The Italian government has been forced to withdraw a campaign designed to remind women of their ticking biological clocks.
‘Fertility Day’ was an initiative dreamt up by the Italian authorities, with the view to encouraging people to procreate, with one campaign message reading: “Beauty has no age. But fertility does.”
Alongside an image of a woman holding an hourglass as it runs out of sand, the message was clear – have children young or run out of time.
The other images used for the controversial campaign included one of a young couple in bed, alongside the caption “Young parents. The best way to be creative.” Another showed a picture of stork warning parents not to wait for him to arrive.
But it wasn’t just women who were targeted in the campaign, which was devised to combat low birth rates in the European nation. Men were also told that: “Male fertility is much more vulnerable than you might think,” alongside an image of a decaying banana peel.
The campaign was launched on social media last month, along with the announcement that Italy will have its first Fertility Day on 22 September. For this, ‘Fertility Villages’ will be held in Rome, Bologna, Catania and
Padua – offering advice and information about pregnancy and fertility.
Feminists were not impressed by the campaign, taking to social media to express their views.
“Offensive, sexist and dangerous” wrote one Twitter user.
“Yes the birth rate in Italy is low but that doesn’t allow the government to force women to procreate,” wrote another.
One Twitter user, going by the name of Nerys, wrote: “I’m really hoping English-speaking media picks up on #fertilityday, then the world will be able to see how the Italian state treats women.”
Guardian writer Annalisa Coppolaro-Nowell even compared the campaign to those published in the 1930s, when the fascist government encouraged Italians to give more children to the fatherland.
After the backlash, the Fertility Day website was taken down, only to appear days later with campaign imagery removed.