Just Chew It:

Paul Barry writes: Jennifer Doggett (yesterday, comments) accuses Crikey of supersizing the facts in our investigation of how junk food manufacturers use sport and sports stars to sell their wares. But she is overcooking her comments.

I accept that the recent survey of 12,000 school children said that more than 50% bought foods they had seen advertised and not because they had seen them advertised — my apologies — but here’s the original Cancer Council summary for those who are interested. It says:

“Over half of all students (55%) had tried a new food or drink product in the last month that they had seen advertised, while 44% of students had asked their parents/carers to buy a food or drink product they had seen advertised.”

Note that we’re talking NEW foods here. And that many asked their parents. Now why would they have done that? Er, perhaps because …

But whether Ms Doggett’s is right on this or not, she’s surely not suggesting that ads are ineffective and that marketers are wasting their time. If she is, how does she explain the study Crikey cited yesterday where 3-5 year olds in US pre-schools believed identical foods and drinks tasted better if they came in McDonalds packaging?

And she IS being pedantic (well, Jennifer, you did ask) when she says it was only those parents who don’t read the label (that’s more than half the sample) who are twice as likely to think junk food is healthy if a sports star is endorsing it.

In addition, Michele Simon, a public health lawyer in the USA, who has been reading our Crikey investigation, is telling Twitter: “Coke pledged no marketing to kids under 12 in Europe, but sponsored ski school in Italy, where kids all wearing Coke-branded vests.” Catch up with her here or read her article on the latest US lawsuit against McDonalds here.

Becky Freeman, School of Public Health, Sydney Medical School, writes: Re. “Just Chew it: click go the marketers in online assault” (yesterday, item 4). The amount of website traffic to corporate food websites is dwarfed by the number of children who frequent non-food and social networking websites.

Facebook and YouTube are hugely popular websites among children, with 47.9% of Australian children aged 12-14 accessing social networking websites in 2009. Because these sites seamlessly incorporate marketing alongside non-commercial content, children are more likely to encounter and engage with junk food promotions through their normal online activities.

Take for example the fan page for Smarties Australia with more than 23,000 members. The official Facebook campaign, 8 Colours of Fun, features artists paired with young children in videos spruiking the rainbow of chocolate. Effectively regulating junk food marketing to children will require more than a few tweaks to food company websites.


Scott Mills writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. I disagree strongly with your editorial published yesterday on the War in Afghanistan.

You wrote:

“..The only difference is that, for prime minister Howard and president George W. Bush, the conflict in Afghanistan was actually winnable. Gillard and Obama don’t have that luxury.”

Really? According to whom? That glib statement is a complete fantasy. They possibly could have been in a better position had more troops been committed earlier rather than being deployed to Iraq, but the war was as unwinnable then as it is now.

What do we hope to achieve asides from making a political statement written in the blood of so many people on both sides of the conflict?

The Soviets must be chuckling at the irony.


Eva Cox writes: Tanja Kovac  (“Feminists — the faceless women of the ALP“, Wednesday, item 12) and Victoria Collins (yesterday, comments), I am sorry you are disappointed in my contribution on International Women’s Day but suggest you have both missed, and in a way confirmed, the core point I was trying to make. Feminism isn’t a numbers game or even a power game, it is about basic change to the ways we define the value of those aspect of society that are  gendered.

I can understand your anger as “one of us” becomes a critic and I thought long and hard about being open about my concerns. However, I think it is  important to recognise that we are barely moving and look critically at what  we can do.

I am concerned that lots of women in top positions are relatively powerless or disinclined to make radical changes. Their presence however seem to obscure the bigger picture that most women do not have real choices and  inequalities are increasing both between women and men and between women.

I am still am a supporter of having more women in positions of power and influence, but  have become more sceptical of their capacity to make serious changes. Corporate cultures, including in the ALP, tend not to promote those who want to make serious changes. Therefore they will not be able to achieve  much more than just sharing the current spoils of office. And most seem to share the shift to market forces, including the PM, which is very damaging to feminism!

I am suggesting that we need to note that just having women in senior roles is not making major changes to gender inequities. The tally is not impressive over the past two decades, we went backwards despite the excellent work by Sharan and others. This proves my point that we need to do  something else as well.

Even under this Labor government, progress has been slow. We have finally achieved  a very belated payment system for existing parental leave, not paid parental leave. However, the Federal government focus is on economic growth not social change. The social policies that cover areas such as child  care and community services are economistic and most unimpressive. Welfare is appalling so sole parents have gone backwards, as one example. Equal pay will be good when we get it here but its funding future is not clear.

Having more women in positions of power is only one part of the feminist  change process, we need to acknowledge its limits.

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