Activism, my lack thereof

I was an opinionated little girl who saw almost everything in pure black and white. I threw myself in to environmentalism in middle school, proudly wearing my Greenpeace T-shirt long before environmentalism was remotely cool. I was mocked for it, fed on the scorn and looked for something more intense; in 7th grade I sent my allowance in and signed up for the Earth First! Newsletter, not really understanding who they were and what they stood for, but I loved their logo and their rhetoric.

In January 1991, I was a junior in High School (I’m old) and I was out on the street marching with a sign in protest of Desert Storm. I had trash thrown at me from car windows and I was yelled at and spit on. For those of you too young to remember, that was a very popular war.  All through school, most of my teachers actually encouraged my budding feminism. After High School, I headed off to UC Davis where liberal is considered too far to the right. And I LOVED it. Feminists were the norm and I was a history major, and reveled in the study of oppression. However, this was also the 90s when political correctness reached a fever pitch and things began to get a little out of control.

I’ve always hesitated, however, to label myself too concretely, mostly out of respect to the groups themselves. I didn’t eat meat for years, but never labeled myself a vegetarian because I ate meat (and normally got quite sick) when I went home because it was easier than dealing with my parents. I was friends with punks, listened to punk music, had pink hair and rocked my doc martins, but never called myself a punk, I never thought I was hardcore enough. I listened to angry music, I fought the system, I was anti-consumerism and anti-corporate.

And then I finished school and needed a job. And I got a job in retail and became part of the system. Then I became management and became the system. I realized that all the objecting had worn me out and worn me down. And I stopped. I don’t know if I just got older, but I started getting really pragmatic about the act of boycott and what it could really accomplish. It seems too absolute to abide by fully. And then I settled in to my late twenties and early thirties and while I still avoided things; I did not boycott.

Then I had my baby and found twitter, right before the big nestle-blogger incident. I still was figuring out how twitter worked so I just saw pieces of it unfold here or there, but I followed a fair amount of , so I saw enough. It was the first I had heard of the nestle boycott and the WHO code, despite having worked in a hospital for the last 9 years. I started avoiding nestle and gerber, but did not memorize the list of brands, I am sure I inadvertently bought plenty of nestle products out of ignorance. And I don’t boycott, it is too hard and I don’t think I would ever boycott completely because I am not about to ask whether people used nestle when I am out to eat or in some one’s home.

And I will admit, I question the completeness of many people’s commitment to the nestle boycott – who also profess their boycotting status. I feel like some people pay it lip service on twitter because it is the cool thing to do. Maybe I am just cynical. I know the WHO code is important, I get it. But it isn’t law. And ignorance of the law doesn’t necessarily mean that a company deserves a twitter lashing. I’m thinking of the recent twit storms surrounding Robeez and Old Navy.

I think the reason all of this bothers me so much is the doctor’s offices and hospitals who also violate the WHO code, normally get brushed off with a “those foolish doctors tried to give me formula” tweet. I’ve never seen a “St Whatever Hospital violated the WHO code” tweet. But if people don’t change doctors or choose to deliver at baby-friendly designated hospitals, the medical professionals have no financial motivation to comply. Do people complain to the management? Express their desire to take their business elsewhere? There are exceptions. I just read a great post about objecting to a gift basket in a doctor’s office. If lactivist just roll their eyes and mock the healthcare professionals on Twitter, nothing will change.

I was lucky enough to deliver in a baby-friendly hospital. I’ve never been offered formula in my doctor’s office. I’ve been given some questionable breastfeeding advice, but there has never been any derailing. I also delivered at a public hospital, without many of the amenities and luxuries that come with a private hospital/practice.  I realize that there are insurance restrictions that can decide who a person sees or where they deliver, but I just would like to see the same about of ire directed at the heathcare industry as directed at a shoe company.

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2 Responses to “Activism, my lack thereof”

  1. Audra says:

    You are quite right – boycotting a company alone will not do anything to change things. I have stopped purchasing Nestle/gerber products. I am sad that our wic program allows for Gerber cereal only (though it allows any brand of purees – we don’t use cereal much anyway).

    I know I need to do something about my local hospital and breaking the WHO code. I love my doc and she does not deliver elsewhere. The hospital has become a bit more baby friendly and allows baby to room in now (did not when I had my first 2 years ago) but will give baby formula if in the nursery at all without permission. Frankly, I am a little frightened to step up and do something more than just blog about it.

    I think a lot of people are afraid to really step up with any cause. Paying lip service on twitter is easy. Hoping someone else will do the hard work is easy. Actually creating the change? That’s hard and scary!


  2. […] things people are googling? I discovered the benefits of this when I wrote my post that mentioned bloggers who boycott nestle. For about two weeks, I  got hits from the following terms: nestle boycott, robeez and formula, […]

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