Air Date: Week of February 12, 1993
Commentator Janet Reynolds takes the nuclear power industry to task for specifically targeting women in its latest ad campaign.
CURWOOD: "The year of the woman" has taken on new meaning for the nuclear power industry. Commentator Janet Reynolds explains.
REYNOLDS: Maybe you've seen one of the TV commercials. The attractive woman identified as an engineer says, "When I was in college, I was against nuclear energy. But I've reached a different conclusion. Nuclear energy means cleaner air for the planet." Segue to her two children joyfully running through a beautiful field toward a clear lake. Or maybe you've seen a magazine ad, perhaps the one of a cute baby turtle crawling on a lovely beach with this nuclear energy message printed below the photo: "It peacefully coexists with the environment."
Then again, maybe you haven't seen either advertisement. But you will, because once again, the nuclear power industry has launched a multi-million dollar public relations campaign to prove to Americans that nuclear power is good for every living thing. The big difference this time, as the pages of ads in the likes of Good Housekeeping, Redbook and Better Homes and Gardens prove, is that women are the special target. Now, everyone has a right to advertise. It's the deceit behind this campaign that's inexcusable, and it starts right with the US Council on Energy Awareness, which sponsors these pithy advertisements. Despite its purposefully vague title, this council is neither apolitical nor official. Instead, according to a recent Nation article by Greenpeace's Peter Grinspoon, the council is really a $21 million public relations outfit financed by -- get this -- the nuclear energy industry.
An interesting revelation, that. And one which certainly does lend perspective. No wonder many of the ads boast that nuclear energy doesn't pollute the air. Now that may be technically correct, but it completely avoids the huge problem of radioactive waste, a by-product for which there is no known method of safe disposal. Not to mention what happens when accidents occur -- you know the ones they always assured us could never happen but when they do the cancer rates in the vicinity soar and the entire region's landscape is blighted for who knows how long. Accidents like Chernobyl.
But the nuclear energy PR blitz is disturbing for more than its blatant falsehoods. No, the really unsettling part of this campaign lies in why the council deliberately is focusing on women in the first place: because women, according to internal council documents revealed in The Nation , are too dumb to know any better and thus the perfect group to "teach" the real benefits of nuclear power. Here's why, according to the council's research. Women, especially those of a "lower socioeconomic status," are anti-nuke because, and this is a direct quote, "of their deeply-held distrust of science and technology." Women also, according to the documents, find it tough -- another direct quote -- "to sort out the facts from the conflicting messages they receive." Council conclusion? Simplify and streamline the pro-nuclear message, and women will think nuclear power is the best thing since the Cuisinart.
Well, it's an intriguing theory, boys. There's just one little problem. The women in this country won't buy it because women know something your research apparently overlooked. Women don't distrust science; women distrust advertising.
CURWOOD: Janet Reynolds is a commentator for Connecticut Public Radio and Living on Earth.
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