Wednesday, July 22, 2009

We Have Seen the Enemy...And He's at Albertson's

My career as a radical started small, in the PX at Fort Buchanan in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

I had just dropped off my kids at school, and made a quick stop to pick up a bag of diapers and a mondo ginormous diet Coke from the deli. You know, the staples.

When I got to the check stand, I was shocked to find myself face-to-boob with Janet Jackson. She was smiling at me from some magazine cover, obviously gloating that in my wildest dreams of zero gravity lingerie I would never be as topographically charmed as she.

However, the poor girl was suffering from the first of many wardrobe malfunctions from which she was being rescued by her boyfriend, who was taking a hands-on approach to supporting her in her hour of need.

Touched as I was by this very public display of selflessness – not to mention toplessness – I was nonetheless more than a little concerned that in a few hours’ time I would be sending my 11-year old son into that same PX to pick out a binder and some notebooks. He wanted to do this himself, and I had agreed to wait in the car. Or the deli, depending on how long that diet Coke held out.

And I certainly didn’t need Janet Jackson distracting him from the business at hand. Goodness, he might not remember to bring me my change, and that simply would not do.

Now, I think I’ve mentioned my aversion to confrontation. While I am undeniably numbered among the noble and outspoken ones, my mouthiness tends to be of the drive-by variety. "She who sasses and runs away, lives to sass another day" is cross-stitched on a sampler in my parlor.

So my decision to track down the manager of the PX and express my concerns was one which pretty much catapulted me out of my comfort zone. It would require both diplomacy and courage, two character traits I seemingly bypassed in order to make room for “smart aleck” and “fudge maker.”

But track him down I did. I explained that I was uncomfortable with the images on the magazine, and that its being at eye-level for the twelve-and-under set was questionable marketing at best.

And go figure, he agreed. I was thunderstruck! By the time we returned that afternoon, the magazine was gone. GONE. Not so much as a perfume sample left.

That was eleven years ago. And of course, Janet and her revelatory friends have graced myriad magazine covers since then. But I like to think that, for a few days anyway, I made my little corner of the planet a bit safer for kids.

Ten years later, I was at the checkout at my local Albertson’s here in Las Vegas. And right there, at adolescent eye-level, was Cosmopolitan magazine, touting so many pornographic articles on the cover I half expected an ad for time shares in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Once again, I knew my inner radical needed to make an appearance. I girded up my loins, fresh courage took, and shared my concerns with the store manager.

Completely blew me off. Told me there was nothing he could do; the marketing decisions were made higher up than his poor grade level.

So I calmly informed him that I COULD do something. I had an e-mail list and I wasn’t afraid to use it. I reminded him that my friends were a bunch of kid-producing, grocery-consuming Mormons and Catholics just like me, and that just my immediate circle represented tens of thousands of dollars in annual revenue for this single store alone.

He was polite, but unimpressed.

So I went home, and followed through on my little threat. I wrote to all my Vegas friends, told ‘em that the November issue of Cosmo was nothing short of pornographic, and invited them to e-mail or call Albertson’s headquarters and let them know how they felt. And I provided them with the numbers and addresses.

The entire rebellion took exactly 45 minutes, and I never left my computer.

But here’s where the story gets interesting: That e-mail went through two generations – original recipients and one forward - and landed in the mailbox of a woman I’ve never met, but whose nieces are my piano students. She lives in Boise, home of Albertson’s HQ, and she decided that she was uniquely positioned to take the battle from the front lines to the generals running the show.

So she printed off my e-mail and waltzed into the office of the President of Albertson’s, where she explained that it was unlikely the readers of Cosmopolitan were the customers keeping his company in business. And if that magazine continued to be flaunted in front of the families who DO spend thousands at their stores, then it would be very simple for them to shop somewhere else.

Guess what, ladies and gents: The Albertson’s stores in Las Vegas keep Cosmopolitan behind magazine screens at all of their check stands. They have done for more than six months now.

We did that! Me and my little posse of e-mailers! And their brave relatives! In wicked, decadent, pro-nudity Las Vegas!

Here’s why I’m thinking about this: Stephanie over at Diapers and Divinity has declared war on smut, with television advertisers in her cross hairs, and has invited all of us to fight it however and wherever we can. There’s quite a lively discussion going on over there, and if you promise to behave yourselves you ought to weigh in.

But I was interested in two sentiments that had emerged the last time I checked the comments. One was that the solution was to just not have a television in your own home, and the other was that this was a losing battle.

And honestly, I can’t fault people for feeling this way. Anyone who chooses to not own a television is practically mythical in my book; I sure couldn’t do it without some kind of super power going for me.

Nevertheless, the commandment to be ‘in the world but not of the world’ begins with an injunction to BE IN THE WORLD. That means taking responsibility for our own patch of the vineyard, having genuine concern for all of our Father’s children, actively numbering and feeding and watching over His sheep.

There is no such thing as “someone else’s problem.” Members of any community have a duty to look out for one another.

As for whether or not this is a fight we can win, just remember that those who are with us are greater than those who are against us. This is just another skirmish in the war over the souls of men that began in the pre-existence. And unless I missed a memo somewhere, I’m pretty sure we all know who will eventually come out on top.

No one can do everything. But each of us can do something. Forty-five minutes on my computer, plus the five minutes it took to read and forward an e-mail, topped by the relatively simple act of driving a couple of miles to an office to have a ten-minute conversation, led to a significant marketing change in my neck of the woods.

It’s embarrassing how easy it was.

We may not bring the networks to their knees. We may not make much of a dent in the bottom line for those who profit from this kind of poison. And by the time your little ones are the ages of my big kids, it’s likely the problem will have spread like the disease it is.

But even if all we do is buy our communities, our families, our loved ones a little more time to fortify their homes and inoculate their kids, then that has to count for something.

So, this is a gentle call to arms from the Queen of Avoiding Confrontation. If I can do it, anyone can. And your small efforts may well mean the difference in saving the soul, the innocence, of some mother’s child.

Don’t know about you, but I think that’s worth forty-five minutes.


Kristina P. said...

I remember when I started to see the magazine covers popping up in stores around here. I thought it was strange and neat.

I don't think that taking out a TV is the answer. I think parents absolutely need to monitor things, but I think that people who think that because they don't have a TV, their kid won't be exposed to bad things tend to get complacent, from what I've seen.

Annette Lyon said...

I'm duly impressed. The only place around here that I've seen magazine screens is Macy's and I LOVE them.

I've never thought little old me could do anything this big. You've taught me a lesson. Thanks for that.

Hel said...

Hoorah! Your post just made me want to march around the basement and sing mighty songs of war. Instead I will get in the shower before my husband kills me (I am soooo good at procrastinating) and then when I get back from watching a "smutless" movie I will weigh in.

Long live... the smut free community!

M-Cat said...

Good on ya gurl! I am proud of you, and inspired by you.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I love you. The end.

p.s. Want to write an anthem for this battle? :)

The Garden of Egan said...

Wow! You are awe inspiring! I have to agree with you 100%. I have been known to write my congressmen, Smoky the Bear (seriously when I was 5) and various TV stations. Bring it on baby!

MommyJ said...

Power to the people!!!

Amen. And, Amen.

Melanie J said...

You're awesome.

InkMom said...

Light that fire, my friend!

I already told Steph I'm in. As we all should be.

Lynne's Somewhat Invented Life said...

This is what it's all about, one person doing what she/he can and another and another.

Most Americans doesn't want all the smut we're being force fed but Hollywood and New York do so that's what we get.

It's time for us to take a stand. I applaud you for your part. For every letter written it used to stand for 100 people who felt the same. Now it probably stands for a thousand.

You go girl and we'll come with you.

Travis and Amber said...

Nice job!

tammy said...

Good for you! I'm not good at confrontation face to face (I get too emotional) but I can write a mean email. The joke around our house is "you go better go write them a letter!". It works.

Lisa Loo said...

I add my Huzzah to everyone else's. It's really true that we are resposible for our little patch of the vineyard and thus be accountable for all we did or did not do with it. Sometimes it doesn't have as big of an effect as yours did but it can still plant the seed. And I loved your words on the TV debate--you should write a book. Oh wait--you did and I might add --teased me into thinking you would send me one...but I'm not bitter.

Brooke said...

I'm totally on board with this! You've got to check out the Parents Television Council website and sign up for their newsletters:

They do amazing work and have been able to achieve some pretty remarkable goals. But the real power is in the individual taking a stand!

The signiture line for my email is: True character is when long after the emotion of the moment, you still have the dedication to the deed.

I hope we can all stay focused and excited about this very urgent agenda!

Debbie said...

We can all do something. It's so true. I hope that those who chose to believe it's someone else's problem will still be observant of their children. Cause even though bad things might not be in their home, it could be in their friends and there will be exposure. It's so important for us all to do something. Yahoo. Unite!

Lara said...

I've never really thought of it in quite these terms before, but definitely just deciding to get rid of TV is akin to sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the greater problem.

We don't have cable, not for some moral reason, but because I don't want to pay for it. I'm shocked that my 8 year old still seems to be quite savvy when it comes to shows and music that have never even been seen in my home. And she doesn't go to friend's houses very often, either. They will eventually be exposed to stuff. Better that we work to make that more and more difficult for them. It's really disgusting what is out there.

You are awesome. I loved your Albertson's story, and it makes me want to do more. I'm the mom who just turns the magazines over when I see them and obviously that isn't quite enough.

Homer and Queen said...

I think that only Ute fans watch porn and read smut!!! LOL Am I stupid? I never even look at the magazine covers only the quilting mags...

I need to pay attention I guess cuz I am with ya!!!

Motherboard said...

You rock my world DeNae!

I got your back, you got mine. We're good like that. I am totally on board with this! It's about time we all say "Enough!" And, I totally agree, 100% it is completely naive and socially irresponsible to say that by not having a TV the problem is solved "in my home" ... What about friends, parents, siblings, teenagers in the ward?

TV = out of sight, out of mind and everyone becomes what Kristina said: Complacent.

Migillicutty said...

That is REALLY cool!

Brittany Ann said...

I'm a lurker, this is because I have a fear of rejection, and a lack of spine. However, I had to let you know that I'm very touched by what you've done, and your call to arms. I think I will visit this website. Thank you!

Cynthia said...

My chest is all puffed up (double d style) with PRIDE for your accomplishment! You stepped out of your comfort zone and did what was right- not what was easy. And look at the impact it had?

Most of us (myself included at times) ASSUME we have no power. The powers that be want us to believe we have no power and our politicians REALLY want us to believe that.

Thing is, we do. And it isn't nearly as difficult as one might imagine. It just takes one person with courage and the willingness to get an action started. If it's the 'right' thing, it will snowball and grow.

wendy said...

Hey DeNae - great post. I loved the comment BE IN THE WORLD --as we can't hide, but be pro-active like YOU. BE IN and BE AWARE and BE INVOLVED. you are just like Captain Moroni ---(was that his name,?? maybe I am going a little overboard here) But I see you on your horse with your Banner -COSMO BEWARE, I am watching you.
love ya
I won't be able to check on you until about September with my move and all, and gotta get High Speed. Crap. Will miss my blogger friends.

Reb said...

You are a rock star. Laura Ingraham would be so proud, and I know I am.

Sher said...

You're like a regular anit-porno HERO! You go girl!

As far as TV goes, that's hard, because even the cartoons are smutty these days. My kids are not allowed to watch Sponge Bob. and my hubby loves to watch those stupid animated sit coms like The Simpsons, and King of the Hill and Family Guy. Those are the worst ones because my kids think that they're for them becuase they're cartoons, but they pure garbage.

Me, on the other hand, I have become a bit desensitized. I watched rated R movie, but everytime I do I think that wasn't worth the smut, I should really stop watching these movies.

Thanks for the call to arms!

AS Amber said...

First: Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction was on my 28th birthday. Just sayin'.

Second: I realize my kids are going to see and hear plenty of crap at school which is why I try to keep their home a haven for them. Yes, I swear but they never hear me say the "bad" ones. And they know exactly what they can and cannot watch on t.v.

I'll be honest, though. I've never really thought of taking it much further than that. You've opened my eyes to a new way of thinking. Our babies only get to be little for such a short time. We...*I* need to do more to protect their innocence for as long as we can.

This is a great post. And I read Steph's heated post/comments, too. You're both on to something, here!


Chief said...

Hey! Found you from Inkmom...I will forever be grateful every time I go into an Albertsons in Vegas, that my 13 year old does not have to look at Janet Jackson boobs! I thank you for that!

SCP said...

Where have I been? Who knew cosmo could be so good? I think a cosmo subscription is in order.... I mean really you can only look at the Victoria Secret catalog for so long!! Maybe I should approach the checkstand at a 12 year olds hieght from now on.

myimaginaryblog said...

"And your small efforts may well mean the difference in saving the soul, the innocence, of some mother’s child."

This unexpectedly brought tears to my eyes.

It also occurs to me that even if we can't stop the flood (and, in the big picture, we almost certainly can't,) when our kids have seen that we're willing to be brave and stand up to try to keep their world clean(er) it will change the way they see the world and hopefully help them to be bold as well.

charrette said...

This is great! I'm a confrontation-avoider too...if not the queen then likely her lady-in-waiting.

That's tremendous what a difference you made in your corner of the world -- that happened to spread clear to Boise! It reminds me of the time we painted over some pornographic graffiti in L.A. County for family night. Those small-ish efforts can make a huge difference.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I pointed people back this way again because you're still my hero. (And thank you for your VERY sweet email today.)