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CRINGE: David Bradley offers to out-mother Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi’s own mother.

In News & Notes on 3 July 2014 at 3:53 pm

What is more cringeworthy than the CEO of PepsiCo insisting that there is nothing wrong with artificial sweeteners & GMOs and announcing “peace drones” to deliver Pepsi (even in Pakistan!)?

The owner of the Atlantic trying to mother her.
David Bradley, owner of The Atlantic and Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

David Bradley, owner of The Atlantic reassures Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo of her wonderfulness at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

We are talking creepy crawly cringeworthy, that makes you shudder from the shoulder and grimace out of your ears.

The CEO of Pepsi and the owner of the Atlantic are enjoying a friendly chat at the Apsen Ideas Festival.  Yes, the same Apen where “The people were all older than us and dull in a distinguished way…”  as  Rebecca Solnit describes in the opening of her indispensable essay “Men Explain Things to Me.”

It starts just after Nooyi talks about growing up with the contradiction of a mother who encouraged her to aspire for a dream career along with a fear that she would be married off at the age of eighteen.  Listen to David Bradley offer to tell Indra Nooyi that she is wonderful and that he is proud of her, to make up for her own mother’s shortcomings in conveying these messages.

Start at 9:10.  Make sure you aren’t eating or drinking anything while you watch.
Is it sexist?  Racist?  Patriarchy in the guise of mother-love?  White men trying to save brown women from brown men (and their brown mothers)?
Of course Indra Nooyi laughed it off.  Women don’t get to become CEOs without learning to laugh off such “jokes.”

Of course it was not a joke until she laughed – he meant it in all sincerity.  Who wouldn’t want to rescue a frightened teenage girl from an arranged marriage to a “vague guy” as Indra Nooyi calls the hypothetical suitor?  Even if you meet her forty years later at the Aspen Ideas Festival.  The comment occurs during an interview that is circulating rapidly around the internet as yet another comment on “Why Women’s Can’t Have It All” and in the Atlantic‘s own excerpt, features both the question Indra Nooyi asked her own mother who instead of congratulating her for becoming CEO of Pepsico, asked her to run to the store for milk, “What kind of a mother are you?” as well as her impression of what her daughters think of her:  “I’m not sure they will say that I’ve been a good mom.”
Fearlessly treads in David Bradley, owner of The Atlantic, to be that good mom, and make up for the shortcomings of Indra Nooyi’s own mother who only “sometimes” told her daughter that she was proud of her. “Can I tell you for her?” he asks in all sincerity.  She does a double take and he repeats the question.
Though I am a consumer of the satin liberal discourse parcelled out by the Atlantic and an opponent of everything Pepsico stands for, up to and including drones, in that moment I felt the pain and shock of Indra Nooyi, which she could only discharge with laughter and follow with a culture card to explain her mother’s understated pride.
Some people have told me that what they really found creepy was
– Drones delivering Pepsi
– Artificial sweeteners and GMOs in food and drink
– Secretaries tele-supervising Nintendo play
Yes, I agree.  But creepy as all of the above may be, they are besides the point.   The point being:  What we realize is that entry into that world where you defend these creepy practices, and in fact sell them with a smiling face and become the CEO of such a world, comes at a price.  The creepiness comes home to you, where you have to fend off people like the owner of the Atlantic without letting him know that that is what you are doing.  It was painful to watch yet flawlessly executed – clearly not the first time she’s had to deal with such behavior.
Update:  August 2014
News is afoot that PepsiCo is in talks with the Ministry for Food Processing to provide processed food in the mid-day meals scheme.  How fortuitous that just a month before, this feel-good image of the company’s CEO and her motherly duties has gone viral :-/

Down to Earth:  Will PepsiCo replace hot cooked mid-day meals in schools? 28 August 2014.
Bloomberg Business Report: India Asks PepsiCo to Help Make School Lunches Healthier  August 27 2014.

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