On the radio today while driving in my minvan, I heard that a few mostly East Coast supermarket chains have chosen to take the controversial ice cream flavor, "Schweddy Balls" by Ben & Jerry's, off their shelves because of pressure from a small but loud group who call themselves One Million Moms. How sad... But the real tragedy about this whole "Schweddy Balls" issue is not the knee-jerk reaction of the grocery executives or the product or its "controversial" name, it's that these supposedly "concerned" moms have put so much energy and so much of their precious, limited time toward something so innocuous. Why is it that so much attention is usually given to non-issues, while the real scourges of society that really are hurting our children keep continuing without much uproar? Drunk driving and suicide kill our nation's teens at an ever-alarming rate, yet a "million" moms are kicking up dust about ice cream... Public schools are in a funding crisis, quality teachers are leaving the profession in droves and these moms are upset about an "offensive" product name... a name that kids weren't going to notice much anyway!
I mean, let's break it down here. According to their quotes, it sounds like the Million Moms are upset because the ice cream's name is not suitable for children. To me, that means any child younger than 13. So we're talking about kids ages 0-12. At least half those kids either can't read or are just starting, so it's an instant non-issue for the 0-6 crowd. Which leaves us with the lucky "older elementary" subset. First, if you're an experienced mom, by the time they get that age your trips to the grocery store with them have been severely limited because a.) you've long ago learned that it's a nerve-wracking, less-than-pleasant experience taking kids to the grocery store, b.) as kids get older, usually they're a lot busier, so homework and sports trump "going to the store with mommy". Second, if you do take them to the store, you've long ago learned that the freezer aisle is something that is walked through quickly because it's THE COLDEST PLACE IN THE STORE and kids usually aren't happy there, and if you do like to hang in 32 degrees, hopefully you know it's bad financially and from a nutrition standpoint to let kids pick out whatever they want. And third, what parent in their right mind lets a kid aged 7-12 watch Saturday Night Live anyway? Surely not Monica Cole, the conservative director of One Million Moms. My almost-17-year-old daughter happily watched the Disney Channel until 9th grade and then gradually got into SNL, which was fine with me at that point.
So all this leads to the question, Why would kids ages 7-12 get much opportunity or have much reason to ask for Schweddy Balls, and if they do go to the store, why would they pay much attention to it among all the Bomb Pops, Push-ups, ice cream sandwiches and Klondike bars vying for their attention? Are Ben and Jerry's over-expensive pints really a kid magnet? Here in my big state of Texas, they're not even that much of an adult magnet-- at my store, Ben & Jerry's is usually hard to see-- Blue Bell rules the freezer shelves here.
Even so, "Schweddy Balls" would still probably be doing well among adult shoppers because the launch generated some publicity a month ago (and some laughs), but not nearly as well had The Million Moms not helped. Cole has been in the news saying they felt they needed to voice their concerns since they'd failed to do so previously over another of the company's flavor names ("Hubby Hubby", a reference to gay marriage). Yet at the same time, she said she didn't want to give them extra publicity. Huh? Is she somehow financially tied to this company? Because, thanks to this ongoing brou-ha-ha, sales of "Schweddy Balls" have now made it the best-selling limited-edition flavor in the company's history, with sales in grocery stores out-performing those in Ben & Jerry's own stores. The flavor was only scheduled to have a three-month run, but I'd bet that run will be extended. (Because Cole is also giving mention to "Hubby Hubby" in her spiel, sales of that flavor have probably picked up, too.)
Guess she's hoping all those letters she and her comrades are writing to grocery stores are going to cause the flavor to be short-lived. Again, a flavor that, though doing well for Ben & Jerry's, is still not the leading flavor or brand in the U.S. (online searching shows "vanilla" and "Dreyer's/Edy's" to hold those crowns) and it's tucked away unassuming in the freezer case at the back of the store... a flavor with a name that has a hidden, humorous meaning, an inside joke among those who watch Saturday Night Live. Not nearly as in-your-face as the magazine covers of big-boobed women and titillating, easy-to-read headlines on Cosmo and Glamour that kids are forced to see as they stand waiting to check out in those same grocery stores: "57 Sex Moves to Make Your Man Moan","Making the Most of One Night Stands", "Outrageous Orgasms"... not to mention the tabloids filled with cheating, "shocking photos of celebrities WITHOUT makeup!!" and deathbed dramas...
Yes, Monica, there are so many more problems hurting our children these days than the name of an ice cream. But as long as "concerned moms" like you keep diverting our attention away from them, they're only going to get worse.
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