock Turner had the intent to rape. It was found that the victim had been penetrated but with a “foreign object” rather than raped.

As unlikely as it may be that you are unaware of details of the case I will summarize it. On January 20, 2015 two graduate students cycling past a frat house saw a man (Brock Turner) thrusting on top of an unresponsive women next to a dumpster. His pants were down, her dress was up, her genitalia exposed and his, touching her body. The students pulled Brock Turner off of the woman and held him there until the police arrived. This is the reality of our society, where rape culture is perpetuated in the justice system which is not only supposed to prevent such a crime, but when it occurs ,provide an answer in the form of sentencing. Brock Turner penetrated a women, but we will not call him a rapist because the men who pulled him off of her did not physically see him rape her. It was the word of an unconscious woman against the assailant.  Brock Turner, wrote the script.

Unlike various media outlets I will not shed light on his accomplishments, his extracurricular and share testaments about his character. Brock Turner penetrated a woman without consent. Rape is defined as numerous sources to be penetration whether that of someone’s sexual organs or a foreign object. I don’t think many would disagree that what a victim is penetrated with, is irrelevant without consent. He did not intend to rape her, he did. Her accomplishments were not listed. No testaments to her character shared in the media. While the courts discussed the negative impacts this case would hold for the rapist, we watched how someone’s social class and connections could override one’s crimes.

While I know I am not alone in being influenced by rape culture, I believe this is why I stayed so silent on the issue. When a case with two witnesses, can result in no more than a mere rap on the knuckles, how do you speak out?

The first time I was told I deserved to be raped, an acquaintance heard that I turned down advances of a guy he did not even know. In his words, “if I had been that guy, I would have taken what I deserved”. In this case, his belief was that because I had been on 3 dates with this guy over the span of a few weeks, I owed him MY body. Except when someone thinks they deserve your body, it never truly feels like yours again.

The second time I was told I should be raped was when I was standing outside a bar waiting for a taxi. From across the road, an acquaintance from middle school recognized me and called out to me. He came over to chat and it was nice until, he asked what my plan was for the rest of the night. I pointed out I was waiting for my cab and I was ready to go home, my night was finished. That was when he started to try to touch me, at first he touched my arm and then he got more aggressive. I stepped away, asking him, please don’t do that. This was perhaps one of the scariest interactions I’ve had with a male. He stepped towards me again and in a low voice said, “you’re tough with all these people around but if it were you and me, you wouldn’t have a choice, you wouldn’t like what would happen”.

Silence on rape culture only allows it to continue. We must scream and shout about the reality of rape culture until our lungs hurt. We must talk about rape culture until it  is so prominent that it can no longer be ignored. This is my opinion, some days. Other days, I think I am not the problem so why must I work so damn hard to find the solution? When a court can ignore the reality of what Brock Turner did based on the harm it may do to his future, how is there any hope for a society without rape culture?

 

To read the victim’s powerful impact statement follow this link .

Here or There

I’ve started writing this blog and stopped a million times. I’ve edited, I’ve erased and I’ve started over completely. It has truly proven impossible to try to explain the past couple of months and what it means for my last month here and eventually, my time in my Canada home.

It doesn’t feel right anymore to simply say my home and imply Canada, I have a home here. I wake up every morning (often to the yelling of my landlords two year old) and pad down the hall to our bathroom which you unlatch from the outside – a true Sri lankan bathroom, minus the squat toilet. Recently, I’ve taken a few more morning showers than I’m really okay with. We don’t have hot water and normally this isn’t too bothersome because I’m overheated 98% of the time, except for first thing in the morning. So I turn on the faucet and begin my morning dance around the water trying to wet my hair without truly committing to it. Our shower also really isn’t a shower like at home, there are no walls or even a lip of flooring that divides it from the rest of the washroom which means afterwards, I use a squeegee to dry the floor because not everyone who uses the washroom necessarily wants a foot wash as well. Afterwards, if it’s still night time data  (when I buy internet data it is in a package with the majority allotted between 12 am – 8 am) I watch some tv and TRY to detangle my hair. Sri Lanka is my tiny apartment I’ve shared for the last 6 months with someone who was a stranger when we arrived, and now, a friend. Sri Lanka is our fridge that constantly has food falling out of it because it’s so dang small. Sri Lanka is geckos sneaking across the floor and giving themselves up by stepping on plastic bags. This is my Sri Lanka home and my life here, the little quirks that make it all that it is.

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The sunsets in Sri Lanka also make life here a little more fabulous.

Recently life snuck up on me. Or maybe it kind of punched me in the face – I’m still a little unclear on what I let happen. I’ve been dealing with a lot of stuff lately. I could call it crap, but I’ve started to think maybe the stuff is a good thing as it has pushed me to grow in ways I wouldn’t have if I had stayed in Canada. Despite the positive which came from dealing with the stuff, I let it get in the way of my time here for awhile. I wasn’t present in my experiences and found myself wishing I was somewhere else. The most confusing part of everything for me was that I wasn’t wishing I was home. It’s a feeling I never remember discussing in our pre-departure training. What happens when you don’t feel you fully belong here but you also don’t fully belong there anymore?

While Sri Lanka has become my home, there are differences about me, my appearance and my culture, that will never allow me to fully integrate. I am harassed daily, a reminder not only of my sex, but the colour of my skin. When you’re already having a bad day, you don’t need a 12 year old complimenting your breasts, or ever really. It’s moments like this where I think of my Canada home, where I have faced harassment, but not on such a consistent, unrelenting basis. I miss my freedom and my sense of safety. However, the thought of going home is not nearly as appealing as I thought it would be 7 months into placement. I’ll graduate once I’m home and most of the time I excited to, but I’m also slightly terrified by the world of opportunity it opens up. Recently I was looking for jobs online and had one tab open to development jobs and the other tab, bartending jobs. So, clearly that is going really well.

I guess I may just be at the point in my life when nothing is tying me down. Nothing says I have to stay in Waterloo to work or even stay in Canada. My time in Sri Lanka has made me start to question if living in Canada will make me happy and honestly, I don’t really know if it will.  Living abroad, in a developing country, is an experience which I assumed would be far more black and white. After my eight months, I thought I would be longing to be in Canada and have my familiarities of “home”, and I’m  not (sorry Mom).

Sri Lanka has tested me in ways I didn’t think it would. When I left Canada, I worried I would lose a lot by going abroad and in some ways I did, but I think this is what has made me grow so much. I am so thankful for my time here, the good and the bad. I don’t think I can say Sri Lanka has changed me, I think it pushed me (and at some times forced me) to find out who I really want to be and what truly makes me happy.  Maybe that’s something we spend our whole lives doing and Sri Lanka and this experience just had to kick my butt into gear and address something I hadn’t in years – MY aspirations.

So in honour of a lot of love for Sri Lanka and my path to a little self discovery, I’ll share one of my new favourite quotes which was passed onto me when I was dealing with stuff. Here it is:

“The women whom I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because shit worked out. They got that way because shit went wrong, and they handled it. They handled it in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it. Those women are my superheroes”

                                                                                             – Elizabeth Gilbert

P.S. Mom –  I’ll come home still, I promise.

The Night Bus

I spent Monday with a powerful group of women discussing challenges for women in a local and global context. We covered topics from women running for parliament, to sexual education, to street harassment.We listed the challenges we, as women, whether Sri Lankan or Canadian, face daily. We also listed the ways we can address the challenges and make a difference in how we are viewed in society.

I left the conference feeling full of energy. I felt full of hope for the role of women in society.

At 9:30 pm that evening my roommate and I boarded a bus home. You can question our choice to go home at this time or you can realize that if a man shouldn’t have to think twice about this, we shouldn’t have to either.

We boarded a bus with ten of some thirty five seats full. A few minutes passed and another man boarded the bus and sat directly behind me. His choice to sit behind directly behind me seemed odd considering the number of empty seats, but I pushed that feeling aside, I thought I was likely making something out of nothing.

Almost immediately after we began our two and a half our drive I thought I felt something brushing against my arm. I looked at my arm and saw nothing touching me besides the window curtain. I turned around and closed my eyes, prepared to sleep for the duration of the ride. However, a few minutes later, I had the same feeling. Someone was touching me.

At this point, my roommate noticed me moving around and asked if everything was okay. This is when I told her I thought the man behind us was touching me, but perhaps it was paranoia. After expressing my concern to my roommate, another ten minutes passed. As I felt it again I looked back only to catch what I believed to be a glimpse of him moving his hand away from my chair.

A few minutes later, I once again felt something and I turned quickly to discover that this man was stroking my arm.

At this point I begin to panic. This man had been intentionally caressing me.  As I started to tear up and tell my roommate that the man was touching me, she acted quickly, getting us to move seats. As we went to move, the man who had been touching me laid down and pretended to sleep. Onlookers did nothing.

While I have started to respond to the harassment I face daily on the streets, this interaction made me feel powerless. And why? Because we are women traveling alone at night. In society’s eyes WE put ourselves in danger. We CHOSE to take an evening bus. I already knew what people would say when I told them.

Yes it’s horrible.

Could you not have left earlier?

You know not to travel at night.

Foreign girls attract more attention.

When I got up at 5:30 Monday morning and traveled two and a half hours for a conference about women’s empowerment I did not see it ending in assault. I did not wake up that morning and plan my day to prevent assault. I woke up Monday morning and got ready for work.

No woman wakes up and plans to be harassed or assaulted. No woman should have to worry that their day might end this way. I work with women every day in Sri Lanka. Some who recognize harassment, and some who are so used to it, they don’t identify catcalling, following, and persistent questions as harassment.

I am at a loss for words. I am heartbroken. Not for myself, but for the women who would internalize this happening to them. I know this was wrong. But how do we teach others?

The Good, The Great and The Awesome

In case any of you stay up at night wondering how I personally feel about the movie Finding Dory, I am here to settle your curious minds.  It’s horrible. Finding Dory is hands-down the most anger provoking children’s film I have ever seen. Just when Dory is finally reunited with her parents she manages to separate herself from Nemo and Marlin. I remember angrily throwing back my popcorn at this point in the film and thinking, when the hell is this thing going a be over? Not a very appropriate reaction to a children’s movie. But still, all that work for NOTHING?

Lately, I’ve felt like a less extreme version of Dory, as I begin to settle in and appreciate my surroundings, things take a turn and I feel like I have to start the adjustment all over again. My recent streak of good days has come to a jarring halt here and in a very non-dramatic way I feel myself ready to yell “all that work for NOTHIING”. It’s been hard and I would be lying if I said any different, but I know that my effort to settle here has not gone to waste.  So I’m working on focusing on the positive, the experiences I never would have had if I chose to stay in Waterloo, the friends I never would have made and the sights I would have never seen.  The streak of good days seems to get longer every time and that gives me hope for future streaks of good days.

So today I sat down and listed the positives which I plan to post in my room for days like these. Luckily for me, this list doubles as an update for everyone back home as to the positives of my placement so far! So here it is….

Views from The SRI & All Its Blessings:

  1. The way the preschoolers yell “good morning” at me even if I’ve already said hello to them that day (or three times that day).
  2. My landlord’s two year-old who is picking up English from myself and my roommate despite the fact that he does not have a clue what he is saying.
  3. The days I talk my co-worker into stopping roadside to drink a king coconut, they are DELICIOUS.

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    Indulging in one of my first king coconuts in the SRI.

  4. The fact that I have not had to face a cockroach in over three weeks. I’d be happy never facing one again.
  5. My landlord’s five year-old who refuses to speak to myself and my roommate yet, always makes an appearance when she hears us around. One day Chenuti, one day.
  6. Sunday markets – full of fresh fruits and veggies at unbelievable prices.

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    One of my market hauls. Set me back about 6 Canadian dollars. Pineapple was the most expensive at about $1.50.

  7. Finding trusted tuktuk drivers who not only give fair prices, but laugh at my lame attempts to make conversation. One driver even joined me in a shop to give his opinion on which sandals I should buy; his opinion was the deciding factor.
  8. My new mosquito net, it’s a self-supporting tent so I don’t get claustrophobic anymore and throw it off in the middle of the night thus, sacrificing myself to the blood suckers.
  9. Friends at home who answer 2 am homesick texts and 3 am and 4 am…
  10. My family is joining me for Christmas, and ultimately, the most adventurous family vacation we have ever had.
  11. It’s 1000 degrees here and no, that’s not an exaggeration.

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    The temperature hovers between 30  and 35 degrees most days.

  12. Sidhappela, it’s an ayvreudic (natural health) treatment and helps to ward off my migraines. I’m bringing a million jars home.
  13. My office’s members/ beneficiaries and their eagerness to work with me and learn new handicraft designs.
  14. Days when all the preschoolers feel they must individually tell me I look “lassana” or beautiful. I’m bringing every single one of them home.
  15. My sister is letting me plan her wedding via Pinterest screenshots, or she is at the very least, entertaining my plans.
  16. I often take my work home with me, and I ENJOY it. This week I had a mini movie marathon and made new prototypes for future trainings.
  17. Taking Sinhala lessons which help to communicate with the preschoolers, but also adds street credit when people who don’t know me hear me drop a word or two.
  18. Surprise calls. Even if I’m not able to answer them, it shows someone is thinking about me and misses me. Life goes on for everyone at home, but no one is forgetting about me. It’s a great feeling.
  19. Getting custom clothing made because it’s not only cheaper than buying clothing in shops, but it makes me feel way more glamorous.
  20. Eating curry lunches with my coworkers. It is Sri Lankan culture to share what you have brought swapping out some of your curry for someone else’s and by then end you have a delicious array of different curries.
  21. Receiving my saree this week, it is absolutely gorgeous. Oh, and it’s bedazzled.
  22. When my coworkers take it upon themselves to comb the knots out of my hair – I don’t have the willpower to stop someone who will do that for me.
  23.  Exploring the country. From beaches to towns to villages, I love seeing new places here.
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    Please note the tan which I have failed to maintain.

     

  24. The supporters from home that I didn’t expect. Childhood friends who usually check-in once or twice a year have been messaging me much more often. Family friends seem to always want to know how I’m doing and what I’ve been up to. Family members have been sending cute pictures and quotes to make sure I start my day off right. I can’t say enough how much all these different forms of support mean and on the days when I miss home like crazy, they turn my sadness into thankfulness.

So there it is, twenty-four reasons that my effort does not become a waste simply because the fact that not every day is a good day. This is an experience, not a vacation or simply a trip. I’m attempting to integrate myself into a new culture, on a continent I had not even stepped foot on until September. Sometimes it’s the adventure of a lifetime and sometimes it’s hard like REALLY hard. So for me, it’s important to reflect on all the good that has happened and realize that the good isn’t finished happening. The small things and the big things must always be appreciated, no matter how bad the day. However, this by no means has allowed me to appreciate Finding Dory anymore than I did the day I watched it, that can stay on the negatives list where it belongs.

Another Post About THAT Guy

I tend to stay silent on political topics, but I can no longer afford to hold the words in my mouth. I awoke to the end of the votes of the presidential election being tallied. I learned the results long before my parents who were fast asleep in Canada.  Despite having hours before they awoke, I could not force myself to send the text telling them the results. I sat with a heavy heart and stomach as I realized my fears had been validated. Soon my parents, along with everyone else at home, would be awake and we would discuss the same sick feeling we all had. Racism is alive and well in North America, in fact, so is sexism.

We are not living in a time when everyone is as caring, accepting and loving as we claim. We can argue about how close the results of the election were, or we can face the fact that nearly half the voters, voted for a man who proudly denounces women referring to them as no more than their anatomy. A man who ran a race on fear mongering and hatred for other races which have helped to build his nation. A man who stood on a platform of reversing rights that have taken decades to achieve.

I refuse to give Trump a chance.

I have watched over and over again my friends on social media defend Trump. I have read the argument a million times that Trump has yet to gain power and we must see what he does before we judge. But, we won’t be allowed to comment on how Trump has judged entire races based on unfounded beliefs. I will not give Trump a chance. Regardless of his political moves once in office, Trump has once again made it socially acceptable to be a racist and a misogynist.

This is not a pro Hilary post. This is not a post that is simply pro first female president. I have also watched this response roll across posts similar to mine.  I’ve watched as men take it upon themselves to reassure women not to worry, that one day there will be a female president when these women have said nothing about wishing the president was female, but rather, they are discussing the pure politics of his campaign. I am not angry that Hilary did not win, I am angry Trump did.

I tried my best to joke about the results and how “crazy” those Americans must be, but by the time evening hit, I was in tears. And the reality is that it is not just “those Americans”. Growing up I lived in a world looking through rose-coloured glasses. I believed I lived in a country where racial discrimination did not exist. I credit this largely to my upbringing and I will forever be thankful to my parents for raising me in a household where skin colour, gender, sexual orientation etc. were not once seen as “lesser”. But after over a year of being in a mixed race relationship, I have had this theory of a racism free Canada shattered. Unlike my partner, I have not grown up dealing with people who feel they can treat me a certain way based purely on the colour of my skin. This means when someone makes it their job to stare at us shaking their head, I can’t help but stare back. I will not back down from someone who wishes to make me uncomfortable because of the colour of someone’s skin, but this is my privilege, I don’t face this nearly as often.

Trump’s election brought every incident I have faced over the last year to the forefront of my mind. The questions I once discounted as “curious” are no longer harmless questions. When asked how a mixed race relationship is different than a same race relationship I had an out, this is my first relationship, so I can’t compare – I was never forced to reflect about what an odd question that is to ask someone. I was never forced to question why my relationship would be considered any different than that of a friend’s. It is clear to me now that no matter how far we believe we have come, notions of “different” linger in the back of peoples minds, hidden in their actions. Or even sometimes, blatantly in their attitude which they give to the couple standing next to them in line at the grocery store.

In the past twenty-four hours I have seen racist posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter sky-rocket alongside posts of minorities fearing for their safety. One particular picture that forced me into confronting my feelings about the election result was a photo of a black man sitting on his suitcase. A caption had been added by a Trump supporter that was along the lines of “it’s time to go home”. This left me wondering how many people where posting pictures of their white neighbours with the same caption.

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Source

I cannot find a silver lining or make another joke. This is no longer a silly campaign which can be discredited. I don’t know where we go from here or how to start damage control. This more than just disheartening setback for all the anti-racism movements and the anti-sexism movements. All I really know is that the lovely Donald Trump has just confirmed my worst fear, that hatred is far from gone.

I Have Privilege.. . That’s Right, I Said it

I have been in Sri Lanka now for just over a week and am completely unmotivated to write, let alone attempt to create coherent thoughts. Yet despite the heat, which I continue to use as an excuse to lay in bed, I am attempting to make sense of my experiences. If not for myself, mostly for my parents who’s nagging (love you guys!!) for blog posts is truly as relentless as the heat I am attempting to avoid.

After 25 hours of travel, our group of nine university students, all of whom are girls, arrived in Colombo sweaty, tired and for the most part, smelly. We checked into our hotel and began a few days of training and touring of Colombo. It was here we took our first TukTuk ride, likely what will remain one of my favourite memories from Sri Lanka. It was also in Colombo that we later paid four times the going price for a ride. This is something that I question if I will ever accept here, the duplicity of my skin colour.

 

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A mandatory first TukTuk selfie.

 

White privilege, as anywhere in the world, remains ever-present in Sri Lanka. I am never asked to leave my bag at the front of the store and people often fall over each other to help me, sometimes even allowing us to skip lines. However, my skin colour also renders me a Sudu Nona (a white woman), this means TukTuk drivers will attempt, and likely succeed, in overcharging me. It also means that no matter where I go and likely no matter how long I have been here men will continue to cat call me and yell “welcome” to Sri Lanka. For now, I will continue to observe and attempt to understand how the colour of my skin can allow me power and revoke it at the same time, a phenomenon which often remains more hidden at home.

The privilege I have observed is just a small part of my experiences in the last week and a half. From tea time in the mornings with my coworkers, to the coconuts that were delivered right to our desks today, there are a lot of cultural aspects in which I have been lucky enough to take part in. The women at my office have welcomed us with open arms and I can already tell it will be so hard to leave them despite having so much time left.

The heat is officially winning and It is time for me to go back to laying as still as possible, but there you have it parents and friends, I AM ALIVE!

A Lesson in Authenticity

One part of our class which this blog is for, is to blog our reaction to one of two course videos provided. I opted for the video of a lecture on authenticity solely based on it’s name, or rather, the disinterest in the other video’s name- a lecture on tribes. So authenticity it was.

The lecturer, Jennifer Aaker, defines authenticity as being true to ones personality, spirit or character. Aaker goes on to talk about the importance of authenticity in marketing and how marketing by companies has recently taken a shift. Most consumers no longer trust companies, but look to friends, family, social media etc. to chose which companies they will support rather than looking to the company and what they say about themselves. Perhaps this is a reflection of the lack of authenticity in earlier marketing tactics, consumers are now buyer beware and cannot be fooled by the smoke and mirrors once used by marketers.

However, it was not necessarily the arguments about being authentic made by Aaker that left me with an unsettled feeling, but rather the supporting materials. Aaker called upon a video titled Dove Onslaught. The video addressed how marketing has a tendency to sexualize, marginalize and objectify women and went on to warn viewers to talk to their daughters before the beauty industry does. Now I’m not sure if I’m one in a million or I’m among the millions who would classify Dove as the very beauty industry they are telling people to protect their daughters from.

 

I do credit Dove for the fact that their advertisements are more progressive than their competitors who use strictly size zero, caucasian females to sell their products. However, at the end of the day Dove is a company selling products that claim they will firm up skin and reduce ageing. Are these products not capitalizing on women’s insecurities about there bodies as much as foundation which boasts flawless skin? And don’t even get me started on the issue of calling larger models “real curves”, this only discredits smaller sizes. Yes, it’s time for diverse models, but that does not mean that marketing tactics which prey on smaller body types are any better.

 

Where is the authenticity  in a brand that makes millions of dollars a year on women who feel the need to change their body, warning parents about their competition? Perhaps this is today’s marketing paradox , if you can’t assume you have the trust of your target audience make the audience feel that the competition’s products are substantially worse thank yours. Perhaps we are no longer marketing our company’s products but rather drawing on the ethical flaws of others to appear as the more ethical option.

Naturally,

Caroline the Skeptic

 

 

Missing in Action

Honey Nut Cheerios “Bring Back the Bees” campaign is quite honestly one of the most effective marketing tactics I’ve witnessed in my life time.

As mentioned in my previous blog, Cheerios recently launched a campaign called “Bring Back the Bees” in response to the global decline in the bee population. This campaign was done through removing their iconic bee mascot from their cereal box and leaving a white outline where the bee would normally be.

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The following for Cheerios is one which spans entire continents and generations. If there’s one Cheerio eater in the house, everyone in the house sees the box. Take your kids to the grocery store, walk down the aisle and everyone sees the box. Cheerio’s are iconic, which makes this the perfect attention- grabbing campaign.

This campaign sparks both user and non-user interest and curiosity, this is because of how well-known Cheerios is, even non-users recognize can their product. This mean that the target audience is anyone who knows cheerios well enough to know that the bee is missing from the box rather than a campaign where only brand purchasers would recognize a difference.

People are familiar with how Cheerios’ boxes appear and the design decision to simply remove their mascot is genius. There is no fancy design advertising bees, but rather a LACK of design. This is what draws in the audience as they ask themselves, their families and friends – where is the bee?

The campaign doesn’t just impact those who have seen the physical box. The buzz (see what I did there?) generated from those who saw the box in stores has spread to their social media. As a matter of fact, I’ve yet to see the box in person and because of this I cannot say whether or not there is information on the box or if people have to look up the issue themselves. However, in the age of social media, this campaign has reached those who can look up the tagline or hashtag and understand the issue as their access to social media has already led them to awareness the campaign. I do know, that since hearing about the bee population issue in Grade 11, I’ve never seen so much discussion on social media.

Now I can’t be sure for Cheerios personal motivation behind their marketing, but I think I’m safe in assuming that they will receive a lot of positive feedback for taking a stand for the cause. I’m not discrediting their campaign in anyway, anything that can help to motivate people to make a change or in this case, planting 35 million flowers, is a positive campaign. To date they’ve actually gained so much attention for their campaign that they surpassed the goal of distributing 35 million seeds and have distributed over 70 million seeds.

It is through a simple call to action that I believe Cheerios more than doubled their goal. Their website explains the issue and asks us to request the free seeds in our gardens. It’s nearly planting season in Canada and people have a tendency to love free things, the timing and technique is perfect. So I think it’s time we all give in to this marketing tactic – for the greater good, of course, and order some seeds.

Sincerely,

Caroline – a marketer’s dream

 

Let’s Talk About Bees, Baby

Alright children, grab a seat. It’s about time we talk about the bees. And no, not the birds too, just the bees.

I’ve had a bit of a closet concern since high school, one that has actually made me lose hours of sleep. You know those little guys we swat away from us at picnics in the summer? We’ve all probably run from one and screamed a little too loudly at some point because of one. Well, those bees? The ones we try so hard to keep away from us? They took the hint.

While some are reporting that the bee population is on the rebound, others still argue that we’re losing bees at an alarming rate. So why should you care if we are, just means less bee stings to worry about, right?  Well bees are actually responsible for about 1/3 of our food supply. Which breaks down to the idea that every third bite you take is thanks to those little striped guys.

The world is losing its bee population en masse, it’s called colony collapse. This is nothing new yet, Honey Nut Cheerios “Bring Back the Bees” has a lot of people up in arms. The sudden increase in bee talk on my social media is encouraging, but where was it before we a huge company took their mascot off a box? This is an issue, like most environmental issues, that has long been ignored. When will we step up as a global society and not wait to be told that an issue has reached a critical point? Am I the only one who likes having a food supply?

The first time I learned about the bee population and it’s issues was in Grade 11, that’s five years ago. What if every person who is now pledging to plant wildflowers to restore the population had done so five years ago? What is it that stops us from being forward thinking citizens? Populations do not suddenly drop off the face of the earth. But it seems that humans sure do try to give them a push.

This is the pessimist in me. The part that assumes people simply do not care and have this small part of them that just wants to watch the world burn. The optimist says that people simply did not know and with this campaign there has been a realization of the important role bees place in the environment. The realist says a lot more people, than those who were talking, knew what was going on.

Regardless, colony collapse is happening. This is a phenomenon which results from the majority of worker bees disappearing (dying off) and the queen and nurse bees being left to fend for themselves. The queen and the nurses run out of the existing food supply and eventually die off as well. We could argue all day, as many professionals are, about the causes of colony collapse. What I know is that a vast majority of research links it to the use pesticides. And I, for one, know that it’s not the bees spraying pesticides on the plants they pollinate.

We have a responsibility to the environment. Mother nature has been here since long before us and will be for a long time after us. It is not the world that is going to end – it is “our” world. It’s time that we take responsibility for our part in destruction of species, rainforest, agricultural land etc.

So go to Honey Nut Cheerios website and order some wildflowers to plant this spring. Make sure that the people around you know what’s going on and hold themselves responsible for their impact on the environment because it’s kind of integral to our survival. Now is the time to make change if we want to have a tomorrow to even be able to worry about.

Sincerely,
Caroline – the self-appointed Queen Bee

queen bee