We’ve seen conversations about motherhood adapt over the years, with the advertising world working harder to bring more authentic and realistic depictions of this experience to their work. Yet can marketers create honest and effective work without the knowledge of all of the complexities and differentiations that motherhood is composed of? Simply put, no.
That’s why our London team was recently joined by Remi Sadé, a writer, activist and creator who spoke to us about the Black motherhood experience. An honest and eye-opening conversation, Remi and our Managing Director Lucy Doubleday discussed everything from Black maternal health to the importance of raising an ally.
Here are the key takeaways from the session.
We’ve all seen the adverts that feature blissfully happy babies breastfeeding with ease and the campaigns where mothers wake up from a full night's sleep with a glowing face of makeup and perfectly blow dried hair. Whilst we may laugh at the ludicrous nature of these depictions of motherhood, what is the true impact of this on a parent?
Remi explained how when she sees these adverts, and even incredibly popular television shows like ‘One Born Every Minute,’ that the babies “are relatively quiet, they’re clean, they sleep soundly, and they always say ‘you’ll feel fine.’” However, when Remi gave birth to her daughter in 2016, she did not feel fine, “I felt missing, but writing allowed me to sit down and look at how I felt, and the result was beautiful and simplistic pieces of text that resonated with a lot of other women out there.”
Remi began writing her blog prior to the birth of her daughter, finding the process a way of dealing with her own emotions at the time. It turns out she wasn’t the only one out there who was struggling, with her platform growing from strength to strength as women found solace in Remi’s poetic and honest dialogue.
On the publication of the MBRRACE-UK report in 2019, we learnt the horrifying statistic that Black women are five times more likely than white women to die during pregnancy or childbirth in the UK. Remi explained how this reality has made her feel, explaining that “My daughter was born two years before the 2019 MBRRACE-UK report came out, and I am one of the women that make up those statistics, in terms of the possible risk factors that can contribute towards women dying in childbirth.”
Remi said that “After a traumatic birth, I didn’t really have anywhere to place those feelings.” Postnatal depression or anxiety in Black Asian & Minority Ethnic mothers is 13% higher than in white mothers and are least likely to initiate treatment for postnatal mental illness, and the least likely to receive any follow-up treatment. Lucy asked Remi why she thinks this is the case. “A whole host of reasons,” she explains “ but one of those reasons is cultural differences. Healthcare is a system that is designed to cater to white people and white women, and it’s hard to speak to someone who has no understanding of your culture.”
Raising the future
Following the Black Lives Matter Movement of summer 2020, social activism found its place online, with people posting infographics and other resources to their social platforms. Remi said “When people expressed how they were shocked at what happened to George Floyd, that alarmed me, especially considering that many of the people expressing their shock were raising the future.” That’s when Remi decided that as someone with a platform, she needed to speak up. She saw the beautifully designed infographics that were doing the rounds, but in terms of tangible offline action, this didn’t translate.
To further educate her audience, many of whom were white women, Remi created a series of 101s posted to her Instagram, including one named ‘Lil Allys’ which speaks directly to those wishing to talk to their children about racism and raising them to become allies to the Black community. “Your son is going to grow into a white man, and my daughter is going to be a Black woman. Think about that and consider how having uncomfortable conversations now can benefit them and others when they’re older.”
For many, the thought of speaking to your child about racism can bring about feelings of discomfort, which inevitably results in many of these important discussions being avoided. Remi’s tip for talking to children about racism? “It doesn’t have to immediately be from a negative space. Make it personal, speak to them about people they admire and make the conversation easily digestible, and soon your kids will start to talk to you about racism as they notice things about the world that they live in.”
Representation is powerful
So when it comes to advertising, how can brands and marketers ensure that they’re creating accurate depictions of Black mothers? Firstly, “brands have to be willing to support and grow talent. Look beyond the obvious choices or those with large platforms and instead spend the time to nurture new talent and this investment will pay off further down the line. This oversight from brands is why we have issues with representation.”
Despite several brands working to improve representation within their marketing, they often miss the mark due to the lack of diversity within their own industries. Remi explained how to get it right, saying “do what you do for yourselves but for us. It’s so rare to see an advert featuring all Black people, but it’s the norm to see adverts that are full of white people. Shampoo adverts never explicitly say that this product is for white women, but in that campaign there is a girl with perfectly straight, blonde hair; it’s alienating as this comes across as normality.”
Remi feels representation is so powerful, as is normalising seeing minorities in larger numbers and groups. Giving an example, she explained that she “would love to see a leading brand do an ad campaign where it’s all Muslim women, but they’re not even talking about the fact that they are Muslim women.”