The UK’s Conservative government has deleted a ‘Stay Home. Save lives’ advert depicting women performing domestic chores, including home-schooling and teaching, while a lone man is shown lying on a couch.
The advert drew immediate criticism after it was released on the Government’s Facebook page. Labour Party MP Yvette Cooper calling it ‘1950s sexism’, while Conservative Party MP and Chair of the parliament’s women and equalities select committee Caroline Nokes tweeted “someone signed this off”.
It was reportedly created by New Zealand digital marketing agency Topham Guerin, who worked with Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party during the 2019 election.
As well as sexist, the ad has been described as heteronormative.
Who made this? And who approved it?
Reinforcing the view that it is a woman’s job to homeschool, clean, do the childcare.
Are the men out there fighting a war or something? pic.twitter.com/Q7tHtIUx4m
— Dr. Pragya Agarwal (@DrPragyaAgarwal) January 28, 2021
In one of the images, a woman is shown teaching her daughter how to do household chores. The advert is part of the Government’s ‘Coronavirus: Stay Home. Save Lives.” campaign.
Throughout the pandemic, the governing Tory Party have trialled a range of slogans. In March, there was ‘Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’. In May, this transitioned to ‘Stay alert, control the virus, save lives’ along with decreased lockdown many. ‘Stay alert’ was criticised by many for being too vague. The change prompted comedian Olaf Falafel to Tweet a ‘Government COVID Slogan Generator’
It appears some of you idiots can’t follow a simple instruction so here’s THE NEW AND MUCH CLEARER Government COVID Slogan generator pic.twitter.com/t6tXmfp75E
— Olaf Falafel (@OFalafel) May 11, 2020
In July, the government messaging then became ‘Hands. Face. Space’. This slogan was in operation during Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s ‘Eat Out to help Out’ scheme, which saw 50% off all in-restaurant dining between Mondays and Wednesdays throughout September.
The Government’s pulled ad received particular criticism for its depiction of a woman conducting homeschooling.
Manu Reid, the Leader of the Women’s Equality Party, told GLAMOUR magazine in November 2020 that there was “a situation where women are more likely to work part-time, that when couples do have children, men do not take as much time off because we are still in a place where it is not financially viable or socially accepted. We are seeing that in such a dramatic way during COVID-19”.
According to a study by psychologists at the University of Sussex, “childcare responsibilities during lockdown are not being shared equally between working parents”.
“Seven in ten women (70%) reported being completely or mostly responsible for supporting children with home-learning, a task associated with considerable time costs”.
One Twitter user went so far as to recreate her own version of the advert.
This took me an hour to create. As a female critical worker and graphic designer and illustrator with mobility issues it astounds me how off the mark the first one was. Someone signed that off! pic.twitter.com/ro0egfoxKb
— LisaEdwards78 (@LisaEdwards78) January 29, 2021
The UK Government is not unfamiliar with ad campaign controversy.
Last year, an advert from a 2019 went viral after it began circulating around Twitter. The ad depicts a ballerina lacing her shoes with the slogan “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber” above the slogan “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot”.
Fatima's next job could be in Cyber. Fatima's next job could be starting the revolution to overthrow a society so broken that capitalism and profits are more important than passion and arts. Fatima's going to fuck you up.
— TechnicallyRon (@TechnicallyRon) October 12, 2020
Despite being part of a 2019 campaign, the advert gained relevancy online after Chancellor Rishi Sunak reportedly told ITV that people in arts “should retrain and find other jobs”. While ITV later changed the article to “reflect that the Chancellor’s comments were about employment generally and not specifically about the music or arts sector”, Twitter quickly seized on the image.
— Sam P (@samjoshphillips) October 13, 2020
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden eventually tweeted that the advert was “crass”, and not from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
To those tweeting re #Fatima
This is not something from @DCMS & I agree it was crass
This was a partner campaign encouraging people from all walks of life to think about a career in cyber security
I want to save jobs in the arts which is why we are investing £1.57bn
— Oliver Dowden (@OliverDowden) October 12, 2020
Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson told reporters that the newest ‘Stay Home. Save Lives’ ad “does not reflect our view on women and we have removed it”.
When questioned on whether it was checked before release, the spokesperson said, “We have provided and have produced information throughout the pandemic to try and ensure that we can communicate our key messages, specifically around the importance of staying at home to protect the NHS and to save lives.”
Topham Guerin were contacted for comment
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