Christy Turlington Burns: Moms are America’s biggest consumer. So why don’t we give them paid leave?
Nothing gets advertisers hot like a baby bump. That’s why companies are so eager to market their products to mothers — or expectant mothers, as gleaned from troves of metadata — and recoup their investments through what they apparently consider a maternal commitment to rampant consumerism. Yet those same companies are often unwilling to give mothers the support they need to afford necessities like paid leave, let alone all of the shit they see in advertisements every day.
Christy Turlington Burns thinks that’s a fundamental problem with the way the United States treats motherhood. She should know: as a mother herself and founder of Every Mother Counts, a nonprofit that seeks to support mothers all over the world, she’s an expert on the institutional failings that lead to poor, desperate, or deceased mothers.
“There are a lot of things in this country that are not supporting of motherhood, really. You can say that everything you see in advertisements — what you see, who we sell to — it’s moms,” she said during Southland’s first interview. “Yet we’re not making sure that she has paid leave, we’re not making it easier for her to mother in her job, even though most mothers work. If we look at that, it should illuminate what is necessary in order to lift up society and the family.”
That’s not surprising to anyone who has been paying attention, nor is it a problem that has been purged from the technology industry. Kirsten Green used her maternity leave to work and catch up on everything she missed while she was actually giving birth. Pando’s Sarah Lacy, who as founder and CEO had the power to tell each and every one of us to fuck ourselves while she recovered from giving birth to her daughter, was also ubiquitous in Yammer and in spirit, if not in person. Even pro-woman activists like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg are awfully wishy-washy about giving new mothers the support they need after purging themselves of their adorable loin spawn.
If companies are going to base their marketing strategies around mothers, the least they could do is make sure those mothers are able to spend money on the products they’re trying to sell. Forget everything about being a decent person and taking care of employees because it’s the right thing to do — even ruthless capitalists should embrace more support for mothers.