afaqs!

Sensational attachment?

By Shibani Gharat , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | May 15, 2012
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The cover photo of a woman breastfeeding her three-year-old son on this week's Time Magazine for a story on 'Attachment parenting' has reactions ranging from approval and praise to disgust.

Time Magazine US edition's cover story on 'Attachment parenting', which poses the question 'Are You Mom Enough?', depicts a boy standing on a chair to be breast fed by a confident-looking mom. The cover of this magazine is the talk of the town as not only is the topic sensitive, the cover image, too, is extremely sensational. afaqs! finds out what the Indian media industry thinks of it.

Time Magazine

Rahul Kansal, chief marketing officer, Bennett Coleman & Company Limited

Routinely, in a country like India, breast feeding till the age of 5-6 years is a common thing. But, social anthropologists and psychologists say that this generates dependency. It could also be a part of the excessive attachment that sons have towards their mothers in India.

But, if you consider the manner in which this particular image has been clicked, the boy is standing on a chair to reach the mother's breast. Both the mother and the boy are confidently looking into the camera. This act contradicts the original act of breastfeeding, which is of cocooning and nurturing, and is more maternal in nature. The fact that this model-like mother is looking confidently into the camera destroys and plays havoc with the kind of relationship that a mother and the son have. Their relation is pure and eternal in nature. The image is shot in a way where the boy is made to look like a young adult, standing on a chair. The whole act looks unhealthy. It is no longer that maternal moment.

Rahul Kansal

Sandeep Khosla

Partha Sinha

KV Sridhar

Nandini Sardesai

But, it is shocking enough to drive sales and to be accepted by retail chains for display in their stores, to place at prominent in-store locations.

Sandeep Khosla, CEO, publishing, Infomedia18

I do not feel that it was appropriate to use such a photo. It might just help drive sales or grab attention and eyeballs in the short run, but the whole buzz will fizzle out in the days to come. Breast feeding is an act that is very personal in nature and there was no reason to bring it out in such a manner on a magazine cover. It would be dangerous to try out something like this in India but beyond India, even in the western world, such a cover has a potential to hurt sentiments.

Several Indian magazines have tried this in the past to grab eyeballs through provocative cover images but have faced protests from groups in return.

But, from a retail perspective, I do not see it causing any harm.

Partha Sinha, managing partner, BBH India

I do not think there is anything sensational about it. They are trying to prove a point through the cover as it is a story on 'Attachment parenting'. I do not find it sensational at all. I have seen far worse on Indian television. Keeping in mind the kind of maturity that the readers of the Time magazine have, it is perfectly alright to come up with such a cover.

It is a common trap that we all fall prey to, where morality overtakes rationality. I think there is a lot of fuss around it because it does not pass the so called 'Madonna test'. Nobody minds the picture of Madonna breastfeeding baby Jesus because this picture has a different posture (and attitude) as the baby is up in the arms.

And, at the end of the day, which media brand does not want to catch eyeballs? The kind of ludicrous things that we see on TV- are those not to grab attention and generate conversations outside media?

I do not think such a debate has any place in India. We live in a country where most of the women breast feed their children in the open, on the road.

KV Sridhar, national creative director, Leo Burnett

Overall, the issue of 'Attachment parenting' is a pertinent one.

The magazine may say that it is raising the issue to create awareness. Many may say that it is also raising the issue of child sexual harassment. But, in the Indian context, we do not see it as child molestation. Even while travelling in the local buses in rural India, we witness many women breast feeding toddlers.

Having said so, if I had been the editor, I would never have come up with a cover like this for India, keeping the Indian sensibility in mind. It is different in India, as compared to the western world, and various forces involved, including the readers, would not take it well.

But, on the other hand, it is important to see that because of this issue, there has been a conversation raised on the media that goes beyond the magazine. If a picture can create a conversation that helps many to understand and speak about a topic, and raise such a sensitive issue on public forums, then there is nothing like it.

Nandini Sardesai, sociologist

What is the message that they are trying to communicate through this cover? I feel it is highly unnecessary to have a cover like this, in an era when the children are so techno-savvy. It has a potency to cause a 'demonstration effect', where the other children observing this may tend to apply this in their own lives. Knowing that this is creating a lot of buzz on various media channels, it is bound to be a catalyst in encouraging a sort of behaviour that is not really very natural.

While we are teaching our children to be independent, we cannot say that such a dependency is biologically natural and demonstrate it through such a provocative cover. And, the dependency is not just physical - it is mental and emotional as well. I feel that it is giving a wrong signal and will only have a negative impact.

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