The South Korean Ad So Controversial, Americans Got Mad About It.

May 2, 2012

A couple of weeks ago people on this side of the Pacific were all up in arms about a South Korean ad showing a baby on a mother's boob, holding up an Oreo, with the tagline: "Milk's Favorite Cookie."

It warranted from me an eyeroll so powerful that the old adage, "Moms have eyes on the back of their head," was actually true for a moment.

Breastfeeding is an issue I feel pretty strongly about. Not in the "BREASTFEED YOUR BABY OR I WILL DO IT FOR YOU" way, but in the "Y'all Need to Grow the Hell Up So I Can Feed My Baby in Public" way. And as a card-carrying feminist, I'm torn about the MSNBC article to which I've linked.

I get that actual breastfeeding boobs are not that sexy in real life -- Varma-White wasn't lying about stretch marks, cracked nipples, and sagging. The breast shown in the ad just looks way too pretty to be lactating, and I get the point she's trying to make about how this ad objectifies women...BUT.

In America, breastfeeding is already sexualized without the airbrushing. People see boobs, automatically think sex and lose their minds, which is why nursing mothers get thrown out of restaurants and department stores and other places we have every right to be when we're trying to feed our children. This is why there's such a huge effort to normalize breastfeeding and why we breastfeeding moms in America can sometimes come off as sanctimonious assholes.

Is it wrong to give a pass just because there's a slightly different cultural context? Let's consider that this ad ran for a single day in South Korea. From what I gather from my mother-in-law, public breastfeeding is an everyday thing in Seoul. If a person does not feel like looking at a nursing mother, he or she simply does not look -- a concept that seems to be quite difficult to understand here. I'm sure the ad was provocative there, but was it controversial? Was it met with the same fervor?

Who gets grossed out by breastfeeding anyway? According to the CDC, APIA moms breastfeed at a whopping 83%, a pretty high rate considering.

So the issue here is that the ad is "sexy" -- it sexualizes breastfeeding, and is possibly offensive -- because it's airbrushed and doesn't look like a "real" breast that would breastfeed. The ad's target audience probably isn't babies or nursing mothers, but are they really trying to sell cookies with sex or with a memorable statement? Is the ad sexualizing breastfeeding, or are we?


Theresa Celebran Jones


Theresa Celebran Jones was born and raised in Connecticut and has moved cross-country four times. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two young daughters. She works full-time as a technical writer and is an MFA dropout. Her only other hobbies are reading, taking pictures, scrapbooking, and listening to hip hop. Clearly she has no social life.



Apparently, this ad didn't run in South Korea. I find the emphasis on the ad's supposedly "eastern origins" interesting, since it's another example of the opposition constructed between an eroticized, more "natural" east vs. a sexually repressed and more "civilized" west.
The comment about not looking if breast-feeding bothers you brings to mind the joke about the woman who complained to hotel management that a man in a room across from here was walking around naked. When the hotel manager came to the room, he said,"But, madam, you can see only from his waist up."Oh?"she responded, "Just get up on that chair."