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Life Arts    H4'ed 3/5/09

Cheerios: Going Anti-Male?

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Recently, Bill O’Rielly had a revealing conversation with Marc Rudov on the Fox Network. Doubtless, you know Fox’s conservative talk guy, O’Rielly. But you may not know Rudov. He’s on a mission to stop the media from their unconscionable crusade to depower men.  Seriously. He calls it the “Institutionalized hatred of men” and even hosts a site  

Bill and Marc were discussing a recent Multigrain Cheerios ad and Marc was really miffed. The ad involved a 30-something-ish Steve who walks into the kitchen where his significant unnamed other is eating cereal. Steve surmises the situation then comments that she’s eating a box of Multigrain Cheerios.  Good Steve. Then he says: “So, you’re trying to watch your weight…”

Nameless replies, obviously peeved: “No why?” Not good, Steve

“Nothing,” says Steve in quick retraction.  “…It’s the box. It says it’s low in fat.”

“Do I look like I need to watch my weight?”

Quicker retraction. “No, no, no, no…It just says it has 110 calories per serving.”

“But there are other reasons why I like it,” Nameless persists.

“Yea, I know. But it’s the box. It says it’s made with five whole grains…that’s good… isn’t it?

Pause. You, know. Revealing pause. “What else does the box say?”

“The box says ‘shut up Steve.’”

According to Marc the ad “insults guys, makes us look weak…” And why? Because Nameless whipped Steve into submission over the apparent insult and Steve, jelly fish that he is, acquiesced.

But Marc, Marc, Marc – you’re missing the point. The food industry has made hefty profits out of positioning your average processed grain as a weight loss remedy for women. And why? To help them gain strength? Build their bodies? Become more muscular like those weight loss remedies targeting…umm… disempowered men? Nope.  As they say in endless marketing promises: women can “lose inches” and “drop pounds.” In other words, become less while men gain, build and become more.

But the plot thickens. The marketing universe deftly draws a link between women’s shrinkage and love, social approval, and basic worthiness as humans. You lose weight not to improve yourself but to win that ultimate reward: become more appealing in the eyes of others.

Then there’s Nameless’ response. You know: deeply offended by the slight suggestion that she watch her weight. Disproportionate?  Apparently not. O’Reilly, in the discussion with Marc, says: “I never mentioned the word ‘weight’ to women in any kind of capacity …I go to the deli and they ask me how much shrimp salad I would like. I say ‘you make the call lady.’ But don’t take Bill’s comment too seriously. He’s Bill. Later, he even called women “the weaker sex.”

So, that was Bill and Marc. But what about that other presence in the ad? I’m speaking of the cereal itself. Sure, it poses as a delicious hunger-helper/weight loss solution… and, given the multigrain-ishness of the packaging, an alternative to unhealthy foods. But, something far more nefarious arises when you examine the label and find, tucked in among the many grains…the word “sugar” followed closely by “brown sugar syrup” and a few unsavory seeming additives. Multi-wholesome health food? I think not. Or maybe they subscribe to comedian Billy Chrystal’s famed remark all too true for many women: “It is better to look good than to feel good.”

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Biography Communications expert, author, and entrepreneur Susan F. Benjamin is founder of Greater Voice Enterprises. Her short features and interviews with everyone from Hollywood celebrities to leading thinkers are aired online and on am/fm (more...)
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