Fake Advertising Mom

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Autumn is starting to get nasty in Sweden, and immediately the Fake Advertising Mom pops up on billboards and in magazines. Sometimes she’s even part of a Fake Advertising Family.

Here’s what I mean. I don’t claim 100% accuracy, but I believe I can usually tell on sight whether a woman has given birth and nursed a baby or not. It’s part of the difference between girls and women. There is also the simple issue of at what age women usually have kids in the West. So when the travel agencies want to illustrate parenthood and show us a cute 7-y-o kid being held by a really pretty, pert, skinny woman in her late 20s, I just shake my head. It’s obvious. They stick a kid model onto the lap of a grownup female model who has no kids, and sometimes they also equip the pair with a grinning hunk of a male model with good hair, playing dad.

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Somewhere outside the picture frame is the kid’s real mom. She’s not in her 20s and she has given birth and has nursed and is probably not skinny, though most likely pretty too, and she has the build of a woman. During the photo shoot she’s probably sitting around with the kid’s dad whose hair is going and who isn’t skinny either. I’d be more open to buying a ticket if the ads featured real families instead.

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Comments

  1. #1 Mike Olson
    October 14, 2009

    I get what you’re saying. The blond in particular looks as though she weighs about 40 kilos, tops. On the otherhand, there is a picture of a Swedish girl wearing a “Cat in the Hat,” hat and a bikini that has almost convinced me to like soccer and sell all I’ve got to visit the country. And I’m a fat middle-aged man! Please note, the image contains nothing about soccer and nothing about Sweden…other than the colors she’s wearing and the title of the picture. Perhaps these images convince “real” moms they lood good with their kids. Dads might be drawn by the notion of seeing sexy women…even with kids, and no real chance of anything happening.

  2. #2 Tobias
    October 14, 2009

    I guess you are right about most such pictures, but not all of them. A couple of years ago, I was at a resort in Greece and one of the families on the flight down was followed around by a photographer for a full week. All was explained when I saw them in the next season’s catalogue about six months later.

  3. #3 Martin R
    October 14, 2009

    Mike, skinny waifs do nothing for me.

  4. #4 Sigmund
    October 14, 2009

    Martin, you are begining to sound cynical (it must be the dark weather that’s just descended upon us in the last week).
    It’s almost like you are accusing the advertising industry of dishonesty!
    As if!

  5. #5 SciWo
    October 14, 2009

    Ugh, Martin. Those kids aren’t 7, they look to be 5 and 3, but even if they were 7 years old and the mom was 28 or 29, what’s wrong with that? She’d still be 21 or 22 when they were born. I’ve got lots of mom friends that had kids at that age, and even more who had kids at 24-27. I know lots of moms who are “really pretty, pert,[and] skinny” by the time their kids are in preschool. Your comments say far more about you and your biases than do about what women and families actually look like.

  6. #6 MonkeyPox
    October 14, 2009

    Yougottabekiddinme.

    Ugh.

    Look, pregnancy does a lot to a body, and different bodies respond differently. Areolae, not clearly visible in these pics, usually darken with pregnancy, but there is a great deal of baseline variation in pigment.

    Stretch marks also vary greatly, with many multips having none, and women with a single child having prominent stretch marks.

    Short of a scarlet letter, I’m not sure what the hell spidey sense you think you have that can detect a history of gravidity or parity. It’s frankly rather bizarre and creepy.

  7. #7 Vince Whirlwind
    October 14, 2009

    I think the point is fairly well made – fake advertising mums display an obvious lack of authenticity.
    When I drop my children off at school, the mums I see dropping their children off look like women, not skinny childless girls.
    And the rare mums who look close to 30 (rather than 40) are in fact the ones who look least like models and have the most tattoos.

  8. #8 cass_m
    October 14, 2009

    Both women in those pictures look like they could be in my exercise class and most of my exercise mates have young (under 1 to 10+) children. Many of them are slimmer and stronger than before they had children.

  9. #9 Fletch
    October 14, 2009

    Really? If I wanted to see thirty-something normal people, I can…they are everywhere. Why on earth would I NOT want to see hot people on advertisements? Despite the laments of the feminist movement, there is nothing shallow about being physically attracted to healthy, good looking people. I am average looking and would not be angry at all if someone told me that I wasn’t hot enough to be in a commercial. That’s called life. If I have to put up with ads, then I better be putting up with good looking people. Putting “average” people in ads would be an insult.

  10. #10 TTabetic
    October 14, 2009

    there is nothing shallow about being physically attracted to healthy, good looking people.

    What about goats?

  11. #11 Funky Fresh
    October 14, 2009

    Are they curvy goats? Can you tell if they’ve nursed?

  12. #12 Vince Whirlwind
    October 14, 2009

    The model in the second image is certainly not “healthy, good looking”. She is scrawny and apparently suffering from physical and/or psychological issues causing her to lack normal body weight.

  13. #13 Keith Harwood
    October 15, 2009

    But Dr Isis is a mother and, so I am told by a competent authority, totally hot.

  14. #14 Martin R
    October 15, 2009

    Said Fletch, “Why on earth would I NOT want to see hot people on advertisements?”

    I don’t have a problem with models looking like models, though myself I don’t find them as attractive as the advertisers probably think. What annoys me is the obvious assemblage of fake families in advertising. It’s an insult to what little intelligence I possess.

  15. #15 Sigmund
    October 15, 2009

    I can certainly believe there is enough variation in women that it is commonplace to get mother who look virtually indistinguishable form those in the pictures above. On the other hand the children in the photos don’t look like they share enough facial characteristics with their ‘mother’.
    In which case I agree with Martins point about ‘fake families’ but not regarding the appearance of the mothers.
    By the way, I think advertising agencies use pretty scientific studies to determine which type of pictures works best on their target population. Having women look very young and thin seems to work best (in spite of the fact that these are not the features that are attractive to most men – I guess the men are not the real target).

  16. #16 Jonathan Jarrett
    October 15, 2009

    … skinny waifs do nothing for me

    Depends on the skinny waif, as far as I’m concerned. But seriously, in the somewhat less than affluent area of town I live in, I see women that sort of size and shape (probably—they’re not wearing swimsuits this time of year) pushing babies around quite a lot. Ordinarily I just hope that they’re elder sisters in charge of the kids while Mum’s at work, but it obviously can’t be that all the time. There are just some very young very slight mothers. I wonder in fact if the `sink estate’ demographic rather than the well-fed middle classes isn’t who thee adverts are addressing, though I guess Sweden has less of that sort of post-industrial economically-depressed population.

  17. #17 Martin R
    October 15, 2009

    There are many young mothers in Stockholm’s council housing estates too. I live in one, and the women in question there tend to be anything but slight of build. Like in the US, poor people in Sweden don’t starve. It’s just that healthy food is more expensive than junk food and people with poor education know less about nutrition.

  18. #18 Candid Engineer
    October 15, 2009

    I believe I can usually tell on sight whether a woman has given birth and nursed a baby or not.

    Really?!? Because I bet you can’t. This statement makes you sound like a moron. What makes you think you can tell if a woman has nursed or not? Do you know that they make uber-supportive bras so that women can keep their unsightly, saggy, formerly milk-laden jugs looking perky and fresh?? Do you know that its entirely possible for a woman to return to a healthy and thin state post-pregnancy? There are plenty of women I know who are like this.

    The overgeneralizations in this post make me feel a bit ill.

  19. #19 Martin R
    October 15, 2009

    Funny how several commenters appear to be so angry with me for suggesting that pregnancy and nursing changes a woman’s appearance a great deal. Of course you needn’t believe me on the factual level, but why is it such an emotional issue? I’m certainly not saying that moms aren’t attractive.

  20. #20 Candid Engineer
    October 15, 2009

    Dude, it is the *generalizations* that you are making about women’s bodies that are going to make people upset. Your post heavily implies that if a woman is thin, pretty, and “pert”, then there is no way that she is a mother. Which implies that if you ARE a mother, then you are NOT thin, NOT pretty, and most certainly NOT pert. These implications are offensive to both people who do and don’t fit your preconceived notions of what mothers should and shouldn’t look like.

    And nobody gives a rat’s ass about how attractive you actually find mothers. That’s not the point.

  21. #21 Martin R
    October 15, 2009

    If you read the entry again you’ll find that I’m saying that most moms of 7-y-os, though often pretty, are older than most of the models in travel ads. And with age most of us gain weight, men and women alike.

    As for pertness, I realise that I had misunderstood the word slightly. According to Merriam Webster it is mainly descriptive of personality and means “saucily free and forward, flippantly cocky and assured”. I had only ever seen it used to describe firmness of anatomy. I didn’t mean that parenthood need change your personality.

  22. #22 Candid Engineer
    October 15, 2009

    As for pertness, I realise that I had misunderstood the word slightly. I had only ever seen it used to describe firmness of anatomy.

    Ooohhh! Well, okay then! You were only describing firmness of anatomy!

    Honestly, you are completely clueless.

  23. #23 TTabetic
    October 15, 2009

    /hands CE a clue-by-four

  24. #24 Tor
    October 15, 2009

    All right, so the great majority of mother-child pairs don’t look much like what we see in those ads (though a few do). And presumably advertisers couldn’t care less whether their models are related or not, so it does seem rather unlikely that those girls are really the mothers of those kids.

    Well, the majority of Gillette-razor users don’t look like that guy in the ad (though a few do). And presumably advertisers don’t give a hoot what kind of razor their models actually use, so no doubt in most cases the guy is not a real Gillette man. Does this also constitute an insult to what little intelligence you possess?

  25. #25 Nat
    October 15, 2009

    I have to agree with Tor. It took you this long to understand that advertisers manipulate the images and messages they create?

    Talk about needing a clue-by-four.

    (and that doesn’t touch on your assumed right to opine forth on what constitutes an appropriate body for a woman in a particular situation)

  26. #26 Arlenna
    October 15, 2009

    But seriously, in the somewhat less than affluent area of town I live in, I see women that sort of size and shape (probably—they’re not wearing swimsuits this time of year) pushing babies around quite a lot. Ordinarily I just hope that they’re elder sisters in charge of the kids while Mum’s at work, but it obviously can’t be that all the time.

    …and others above:

    Damn, you people are judgemental! Glad to know you’re analyzing the appearance of every woman you see to make sure she is “appropriate” for motherhood or not. Why don’t you butt your snotty asses out of their business and allow them the choices of how to run their lives and families with timing and arrangements they find appropriate for them? Believe me, us women really appreciate your concerned insight into how well our appearances fit what you deem to be appropriate for “respectable” people.

  27. #27 kai
    October 15, 2009

    Ah, Martin, admit that you’re just pissed because you never get invited to photoshoots at Thai resorts. :-p

  28. #28 Martin R
    October 15, 2009

    I’m not sure where the whole “appropriateness” thing came from. Do my critics dispute the idea that these advertisement families are fake?

    Tor, you have a good point. Why am I annoyed by fake families, but not when I see two models (or actors), who are not actually a cohabiting couple, cuddling? I think it’s because there are kids involved, and because I have a feeling that advertisers actually intend to fool us with these fake families.

  29. #29 Arlenna
    October 15, 2009

    It’s the assumption that just because these women are skinny and attractive, that means they can’t possible actually be mothers and so the families must be fake. Because by inference then, mothers can’t be skinny or pretty or pert.

    What a judgemental, offensive thing to say, dude!

    And your commenter near as says that the “lower class” people he sees shouldn’t be the moms they probably are, since when he looks at them he can just tell they are too young and skinny to be appropriate for motherhood.

    Again, what a judgemental, offensive thing to say!

  30. #30 Martin R
    October 16, 2009

    Well, call me judgemental too, but I think most of the young women in question would probably have more fulfilling lives if they took the study loan everybody in Sweden is entitled to and got an education instead of procreating at 19.

  31. #31 Arlenna
    October 16, 2009

    How do you know they’re not doing both??? is the operative question classifying this visual assessment of motherhood-looking-ness as judgemental.

  32. #32 Martin R
    October 16, 2009

    I’ve lived for many years in Sweden’s closest equivalent of a US residential trailer park, OK? I like the people here, but they sure ain’t heading for grad school.

  33. #33 mpatter
    October 16, 2009

    I’ve lived for many years in Sweden’s closest equivalent of a US residential trailer park, OK? I like the people here, but they sure ain’t heading for grad school.

    Dear Martin,

    Is this class prejudice you’ve thrown into the mix? So is outreach good for nothing? Remind me to tell kids in my home town to aim nice and low in life.

  34. #34 Martin R
    October 16, 2009

    Huh? It is an empirical fact that few people in my area are going to university. It certainly isn’t a state of things that I applaud, and how you might have formed that view is beyond my comprehension. Are you suggesting that I should go around the ‘hood encouraging people to better themselves? I do occasionally help the neighbours’ kids with their home work, if that counts.

  35. #35 mpatter
    October 16, 2009

    I understand that you’re not in favour of perpetuating social inequality. But you did seem kind of resigned to the idea that kids in low-income, high-crime areas won’t try to make the most of the opportunities afforded them in the socialised education system.

    For example, I go on group tours around the most ‘deprived’ parts of my home country (the UK) trying to show off science tricks and let kids know that university is an option for them. I don’t think it’s changing things in a huge way, but I like the sentiment and I hate to think of educated people writing off people with less social privilege.

    High teenage pregnancy rates are also a fact of these areas. It is possible to be a mother and a student, I know women who do it (though of course it’s not easy).

  36. #36 lost academic
    October 17, 2009

    well, for what it’s worth…

    I spent my teenage years lifeguarding a lot. In our smallish town, I saw a lot of moms and dads with varying amounts of kids and was witness to their more exposed bodies than normal. The range of variance was massive. Moreover, your second picture? I swear to god, that’s a mom and daughter I know, who ARE Swedish. Mom’s got 2 kids and is SMOKING hot. Kids are well on their way too (both girls) – and I paid a great deal of attention to them because oldest kid sometimes had seizures and that was a drowning issue. Mom was in her 30s at the time too.

    Don’t get me started on what I saw at the last country club I worked. I don’t know how these people did it, but I saw them pregnant and I saw them with the kids and it was insane how quickly they turned into supermodel moms again.

  37. #37 Martin R
    October 17, 2009

    Well done, Mpatter. But the question here was whether the young mothers of Fisksätra are also university students. I’m sorry to have to report that generally they are not. Sweden has social classes too and few people break the mould. I certainly didn’t: I’m a second-generation university graduate. People with that sort of background who specialise in poorly paid academic subjects tend to live in less respectable housing developments.

  38. #38 mpatter
    October 17, 2009

    Well, fair enough. Not knowing your area I don’t know how right you are in your assessment of social mobility, but it is a shame if few people break the mould.

  39. #39 Arlenna
    October 17, 2009

    It’s really eye-opening to me, to see that Sweden is apparently a place just as chock-full of class-based discrimination attitudes as anywhere else. Americans think of Sweden as all tolerant and accepting and socially responsible, but apparently according to this guy, being in poverty is looked down upon considerably.

    Not quite the socialist utopia it’s made out to be, huh?

  40. #40 Martin R
    October 17, 2009

    You’re getting it wrong. In this particular socialist utopia, the poor are free to study on government loans, but for reasons of class subculture most of them do not want to. For the same reason, the children of Swedish academics study as a matter of course. Everybody grows up with a certain set of class-based expectations that they tend to replicate.

    You really don’t think that a lack of opportunities is all that’s holding the poor of the US back?

  41. #41 Isabel
    October 17, 2009

    “You really don’t think that a lack of opportunities is all that’s holding the poor of the US back?”

    I wouldn’t, but I also wouldn’t say that it’s their OWN expectations that prevent them from breaking out of their situation.

    also what does “free on government loans” mean?

  42. #42 Martin R
    October 17, 2009

    Almost all Swedish universities are run by the government and have no term fees. All citizens are entitled to study loans that will support them for at least 6 years provided they succeed at their exams. The rate at which these loans are repaid is then decided by each former student’s income for each post-graduation year. I’m 37, I have a PhD, and I currently owe the government about $10,000. “Saving up to send your kids to college” is an unknown consideration in Sweden. This system is part of what we get for our unusually high taxes.

  43. #43 Brian
    October 17, 2009

    Wrong or no, I’m a bit surprised by the overall tone of the responses here. This, from a group of enlightened individuals that I would imagine prides itself on its use of reason and able discourse.

  44. #44 Arlenna
    October 18, 2009

    You really don’t think that a lack of opportunities is all that’s holding the poor of the US back?

    No, I sure don’t–in fact, I have a research project attached to my NSF CAREER award application to study how intrinsic social barriers make it difficult for poor kids to push through out of poverty and into higher education.

    But the difference here is that I realize it is unfair to disparage them for where they are at based on sight and prejudices.

  45. #45 Isabel
    October 18, 2009

    Arlenna,

    I agree with you: I was replying to Martin’s assertion that “the poor are free to study on government loans, but for reasons of class subculture most of them do not want to.” which seemed to indicate that the society had done all it could by offering the loans, the poor just didn’t want to improve their lives, or were somehow responsible for their own lack of advancement.

  46. #46 Martin R
    October 18, 2009

    Actually, the Swedish government has been working really hard to turn every citizen into an academic. This is a bit strange since we have for the most part been governed by Social Democrats, and still they seem to want to make the Swedish worker go extinct.

  47. #47 Per Edman
    November 4, 2009

    You’re most likely seeing one baby and that baby’s mom. Yes, they’re on the outer tail of the gauss curve, but so are all photo models.

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