It’s Thursday, so I’m Crafting my Life! This year, I’m just writing about whatever is currently on my mind. And if you would like to chime in and contribute a guest post about your own journey, please drop me a line and we’ll chat.
Before I get into my post for today, I am going to get this out of the way: I eat at McDonald’s. Not very often – probably about once every three months or so – but I go there. My kids eat there, too, and far more often than I do. A fast food meal out is their go-to treat when they spend time with their grandparents, which means they visit a couple of times a month, and I choose not to stress about it. The world is a complicated and nuanced place, and a person can hold an opinion and not always act in accordance with that opinion. Call it hypocrisy, call it cognitive dissonance, call it being human. I am willing to own it, and I am not about to pass judgment on anyone else who consumes the occasional fast food meal.
Now, on to my point. I am a proud member of the Green Moms Carnival. Yesterday, one of the other members sent an email to the group asking if there were any Canadian residents who would be interested in applying for one of three spots as a McDonald’s All-Access Mom. Her idea was that if one of those moms is environmentally conscious, they may be able to shine a light on behind-the-scenes practices at McDonald’s. I am pretty much the only Canadian resident in the group, so I checked it out.
Right after my email exchange with the Green Moms, I saw my friend Annie’s post about the All-Access Moms, complete with a video that shines a light on some of McDonald’s questionable business practices. If you’re not familiar with them, I recommend checking out Fast Food Nation, The Omnivore’s Dilemma or Food, Inc. But for right now, let me summarize my personal concerns with McDonald’s:
- A McDonald’s meal comes with a lot of disposable packaging which ends up in the landfill – or worse, on my front lawn.
- McDonald’s is constantly working to drive down the cost of their food, which means that their eggs and meat produced under inhumane conditions.
- Their food is not healthy – and it doesn’t even decompose.
If I applied to be one of the McDonald’s All-Access Moms, I could do so as a skeptic. In the unlikely event they actually chose me, I would tour their production facilities with a critical eye, and I would do my best to remain objective. Would I succeed? It’s hard to say. There’s a reason journalistic ethics require that reporters don’t receive gifts from the people they’re reporting on. When someone’s flying you around and treating you well, you’re naturally going to be inclined to like them. And when you like them, it’s hard to rip them to shreds when you write your article.
On top of that, I have to assume that some amount of care will go into what the moms get to see. They’re likely not going to be entering slaughterhouses, or talking to disaffected employees. They’re going to be presented with a polished and crafted image. It’s understandable, really. When I know that company’s going to be coming over, I clean my house, so that I’m giving the best possible impression. I’m sure that McDonald’s would do the same. When they’re showing what “really goes on” at McDonald’s, they’re going to show their best side.
There’s another factor at work here, too. The point of this exercise – like all PR exercises – is to generate positive publicity for McDonald’s. And one of they ways they do that is by partnering with moms, so that they can use their names and images. To continue the thought experiment, if I were accepted, and even if I did manage to maintain my objectivity and find some real answers to hard-hitting questions, in the process I would be lending my name to a company whose practices I don’t condone. Occasionally taking actions in my personal life that don’t conform with my highest ideals is one thing, but publicly promoting a brand I don’t believe in is quite another.
As a blogger, I have created a personal brand. I think of this, really, as just another way of saying that I have a reputation built around my personal platform. I view this platform as an almost sacred space, and I am very picky about who or what I talk about here. In part, this is to maintain my personal credibility and keep my blog from becoming a PR pitch machine. But an even bigger part comes from the journey I’m on to live a life that I’m comfortable with. If I don’t want to work in a job that doesn’t fit me, why would I use my platform in a way that doesn’t fit me? I want to live authentically, which means using my voice in a way that affirms my values rather than undermining them.
So, while part of me thinks it would be interesting to get a first-hand view of the fast food industry, even if only to see what they are and are not showing me, I’m not going to apply. If I don’t want to give McDonald’s the right to use my name and image, I’m not going to offer it to them. That’s my decision, and I will own it. Your decision may be different – and I respect that. But however you decide to use your voice, I hope that it affirms your life and conforms with your values.
Tell me, would you submit an application to be an All-Access Mom? Do you think you could maintain your objectivity when they wined you and dined you? And would you be comfortable with your name and image being used to promote a company whose practices you disagree with? I’d love to hear!