Dear Mr. Heinz, I am Not a Mum

***UPDATE: there is a reply to this letter, click the link to read Heinz’s disappointing response.***

Dear Mr. Heinz,

I check regularly and can confirm that I am not, in fact, a mum. I thought you might like to know seeing as you seem fairly certain that I am. Trust me, I am lacking in a few key areas that would qualify me for that position and I don’t just mean that I’ve never spat on a hanky and cleaned someone’s face.

The reason I thought I should point this out is that I was feeding my little girl Elsa the other day and noticed this message on a jar of your food:

Heinz

I’ll be honest, I worry for Sophie. If Sophie really is a mum who is just like me then, biologically speaking, that birth will have been traumatic at best. I suggest we immediately start working on a prayforsophie hashtag, which seems to be the done thing nowadays on Twitter and, slightly pointlessly, on Facebook.

Yet, I suspect that your packaging is not heralding an advancement in medical science which finally sees the complex theories explored in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s futurology documentary Junior come to fruition. I have an inkling that you are actually just making a wild assumption about whose job it is in the house to feed the baby.

Times have changed Mr. Heinz and I thought, what with you being in the industry and all that, you might have realised.

For a large part of the last century, men’s primary tasks in life consisted of hunter-gathering, bear wrestling and explaining the offside rule, with women merely required to iron their husband’s bear wrestling trousers, throw their underwear at sweaty Welsh singers and bring up the kids. This is generally no longer the case.

Don’t believe what Peppa Pig tells you about fatherhood (and I really hope you don’t formulate your world views based on what you see on a Channel 5 animation series), some 21st century fathers can competently change nappies, enjoy attending playgroups and, yes, many even feed their offspring. What a world we live in, Mr. Heinz!

It has even been reported that nowadays some dads will allow their children into the drawing room before they’ve had a chance to light their pipe and start on the Times cryptic crossword. I imagine this is a shock for you.

I’m not claiming discrimination – I’m a white, middle-class male, so that might be a little offensive – but this is just another tiresome example of everyday sexism and there’s really no need for it. Couldn’t you have replaced ‘mum’ with ‘parent’ and avoided having to trawl through this slightly pompous, sarcasm-rich open letter? Although, if Sophie really is just like me then you’ll be used to dealing with that.

All I ask is that you think about what messages you release into the world. This is not “political correctness gone mad”, it’s about avoiding enforcing lazy gender stereotypes to children, meaning that they grow up free from the outdated conventions of 1970s sitcoms. You never know, Mr. Heinz, just by changing that one word you could help us build a society where kids can follow the life that they want to lead, regardless of their gender and where there are free unicorns for everyone. Or something…

Anyway, I think I’ve made my point. It’s usually at this point in an open letter where someone will call for a boycott of the offending company’s products, but I really like your beans so I shan’t be doing that.

Regards Mr. Heinz,

Jim (#notamum)

PS. If you’re still struggling to understand how annoying this is, Mr. Heinz, imagine how hacked off you’d be if people just presumed you were a man because you ran a multinational company.

***UPDATE: there is a reply to this letter, click the link to read Heinz’s disappointing response.***

7 Comments

  1. The writing on the can simply says that ‘Sophie’ is a ‘mum’. Its not excluding men from the parenting role or making any larger gender-specific assertions. Please keep some perspective on this. My daughter wields a chainsaw better than her brother (she’s 26, now and quite feminine in most regards before anyone thinks my toddlers are playing with this kind of kit!) , and yes, the day is a-coming when nobody will be able to call anyone anything other than by the genus rather than who / what they are for fear of offending. The stares I got back in the 1990s didn’t bother me then, and don’t bother me now – although holding hands in public earns us a few dodgy looks!

    • Hi John, thanks for the interesting points. The wording calls Sophie “a mum, just like you”, assuming that the person using the jar is also a mum. That’s what got me, really. It’s not about stopping anyone saying what they want but merely presuming that it’s only women that feed their kids.

      It’s of little consequence in the scheme of things but I do think it’s nice that we celebrate both parents’ input into the day to day reality of raising kids. I think dads are unfairly stereotyped as being useless a lot of the time when it’s just not true.

      Maybe Fisher Price should bring out a range of chainsaws, we should suggest it!

  2. I was first a stay-at-home dad when we lived in New Zealand, and stuff like this used to drive me nuts. It was my pre-blogging days, so I emailed the offending companies myself – I actually got some good responses. One changed within weeks, others sent me notes telling me they agree and are working on changing their language. Dads, whether they’re at home or not, are frequently involved on the purchasing of family products so it makes sense to engage them too. I’m sure Heinz will realise as well as long as we keep pointing it out. 🙂

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