The severe online response to a change in butter packaging reminds us that, even when the pandemic appears to upturn society altogether and redefine priorities, the internet is still the internet.
In February, Land O'Lakes, Inc. announced that some changes were coming.
A press release on the company's website laid out the plans and the reasons.
"Land O'Lakes was founded by a group of Minnesota dairy farmers in 1921, and as it approaches its 100th anniversary in 2021, the co-op has reflected on its treasured history and made the decision to showcase its greatest strength—its farmers."
"As Land O'Lakes looks toward our 100th anniversary, we've recognized we need packaging that reflects the foundation and heart of our company culture—and nothing does that better than our farmer-owners whose milk is used to produce Land O'Lakes' dairy products."
Below, find the old butter packaging logo.
Bob Berg / Contributor via Getty Images
And now check out the new logo, which the company included atop that same press release.
"Farmer-Owned" is now prominently displayed on the packaging.
Land O'Lakes, Inc.
The most obvious change is the conspicuously absent Mia, the Native American "Butter Maiden" caricature, which has long been criticized as racist and disrespectful by actual Native Americans. The choice of a Native product mascot was unrelated to the actual product—"Indians" and other minorities were simply popular advertising gimmicks at the time.
Dairy products are not a part of a traditional Native American diet. Cows were introduced to the Americas by colonists.
The decision to add the Native woman to the package was as arbitrary as picking an African American slave woman to sell your maple syrup or a male slave to sell your rice. While the slavery iconography in advertising was changed decades ago, Native mascots and caricatures endure.
The same folks upset that a Native American woman was removed from the Land O Lakes butter were probably pissed whe… https://t.co/39GkpxO86J— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@BrooklynDad_Defiant!) 1587918343.0
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, praised the change:
Thank you to Land O’Lakes for making this important and needed change. Native people are not mascots or logos. We a… https://t.co/sbc861xekU— Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan (@Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan) 1586981051.0
Good news! #LandOLakes removes the Native woman from their packaging & website. https://t.co/lks8uFEeN0— @_IllumiNatives (@@_IllumiNatives) 1586970361.0
Apparently, that February press release went largely under the radar.
Since the company actually began to distribute the newly packaged products in April, people have been absurdly angry about it.
Much of the surprisingly hostile response has taken place on line, of course.
When political correctness hits yet another low. 😒 https://t.co/vGnntS7v8h— Ken (@Ken) 1588075818.0
When the Land O Lakes Facebook page changed their profile picture, the righteous indignation continued there.
Remember that time when all of us LIBERAL SNOWFLAKES lost our collective shit because they removed a Native America… https://t.co/3v8kQgAxvm— James Kosur (@James Kosur) 1587905703.0
Many claimed Mia was designed by a Native artist.
However the original Mia mascot was redesigned in the 1950s when a Native artist was specifically chosen.
There’s another story behind that Land O'Lakes butter box. This is a story with a twist because the legacy of Red L… https://t.co/9V776twVUx— Indian Country Today (@Indian Country Today) 1587556001.0
Some respondents saw a humorous irony to the new packaging.
They ditched the Native woman, but...
#LandOlakes https://t.co/vgtVquSZwL— Nerick (@Nerick) 1588125344.0
🤣 Damn they kicked her out and kept the lake lol #LandOlakes https://t.co/IY8egBINzH— Justitude (@Justitude) 1588109741.0
Native activists and leaders saw a greater irony in the public's response to the removal of Mia from butter packages.
This tweet is *chef’s kiss* https://t.co/VtFKYLHKvh— Roo the Butter Lady (@Roo the Butter Lady) 1587130505.0
Remove a Tribe’s Reservation Status and no one bats an eye. Remove Native Butter-Lady from packaging amidst a bibl… https://t.co/wPU7F5Ipow— Kiros Auld (@Kiros Auld) 1587144227.0
@KirosAuld @sbstewartlaing The sad thing is, she was gone for two months and nobody noticed. It wasn't until the Na… https://t.co/frRIiFnpe1— M. Kei (he/him) WEAR A MASK (@M. Kei (he/him) WEAR A MASK) 1587173338.0
@kujakupoet @KirosAuld @sbstewartlaing https://t.co/nMbECxvPso— Grumpy Kat #NeverthelessPersist (@Grumpy Kat #NeverthelessPersist) 1587211787.0
It's only now that articles are coming out quoting Native women about how the image was harmful and hurtful and tha… https://t.co/a4B0oqEC3Y— Dr. Adrienne Keene (@Dr. Adrienne Keene) 1587072428.0
Seems like the problem wasn't that you were attached to the logo and it harbored nostalgia for you, the problem app… https://t.co/awyowmCMXw— Dr. Adrienne Keene (@Dr. Adrienne Keene) 1587072428.0
Sorry we're not all docile and silent like your beloved Indian Maiden. It's just butter. Tastes the same with or wi… https://t.co/xdfZeSzmVa— Dr. Adrienne Keene (@Dr. Adrienne Keene) 1587072429.0
@NativeApprops When Native folks speak out it gets easy to identify who we can trust and who we shouldn't. Still wa… https://t.co/r33rIrKhvP— WalkingStick Design (ᎤᏓᎸᏄᏍᏘ) (@WalkingStick Design (ᎤᏓᎸᏄᏍᏘ)) 1587083283.0
Others pointed to epidemic of missing and murdered actual living Native American women being largely ignored in mainstream media and online.
Meanwhile people rage online and write about a missing advertising mascot.
Help honor National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls on May 5th. Join our… https://t.co/U0nFxtYpAm— National Indigenous Women's Resource Center (@National Indigenous Women's Resource Center) 1588018784.0
Thousands of native women have gone missing but the only one some white Americans care about is the one on the Land… https://t.co/1kYCcSk6uB— Dr Strange PhD🔬😺🐾🌊 (@Dr Strange PhD🔬😺🐾🌊) 1587872532.0
I'd like to see the same energy and reporting being spent on a native woman going missing from a pack of butter eve… https://t.co/qvrRwliVIq— parasocial distancing (@parasocial distancing) 1588035444.0
A missing caricature Indian woman is missing from an old fashion marketing butter pkg...and this woman goes crazy!… https://t.co/JkkCloa0i7— Pamela J. Peters (@Pamela J. Peters) 1588171918.0
This economy places greater value on a cartoon version of a Native woman on a package of butter - over me, an actua… https://t.co/7JffUm0uOs— Dr. Twyla Baker (@Dr. Twyla Baker) 1588037495.0
This is @nomorenightowl who lost their collective shit before the Native American woman is now missing from the… https://t.co/d6iWainjIO— CareBear (@CareBear) 1587906600.0
Adrienne Keene, a professor at Brown University and citizen of the Cherokee Nation, told the Minnesota Reformer:
"It could have been a very strong and positive message to have publicly said, 'We realized after a hundred years that our image was harmful and so we decided to remove it,' … In our current cultural moment, that's something people would really respond to."
The reaction from one segment of the population illustrates the importance those people place on things like product mascots over the lives of the people depicted by their beloved mascot.
Did you know that 78% of Americans know little to nothing about Native peoples? During times of crisis, invisibilit… https://t.co/7Bg7Xq0Qix— CNAY | Native Youth (@CNAY | Native Youth) 1587667357.0
Doctor Photograph came up with a compromise that might quell the fury of those whinging about a missing butter mascot.
Meet Lando Lakes:
Just got my hands on the newest Land O Lakes packaging #LandOLakes #landocarlissian https://t.co/m3N1w8Gkuf— Doctor Photograph (@Doctor Photograph) 1587319982.0
The book Outdated Advertising: Sexist, Racist, Creepy, and Just Plain Tasteless Ads is available here.