If you’re in Italy, mark your calendar for Sept. 22, when the country will celebrate its state-sponsored “Fertility Day” to promote family planning and parenthood. Think that name is bad? It gets worse.
The government’s campaign aimed at upping Italy’s birth rate, which health minister Beatrice Lorenzin introduced this week, features a series of 12 promotional images that were supposed to be encouraging but came off as oddly threatening and, alas, went viral for all the wrong reasons. One with an image of a woman holding an hourglass says: “Beauty has no age. But fertility does,” according to Quartz. Another reads, “Male fertility is much more vulnerable than you might think,” and shows a decaying banana peel.
Italy’s low birth rate—along with its aging population and generous social services—is a threat to its financial future. Italy is giving women the “make babies” directive in hopes of combating that risk, even as its workplace culture still discriminates against pregnancy.
The tone deafness of the campaign also reflects Italy’s on-going struggle to get more women in positions of power. They make up 28% of Italy’s Senate and 31% of its House. There are five women in Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s 16-member cabinet—down from eight in 2014—and clearly not enough of them told Bea that the Fertility Day campaign was a terrible, sexist idea.
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