Bimbo Banter

The Infographic That Said Too Much

  • Trends
  • February 4, 2016
  • by Sally Ann Rivera

The internet is abuzz with the CDC’s latest set of recommendations to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome. Or, as it turned out as a USA Today headline: “CDC: Young women should avoid alcohol unless using birth control.”

Preventing fetal alcohol syndrome? A worthy and important cause. Not communicating the message clearly? Let’s just say the CDC is at it again.

The social media response ranged from men joking they were glad they could drink a beer without getting an STD to women furious about the perceived sexism. Commentators have taken to blogs and more traditional media sources like The Washington Post condemning the CDC’s “incredibly condescending warning to young women.”

The lesson for our clients? An important message got lost in an outrageous claim.

Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, said in a statement, “The risk is real. Why take the chance?” That’s a powerful line that would resonate well with expectant mothers. We’ve already seen how fear propelled the anti-vaccination conversation. Similarly, parents are concerned (and rightly so!) about their child being at-risk for alcohol-related birth defects.

In crafting its message and, in particular, the latest infographic, the CDC failed to ask, “Who’s my audience?” Millennial women, surrounded by “rape culture” and caught in between baby boomer feminism and modern equality, have highly-attuned radars for patronizing language.

The CDC would have been better off to stick with its message and meet women as equals: you care about your baby. We do, too.

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