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Sunday
Jun062010

I will not give Nestlé my money, but I also won't let Nestlé control my life

In my post outlining my dismay at the Nestlé sponsorship of BlogHer and in other places on the Internet, some people who boycott Nestlé due to its unethical business practices, some people who support Nestlé, and some objective observers have commented that it is inappropriate for me to attend BlogHer. They say that because I advocate for a boycott of Nestle products and because I suggested bloggers should reconsider attending a Nestlé corporate event that positioned them as Nestlé Family bloggers, that it is inconsistent, ineffective, disappointing, hypocritical or insulting for me to attend BlogHer (did I miss any adjectives?).

They are welcome to that opinion, but it will not change my mind and it will not keep me from standing tall at BlogHer.

It pains me that BlogHer has accepted Nestlé as one of its 80 sponsors, but I don't control that directly. I can control where I spend my money (so I don't buy Nestlé products). I can control which companies I allow to run advertising on my website (so I don't accept ads from Nestlé or other companies that are inconsistent with my values). However, I cannot reasonably avoid everything that has benefited from Nestlé dollars in any way, without allowing Nestlé to control my life. I will not allow Nestlé to control my life.

So many things in life are sponsored by Nestlé:

  • Magazines, newspapers, blogs and other websites have Nestlé advertising on them.

  • Television shows and movies often have Nestlé advertising or Nestlé product placement.

  • Sporting events and venues, such as the Tour de France and Wembley Stadium, are sponsored by Nestlé.

  • Recreational facilities, such as zoos, botanical gardens, playgrounds, and more are sponsored by Nestlé.

  • Public and private transportation providers often defray ticket prices with advertising from companies like Nestlé.

  • Hotel rooms often have in-room complementary bottled water from Nestlé. I opt for the tap water, but that doesn't change the fact that the room price was partly subsidized by Nestlé 's paid product placement.

  • Google runs Nestlé ads and so does MSN. Anyone who uses their free search engine, e-mail or other services that is being partially subsidized by Nestlé.

  • And yes...conferences are sponsored by Nestlé.


I wouldn't ever attend an event organized specifically by Nestle for the purposes of promoting or improving Nestle's brands. Although it doesn't apply to me, I understand why medical professionals cannot and should not attend educational events where Nestle can pay to spread its brand of (non-) nutritional education to the attendees. Education does need to be separated from marketing.

I can respect those people who have chosen to stay home from BlogHer or another conference because of Nestlé sponsorship. However, I cannot make that commitment. I refuse to allow Nestlé waving its astronomical profits around in the form of advertising and sponsorship to dictate where I can and cannot go, what I can and cannot read, or what I can or cannot watch. As the world's largest processed food company and the 10th biggest advertiser in the world, the company is omnipresent.

So, while I really think the Nestlé sponsorship of BlogHer is a bad thing, I'm still going. I'm going to tell people about Nestlé's unethical business practices. I'm going to promote advocacy and activism. I'm going to support a huge community of female bloggers that has the potential to change so much. I'm going because I know that unlike Nestlé, BlogHer does listen and I'm sure that we can find a way to resolve this for future years. And yes, I'm going because I want to go. In terms of the few dollars Nestlé is contributing to my ticket, I'm annoyed but not all that concerned. They are making a financial contribution towards me stepping up my activism on a variety of causes, including the anti-Nestle campaign.

I'll say it one more time: I will not give Nestlé my money, but I also won't let Nestlé control my life.
/2009/09/29/an-open-letter-to-the-attendees-of-the-nestle-family-blogger-event/
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Reader Comments (57)

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Annie@PhDinParenting, Bernadette. Bernadette said: I will not give Nestlé my money, but I also won’t let Nestlé control my life: In my post outlining my dismay at th... http://bit.ly/9JKNWw [...]

I believe that this is well-intended, but it falls short. This is a red herring for the more uncomfortable issue of your decision and justification for attending BlogHer.

You say, "I refuse to allow Nestlé waving its astronomical profits around in the form of advertising and sponsorship to dictate where I can and cannot go, what I can and cannot read, or what I can or cannot watch."

Until someone refuses just that, Nestle will continue to be a welcomed sponsor by BlogHer and the like. Because until enough people take the bold action of counteracting Nestle's sponsorships by boycotting them, the groups partnering with them will have ZERO motivation not to make that alliance in the future.

YOU are the one who dictates where you can and cannot go. Not Nestle. Just like you decide what you buy, what you watch, etc-. You are the one considering the information, weighing the options, and making the decisions, NOT Nestle. In fact, your decision not to purchase Nestle products (one made of your own volition) reflects that. Altering your personal behavior in the hopes of effecting a larger change is the whole point. It's your choice to take action in the face of Nestle's; of course, it's driven by Nestle, but it is YOUR choice.

BlogHer's decision to engage with Nestle as a sponsor in no way puts you under duress, so to shift the responsibility for your actions to Nestle is a red herring for the issue that it's uncomfortable for you to stay the course and attend BlogHer.

I'm not saying whether you should go or not, but at least take responsibility for your choice either way.

June 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy (@HappyMomAmy)

Amy:

This is my choice. Let me take responsibility for that. It is my choice to draw a line in the sand and say that I can boycott Nestle products, but due to the pervasiveness of its advertising and sponsorships, I don't feel that I can boycott every third party that has in any way benefited from Nestle dollars. My decision.

But if I made a different decision, and followed it all the way through, I would feel like I was allowing my choice to create significant inconveniences for me personally and also place limits on my ability to be an advocate and an activist. If I don't go to BlogHer because of the few dollars Nestle contributed to my ticket, then I also shouldn't be using Gmail, or Google Analytics, or Google search engine or even reading your blog or the many other blogs out there that use the Blogger platform (owned by Google) because Google accepts advertising from Nestle.

I need to draw a line in the sand somewhere. I haven't been forced to think about where exactly that line is quite so closely until now. But I don't understand why it would be more hypocritical to be associated with/benefiting from BlogHer than it is to be associated with/benefiting from Google.

So yes, my decision. My line in the sand. I'll take responsibility.

With regards to whether BlogHer or anyone else has motivation to refuse Nestle as a sponsor in the future, I think that good people are often motivated by things other than boycotts. They are motivated by wanting to do right by their community and by understanding the value in listening to their community. Companies like Nestle? They are probably only motivated by large scale activism and boycotts.

June 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Comparing Nestle's BlogHer sponsorship to its involvement in Google, et al. is apples to oranges.

Nestle is sponsoring BlogHer: an overt act meant to garner publicity and endear their brand to the BlogHer attendees. They are being spotlighted, along with ~80 other companies at an event which will leave no question as to its corporate partners.

When you go to the Google homepage, to the Blogger platform, etc-, you don't see Nestle as an overt sponsor. In fact, until you mentioned it, I hadn't considered Nestle's involvement with Google and its subsidiaries. Of course, it makes sense that they'd work together. But check the proportions: how many companies sponsor Google, VS the select group of 80 BlogHer sponsors? BlogHer attendees won't have to entertain any questions as to who's sponsoring the event.

It's not about boycotting every third party that's affiliated with Nestle in any way. It's about boycotting the high-profile ones that will garner the most attention. Google is the former; BlogHer is the latter. No one will notice or care if you quit using Google, but there would be a value in your public boycott of BlogHer, both as a panelist and as a high-profile blogger. Given your particular weight in the blogoshpere, I think this was an opportunity where you could have led a very public charge against Nestle by boycotting.

It's naive to think that the BlogHer decision makers weren't aware of this when they contracted with Nestle. Having already made the move to create WHO compliant ads, how could they enter into this agreement without some consciousness about the fallout that might result? So, yes, I agree that there are good people who are motivated by wanting to serve their community and make decisions that reflect the desires of its members. From my perspective, the BlogHer organizers have already stepped out of that category by engaging with Nestle. Might they be persuaded otherwise? Certainly. But they also could've found a better sponsor, in the first place.

June 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy (@HappyMomAmy)

Amy:

When looking at the proportions, I would also have to consider the amount of money Nestle spends on Google advertising (I'm guessing a lot more than what it is spending on BlogHer sponsorship) and also how frequently I use websites that are in some way affiliated with Google (gmail, blogger, search engine, any website running Google ads, etc.). I'm pretty sure that the net dollar value that Nestle has spent advertising to me on Google properties is much higher than the net dollar value it is spending to market to me at BlogHer. BlogHer is tiny compared to Google, both in general and in terms of its pervasiveness in my life and the lives of many others.

June 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

That actually makes my point: this isn't about the dollar value of the advertising, it's about how high-profile Nestle's respective sponsorships are. The Nestle sponsorship at BlogHer will be much more apparent and high-profile than it's relationship with Google, et al, as far as the respective end-users are concerned. That's why BlogHer is such a great opportunity to take a stand against Nestle and make a stink about their involvement. It's also a venue in which a change stands to be made (as opposed to trying to get Google to disassociate with them, which would be a much larger task).

June 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy (@HappyMomAmy)

Amy:

Personally, I think the sneaky formula ads that Nestle places on Google properties using keywords is much worse because it isn't apparent or high-profile. It is sneaky and underhanded. BlogHer is an opportunity to take a stand against Nestle and make a stink about it's involvement and I will do that. I can't be there, however, every time someone is reading an article about breastfeeding online and a Nestle Google ad pops up next to it.

June 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

here's my 2cents. ENJOY BLOGHER.
It's so nothing like the Nestle event -- nothing.

I don't buy nestle - but honestly mostly out of habit, we just happen to not buy any. I understand your dilemma as an advocate for the boycott -- but like you say, I really REALLY don't think you should let it control your life. I believe that you are passionate about other things MORE SO than the Nestle Boycott. So go share your passion.

Your word will be more important AT blogher than just on your blog.... and you deciding to stay home wouldn't have as big of an impact that you can have in person, at blogher (sorry - but realistically -- it wouldn't cause a chain of followers, and it wouldn't cause BlogHer's schedules to flop...)

June 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie

And my issue is that I think you might have reached more people by not attending. Had you taken the lead on an effort to boycott BlogHer, I think bloggers would have followed you. I think that movement (especially led by a panelist) would have garnered more attention in social media forums, and potentially in standard media, as well. Clearly, you believe you'll do more good by going. We disagree; that's fine.

Obviously, this is all speculation and we'll never know. It's also been hashed out in plentiful detail on your other post, so I'll leave it at that.

What's important, as Mike Brady pointed out, is keeping the negative aspects of Nestle at the forefront of this discussion and using it to make as much of an impact as we can. Frankly, I think the whole situation is turning into something of a travesty at this point, which is a shame.

June 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy (@HappyMomAmy)

Amy:

This is, for me, about more than just garnering attention. I truly believe that BlogHer is a wonderful organization that is doing great things to empower women. And I believe that they screwed up here. I will tell them in no uncertain terms that I am not happy with their decision and I will be willing to work with them to ensure that it doesn't happen again, but I don't go straight to boycott. I think a lot more can be achieved by working with people than by working against them.

I do agree that this whole thing is becoming a travesty. I wish that instead of anti-Nestle advocates criticizing each other's decisions about the best way to handle this problem, that we could all agree to support each other in the actions that each of us believes will be most effective. I support those who have chosen to boycott the event and I also appreciate the support that I've received from many of them.

June 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I would make the same decision, honestly. I avoid giving Nestle my money as much as possible, but it is so pervasive that situations come up where I consume their products. This is the difference, to me, between an ideal world and real life, where we're doing the best we can.

Having said that, I sincerely hope that BlogHer honours the Nestle boycott in future years. This is not a good company, and attendees should not be forced to make this sort of choice.

June 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

Given the terms of the criticism that was leveled at the Nestle Family Event attendees (as I remember them, which admittedly is probably not completely accurate), I think that, though you are completely, of course, within your rights to make this decision, you are going to have to realize that you set the terms of this discourse by your treatment of those people attending that event. As I recall, Nestle boycotters did not extend much grey area courtesy to attendees of that event, and while not all of the attendees were bothered by Nestle's practices I can think of one person who did attend the event with the intent to ask questions that weren't towing the company line. If Nestle boycotters extended no courtesy then, I don't see how they can expect it now.

That said, I do think that there's room for more nuance in political movement. I think that radicalism is alienating for these very kinds of situations. And most importantly, what has been lost in this whole thing, once again, is the marginalization of the individual (or a few individuals) when what should be asked is: why in the holy hell did BlogHer agree to this sponsorship when they KNEW this was going to cause problems? They claim, over and over again, to be about building community, and then take actions that tear it apart. In my mind, this is yet another example of this, and so their choice of Nestle is, actually, gratifying to the black piece of coal that lives where my heart is supposed to be. But that is besides the point: this whole debate has lost sight of who should be receiving the criticism: NESTLE, yes, but what about BLOGHER?

June 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterABDPBT

I think you've gone above and beyond in explaining your decision, and now that it's been made, I'd love to hear what you have planned for the event. I've seen posts from Baby Milk Action advocating the dropping of leaflets, protests, etc, and I've seen posts from BlogHer attendees stating that they hope a direct action of that sort is not planned for BlogHer.

Action and education is incredibly important. I know that due to your presence at BlogHer, thousands of women will learn an amazing amount about the backstory behind this company. I can't wait to meet you at the conference and hear what you have to say.

Annie is *A* Nestlé boycotter. Singular.

Arguments that attempt to hold Annie accountable for the actions of others, the words of others, and the positions of others (especially given the vast scope of the rhetoric on both sides of the issue) and then use those actions, words and positions to discredit her are faulty. Annie is not "Nestle boycotters [who] did not extend much grey area courtesy to attendees". She is not responsible for any rhetoric but her own.

It seems to me that there are a bunch of people conflating courtesy with not voicing dissent/disagreement and that's a shame.

Annie, I can't be the only one who sees that your potential reach on the issue, if you manage to impact even a few influential BlogHer bloggers, equal and exceed you reach through your readership here.

Go amplify the signal.

But the extent to which your boycott will be noticed is far greater proportionally to BlogHer than it would be to Google. The number of people needed to make an impression on BlogHer is far fewer than the number needed to be noticed by Google.

The choice to go or not to go is yours but I'm sorry, I don't think the proportional impact argument holds up.

June 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJake Aryeh Marcus

You say you respect the decision of those of us who have decided to boycott BlogHer but then go straight to implying that we are allowing Nestle to control our lives - something you refuse to do. Can't you explain why you have made your decision (which I think you did in your last post on this topic) and not take a swipe at those of us who made the choice to boycott? Why does my decision to maintain my boycott make my life controlled by Nestle more than your life is? Why is that the way the discussion has to go?

I control my political activism which is an important part of my life. My belief system dictates that I don't get to do everything I would like to do. Is that Nestle controlling my life?

June 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJake Aryeh Marcus

I realize that she's only responsible for her own actions -- I believe that I'm uniquely qualified to understand a position like hers, in fact, in being held responsible for people's discomfort with dissent/disagreement in the abstract. My contention was that she, personally, was responsible for some less than grey area behavior toward the Nestle Family people and that is why she is getting it back from them now. If I'm mistaken, then forgive me. I'm not condoning any of it, because I thought the reaction to the Nestle Family Event was absurd, and I think a wholesale condemnation of this without room for complexity is equally absurd. I am merely asking for people to understand that when they are the ones who set the terms of the discourse, they may later be held accountable to those very same terms.

Now, if I am mistaken, and Annie, personally, is not one of the more radical members of the Nestle Family boycotters that I remember, then I apologize. But I'm pretty sure I'm not wrong on this point. I'm pretty sure that's how she "made her name," so to speak, in the blog world.

June 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterABDPBT

Jake:

This is not a swipe at those who have made the choice to boycott. We each control our own political activism and decide how far we can go. I commend those who are willing to go further than I am.

My decision about where I draw the line in the sand is a personal decision. If I were to boycott BlogHer because of the Nestle sponsorship, then I would feel like there are tons of other things that are part of my life right now that I would need to boycott too in order to be consistent in my activism. At that point, I would feel like I was allowing Nestle to have significant control over my life. All it would have to do is place an ad or a sponsorship in order to ban me from a particular place. That is the way that I feel.

If you feel differently, and can go further, then that is great.

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I'd have made the same decision too. There are very few black and white situations in life and you have clearly thought out your decision and made your reasoning behind that decision clear to your readers.

I am curious to hear more about the activism you have planned for BlogHer. :)

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Michelle:

Thank you.

I will share more about the planned activism once plans are finalized. I am working on a few things right now, some on my own and some with other people.

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Can anyone name a boycott that actually achieved its goal? Even some of the more famous and effective boycotts (Montgomery Boycott, for example) were not boycotts in the classical sense, but people standing up against oppression. All the "real" boycotts raised awareness at the best of times, but usually they were not really effective. At the most, it works with companies that only sell one or a few products that constitute their main business, but not with diversified conglomerates like Nestle.

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjpu

jpu:

I guess that depends on how you define success and whether that success can be entirely attributed to the boycott (as opposed to protest and awareness creation in general). The Nestle boycott (and/or related protests) has been successful in getting them to change some of their practices. But more pressure on the company, in terms of people not purchasing its products, continuing to monitor its actions, and continuing to debunk its faulty statements is needed.

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

ABDPBT:

With regards to the "terms of criticism that was leveled at the Nestle Family Event attendees", you are welcome to read my http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/09/29/an-open-letter-to-the-attendees-of-the-nestle-family-blogger-event/" rel="nofollow">Open letter to the attendees of the Nestle Family event. I don't believe that I treated anyone who was attending the event unfairly. My activism on my blog, and on twitter, was consistent with the content and tone of that message. I was asking people to ask questions - of themselves and of Nestle. I wasn't launching personal attacks.

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I am happy to see you are going! I hope to meet you when you are there! :)

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle

I would love if people skip BlogHer based on Annie or other high profile bloggers' doing so but I just don't see it happening. For many, they've been looking forward to BlogHer since last year or even for years and the opportunity to meet their blogging colleagues and idols and learn from each other probably overrides their discomfort with Nestle.

I understand why people like Jake and Amy (Gates) aren't comfortable with attending and why Annie is. I don't think there's any one answer. But I do see a huge distinction between this event and the Nestle Family one last year and don't feel like people who boycott or disagree with Nestle (myself included of course) are hypocrites.

The Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott was successful. I have no idea what you mean by "classical sense." Another famous and successful one was South Africa. Ask Nelson Mandela whether boycotts work.

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJake Aryeh Marcus

Danielle:

I agree. There isn't just one answer. There are many ways to be an activist and many levels of activism.

I think that the number of bloggers who would have chosen not to attend BlogHer if I boycotted it could be counted on one hand. Some are going to boycott anyway and don't need my leadership to make that decision. Others are going to go anyway and me choosing not to attend wouldn't have changed their mind. Would a maximum of five bloggers following me get BlogHer to change its sponsorship policy? I doubt it. Would going to BlogHer, being a kick-ass speaker, and trying to work with the BlogHer co-founders get them to change their sponsorship policy? Maybe.

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Thanks Danielle. I completely agree that the BlogHer attendee is in a very different situation from the Nestle Family attendee. I also think that opponents of Nestle corporate practices can announce the decision to go to BlogHer without explicitly or implicitly criticizing those who have made a different decision.

Annie, your response to me here *still* makes reference to Nestle controlling our lives. I continue to disagree. We all make decisions that change our lives based on our beliefs, some of those being political beliefs. Nestle does not control my life anymore than it controls yours. I think the tack you take in this blog post is to shift responsibility for your decision and its fallout. We both have to make our own decisions and live with the fallout.

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJake Aryeh Marcus

It's your decision and I support it. I'm a lifelong, second generation Nestle boycotter but I think you could have more of an impact going (and still speaking out against Nestle) than not. I would LOVE it if you'd proudly wear an anti-Nestle button while attending though, and point others to where they could buy some. :)

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlicia

Just because someone attends an event that is company sponsored doesn't necessarily mean they are supporting that sponsor. I have attended sporting events that were sponsored by alcoholic beverage companies, that doesn't mean I approve of consuming alcoholic drinks, nor am I planning on purchasing those products in the future. But I do know that my experience at the event is made possible by those sponsors. I think the same applies in this case. I don't support Nestle, but BlogHer is going to be a wonderful event that benefits me because of the sponsors involved. To make this an "either or" issue is just not realistic...

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMommy Reporter

um, apartheid!!??

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFiona

Jake:

In my head and in my heart I do not feel critical (explicitly or implicitly) of Nestle opponents who have made a different decision from me. I don't understand how explaining my personal feelings gets translated as a criticism of others.

On my previous post a lot of people criticized me for not being consistent (I know that you were not one of them). I wrote this post in an attempt to explain that I feel like I have to draw a line somewhere and to explain where I have drawn that line and why. If I were to refuse to go to BlogHer, but I still take my kids to the Berlin Zoo or buy the newspaper or use Google or watch the Tour de France on television, then by their terms, I would still be being inconsistent and not fully boycotting Nestle.

We do all make decisions that change our lives based on our political beliefs. I have made many and I know that you have too. In the grey area of how far we will each go to avoid Nestle influence, I decided it was okay to go to BlogHer and you decided it was not. Both are valid choices. Both of us have the right to draw our lines in a different place without being called inconsistent or hypocritical.

I apologize if it came across as a criticism. It really wasn't.

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Annie, you know I wasn't critical of your previous post and have not been critical of your choice. Using the "I won't let Nestle control my life" construct puts me on the defensive. I agree of course that we all have the right to draw our own lines and make our own choices. But we (and I include myself without reservation) criticized the Nestle Family bloggers for being inconsistent and hypocritical. That opened us up to be examined by them and others with regard to how we behave when faced with Nestle. I absolutely agree that the BlogHer sponsorship and the Nestle Family trip are very different. But we are open to stricter scrutiny now. I think as allies we should and can avoid judging each other too harshly. But I don't see how we can get around being judged by those we so publicly judged.

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJake Aryeh Marcus

They are reacting to something, they felt like they were being treated unfairly -- whether by you or somebody else. And you are going to be the target of it, fair or not. You are going to be the face of it, fair or not. And I remember a fairly aggressive response on Twitter, whether you are the one who was guilty of it or not (because I didn't follow very closely). I'm not saying you were attacking them personally. I'm saying that they felt Nestle boycotters in general (for which you will now be standing, like it or not) were not offering them the benefit of the doubt for going to Nestle with anything like an open mind or a mixed agenda or a desire to ask questions or shake things up. They felt that you wanted to go there and get free bags of candy, and at least in one case that does not seem to have been the case.

Right or wrong, this is why you're getting this reaction now. This is why people don't like extremists. This is why it is hard to be a radical, is what I'm saying. This is why I, personally, don't do things like boycott companies like Nestle, even if I find them morally repugnant (and I do). Because if I did that, then I'd have to do it with everything, and then I'd have to do it with this or that company, and then before you know it I'd be living in a hut with nothing left to eat except cow dung. I'm far too cynical for this kind of activism. All of the corporate sponsors of BlogHer are morally repugnant. Perhaps Nestle is particularly bad, but believe me, none of them are that great. Nestle is just the tip of the iceberg.

I do support the idea of wanting to take actions that support your ideals. I really do. I just struggle with putting yourself out there with these actions and then being inconsistent. And though I think you're right that going to a Nestle-hosted event at Nestle headquarters is not exactly the same thing as speaking against Nestle at a Nestle sponsored event put on by an organization that is clearly enthusiastic about aligning itself with Nestle time and time again, regardless of what its community has to say about it, there ARE some inconsistencies here. These things do call into question integrity, they just do. I feel for you, because you are in a tough situation, and it's easy for me to just sit back in my cynical chair and point out all the things that are wrong here. But I'm concerned that the inconsistencies are going to ultimately weaken your cause.

For what it is worth.

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterABDPBT

Jake:

I agree on that point. That is why I wanted it to be very clear that in stating my own feelings, I wasn't criticizing others who feel differently. I apologize for putting you on the defensive.

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Accepted. :)

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJake Aryeh Marcus

I continue to support you and think that your decision is a sound one. I am sorry to read that people have been offering up adjectives that are less then fair.

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLyndsay

What I meant to say was that there always has to be somebody to stand up against something first, like Rosa Parks, to cause a boycott that gathers steam. The following massive mobilization of the civil rights movement during the Montgomery Boycott with some of its most prominent leaders ultimately led to a historic success. So yes, it is probably an example of a successful boycott, but three quarters of the riders stayed away for more than one year! And court rulings followed. In most countries that Nestle acts illegally, there is no effective court system to speak of, especially not with respect to vague international agreements.
The end of apartheid in South Africa is probably more a result of complex international financial and political developments, even if the "official" story of the rest of the world's boycotts (which were often only symbolic) sounds nicer.
Anyways, I think that staying away from the BlogHer event is in all probability less effective because one less speaker will speak up against Nestle's practices. So, I think Annie should go, even if it means I will watch our kids for two weeks ;-)

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjpu

Ah, Mr. Annie, I presume. ;)

Large scale boycotts are generally part of complex movements for social change. That doesn't make the consumer boycott any less important or integral. the Montgomery bus boycott is probably the best example of a consumer boycott that was central to achieving it's goal. While officially the boycott ended when the Supreme Court ruled, in Browder v. Gayle, that segregated buses violated the 14th amendment, the boycott had enormous impact on its own. The Montgomery, Alabama bus company became financially insolvent and national support for black in Montgomery galvanized a nascent civil rights movement. As for statutory changes, remember the boycott began in 1955 and Browder was decided in 1956 but race discrimination in public accommodations was not outlawed at the national level until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, almost 10 years later. If the Nestle boycott accomplishes even a fraction of that, it will be enough.

The end of apartheid came about in large part as a result of the consumer boycott writ large. When South Africa could no longer do business with much of the world - an economic boycott - releasing Mandela and ending apartheid was the only option.

I hope that makes sense. The downside of an iPad is the inability to scroll back through comment boxes. My first few paragraphs may be Sanskrit.

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJake Aryeh Marcus

I think there's a lesson to be learned here that seems to have been missed completely. When you take the hard line with people and with companies you have to tow that hard line. Perhaps those who were involved with taking the hard line with the families who went to Nestle in the first place (and I have NO idea if you were one because I had no idea any of this was an issue until the posts in the last week or so) will choose to be more gentle in the future. You catch more flies with honey after all. I try not to take a hard line on things for this reason. Before I do I am going to be very sure the line I've set for myself is not one I will be tempted to cross because if it is I am going to lose credibility and be taken less seriously in the future. This is essentially the issue I have with activists as a whole (not you necessarily because I don't know you and to be fair I've only read two of your posts) but I have seen many activists not be able to be true to their own issues and they lose credibility. I am very opposed to activists who arbitrarily determine their view gives them permission to check their basic human decency at the door. If however, you took the hard line with the Nestle bloggers then you might want to reconsider that action in the future.

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteph

[...] Another from Annie at PhD in Parenting: I will not give Nestlé my money, but I also won’t let Nestlé control my life [...]

Steph:

I did take a fairly hard line with regards to a Nestle corporate event. I didn't take a hard line with regards to any event that might be benefiting in any way from Nestle dollars.

June 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Well, let's hope it will raise even more awareness and some political/legal/economical big shots jump on the bandwaggon one day to mount the pressure.

June 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjpu

I was one of the ogreish bloggers who attended the Nestle event but I'll admit I hadn't a clue it was even going to be an issue. I was attacked and accused of terrible things by people who seemed to buy more into the drama than the real issue at hand, but Annie, you were always respectful.

I had only been blogging for about 3 months before I was contacted about going and had always been insulated from this kind of controversy. I actually found out about the ire over Nestle only after arriving and that's when I decided to ask the hard questions when given the opportunity and report back what I was told. I believe you even gave me some questions to pose.

I never tweeted, blogged, or showcased the trip outside of discussions where I felt I was unnecessarily lambasted or when I was disseminating questions and answers back and forth.

The whole experience, as uncomfortable as it was, was also enlightening. While it did lead to some productive conversations, it also led to a lot of hurt feelings. It was my first corporate sponsored event, and ultimately, as a result of the backlash, my last. You won't see sponsored posts, ads, trips, giveaways or otherwise on my forums, and I'm happier for it.

As for your attendance at BlogHer, I can see valid points from both sides, but I still think you should go. But not if the sole purpose is to extol your stance on Nestle. If you go, you should focus on empowering attendees and not just sharing a bunch of Nestle facts, unless I'm completely misjudging why they invited you.

I'm all for your desire to build a foundation for advocacy and activism, but I wouldn't change your plans, talking points, or focus as a result of this brouhaha.

People may think I'm nuts in writing this since I was deflecting unwarranted attacks from people who didn't even know me, but I believe there is a big difference between Nestle flying us to an event and you attending an event where they are among the announced sponsors. As you said, you'd have to live off the grid to avoid them entirely and this gives you an opportunity to help other bloggers. I just hope it doesn't take on an ugly protest vibe. The attendees expect and want more than that.

Do I think it's hypocritical for you to attend? No, but I can see where people may draw that correlation. I think there will be enough separation between you and the sponsor you detest...unless, of course, you're sporting lanyards, bags, or other swag with their brand on it.

Do I think you're sacrificing your message by attending? No, because you can offer more to people than just your disdain for Nestle. I would simply encourage you to keep the focus on the attendees who are eager to learn from your insight, and not those shouting "fight! fight! fight!" from the courtyard.

All this said, what will you do if the Stouffers logo is on the podium from which you speak? Or on the wall behind you? Now THAT would be a dilemma worth blogging about. ;)

I don't envy you at all, but you have to know that you'll be knee-deep in controversy no matter which direction you step. None of this should surprise you and I think people should commend you for drawing a line in the sand. I just think some are wondering if that line shifted a bit.

June 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGreg - Telling Dad

Well, most corporations use keywords for search engine optimization, so that's definitely not limited to Nestle.

Thank you for your very thoughtful comment Greg.

I do plan on educating people about Nestle at BlogHer in a way that I might not have otherwise. That said, I am not going to allow it to take over my panel (that wouldn't achieve my broader goals, nor would it be fair to my co-panelists or those attending) and I'm not going to allow it to take over my weekend (I am there to learn, to meet people, and to have a good time).

With regards to my line in the sand, I don't think it has shifted, per se. I just don't think I was ever forced to think about exactly where that line is until now. I've had to do a lot of reflecting and figure out what feels right and what feels wrong to me and I have done that.

June 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Great to hear, and yes, you need to enjoy yourself! :) I figured you'd touch on Nestle, I was just suggesting that it shouldn't turn into your focal point. Doesn't sound like that's your intent anyhow. I don't think your line has shifted either, I was just stating that some may feel that it has.

June 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGreg - Telling Dad

I have seen a few posts on both sides of this issue, but haven't commented yet. Not particular reason for that, just didn't want to really. Personally, I will not knowingly buy a Nestle product(by that I mean short from printing the list of ALL their companies, I have to go from memory), but I also wouldn't categorize myself as a boycotter. I am curious, though, about your thoughts and position on something else. This has become a huge issue with Nestle, but what about BlogHer? You are attending their conference and speaking at their conference and you have their advertising on your blog. Doesn't the fact that they "associate" with Nestle on this level bother you? How do you rationalize that relationship? I mean I get that what makes BlogHer (especially the price) so wonderful is the sponsors, but BlogHer still has the power to choose who they do and do not allow as sponsors, don't you agree?

June 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCathy

One thing is clear - no matter what you say, it's going to be standing-room-only for your panel!

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