For the princely dangled sum of £100, I swept aside my convictions and offered my services to a market research company doing baby food focus groups.
“I can subvert this process from within” I told myself, while listlessly clicking empty cells on my post-maternity pay household budget spreadsheet.
I nearly failed to make it past the first hurdle. After responding to the email, I received a wary phonecall from the hapless market researcher, who, after asking one or two cursory questions, inquired where I was from and how long I’d been in the country. She explained carefully that the company only wanted to interview women who had been in the UK for a long time, as they didn’t want the research to represent, uh, cultural views that reflected the purchasing habits of people actually living in the country. I mean, cultural views that were not reflective of mainstream British purchasing habits. I mean… well… she found it hard to explain what she meant, especially to someone who suddenly appeared to be speaking and understanding English rather well despite the weird foreign name.
I remarked that I was from New Zealand, which, culturally, is very similar to Britain. Meaning of course, that it is a majority white country packed with middle-class organic mothers worrying about GE baby food. I didn’t say that bit. But she said she’d check with her manager and get back to me.
A few days later, she called back and told me the good news that I was culturally white enough to take part in the survey. I mean, that her boss said New Zealanders were fine. Ka-ching! She sent me the full questionnaire which I was to fill in and email back.
After a few basic questions about what kind of baby food you buy, how often you use it, your favourite brands etc, it spiraled off into a market researcher’s fantasy-land of weird and demeaning mumsy stereotypes. This made me really want to attend the focus group, just to roundly mock whoever it was that came up with the questions.
Sadly, it turned out that the researcher was so busy trying the gauge the foreignness of my accent when she called me, that she failed to actually correctly write down the age of my baby, so I didn’t fit into the right group in the end. Therefore, I’ll just have to roundly mock the questionnaire here.
The beginning of the spiral began with…
What would YOU SAY is most important when choosing a brand of baby food. Please select 1 statement.
- a brand that is innovative and dynamic
- a leader brand that offers the very best money can buy
- a brand that is backed by sound scientific research
- a brand that is caring, trustworthy and reliable
- a brand that is familiar, practical
- a brand that is light-hearted and fun
How about: A brand that is cheap? Transportable? Organic? Free range? Non-poisonous? How about a brand that sells food with concrete characteristics, rather than a brand that only exists as a range of vague emotive descriptors?
It gets better:
Q.16. what type of mother are you? Select one or two.
- bold and independent
- successful and accomplished
- intelligent and capable
- devoted and protective
- relaxed and down to earth
- full of fun and vibrant
Missing from this list:
- Tired and sleep-deprived
- Lazy and guilt-free
- Anxious and guilty
- Lazy and anxious
- Smug and unbearable
- With the biggest pram in the wooooooorrlllllld
- A bit depressed actually
- One with a nanny
But in the end, it’s all about aspiration.
Q.17. How do you want to feel as a mum?
- Proud, superior
- In control, superior
- Secure, reassured
- Warm, Togetherness
- Free, Easy Going
Leaving aside the fact that the writer of this question seems to hate at least 40% of all kinds of mothers that they think exist, it’s pretty obvious that they don’t have children. Because ‘WELL-RESTED’ IS NOT ON THE LIST.
The next question is just gold.
Q.18. benefits of wet food for baby? – just choose two statements
- Keeps children physically active and full of energy
- Ensures children achieve in every part of their lives
- Ensures mental alertness and developmental milestones
- Protects and nurtures children
- Helps children settle and fit in with things
- Makes children cheerful and high spirited
Hmmm, let’s see, what is the main benefit of feeding a baby with food that is made for babies? (Or even, feeding any mammal anything?) Maybe that it… KEEPS THEM ALIVE?? MAYBE??? This question would seem to prove that not only does the survey-writer not have children, they probably don’t have pets either. Or if they did have pets, those pets are now dead.
Q.19. benefits of baby food for you? – just choose two statements
- can fully participate and enjoy social life
- can have attention for self-development and career
- can balance better between work and family
- can be fully dedicated to their child
- can be fully dedicated to their family
- can have a fun time with their child
Again, fully participating in and enjoying sleep is not on this list. Who ARE these people? Can I have their social lives, self-development and careers? Because such mundane gifts are being wasted on geniuses like these.
It is times like this when I realise what a blessing it is to not have a television – meaning that I see next-to-no advertising. Maybe someone who does see ads can tell me whether the ludicrous representation of women’s experiences reflected in these answer options, is in fact a lazy summary of the mothertypes already being lazily portrayed in advertising.