“Beauty has no age. Fertility does.” That’s the message of this social media campaign by the government of Italy, intended to combat the country’s plummeting birthrate.
This one says, “Aging and childbearing : the risks of delaying the happy event .” And it shows people having sex! Who could have a problem with that?
Well, lots of people apparently.
Italian women fired back with comments like “Planning my life means ‘procrastinating a happy event’ ? What the fuck?!” and “Studies? Work? But no .. we have to use our youth to turn out kids! Woman = children”
The main problem, as the New York Times pointed out, is that Italy doesn’t put its money where its mouth is when it comes to supporting working women who choose to have babies:
“On paper, Italian women have equal rights,” said Tiziana Bartolini, the editor of Noi Donne, one of Italy’s most prominent feminist magazines. “But reality tells us a different story. Women are expected to care for children. If they live in regions where services are good, or in small towns, they keep their job. If they live in big, chaotic cities and have no family nearby, they are very prudent about becoming pregnant.
“Or they stop working,” she added.
Italy provides 5 months of paid maternity leave for working mothers, as well as an option for six additional months at 30% salary. (Compare that to the USA’s guarantee of nothing.) Where I live, in Canada, working women are entitled to up to a year of Employment Insurance, which much less than most professional salaries.
But the big problem is childcare. It’s expensive in Italy, which both discourages working women from having kids, and reduces women’s participation in the workforce. (Italy’s female workplace participation is significantly below the EU average.)
So, the campaign managed to offend women AND stir up a hornet’s nest of complaints about the impracticality of work-family balance.