An NHS advert asking women to choose between high heels and lipstick and motherhood is not only horribly outdated it misses the point entirely.
The advert, released by Walsall NHS trust shows a black stiletto heel (also horribly outdated btw) and red lipstick and asks “would you swap this… for this” alongside a picture of a dummy.
And apparently it was not the only advert to run in this campaign, which was intended for and informed by teenagers.
There are two posters featured – the other one used features a games console.
At the very least the advert is perpetuating the stereotype that women who become mothers can not wear lipstick or heels.
Now, I’m sorry, but most days I don’t leave the house without my lippy on. It is true that I have switched to a lipstick that stays on all day so I don’t need to keep reapplying but this is more because I am lazy and drink a lot of coffee.
And I’m not an anomaly, I know very few mums who don’t wear make up.
And you know why? Because I know very few women who don’t wear make up. And this is the crucial point, because having children doesn’t change who you are. It doesn’t alter the things you like or don’t like. If you liked wearing make up and wearing heels before you had kids, chances are you still will when you have them.
Obviously from a practical point of view wearing heels is not the best for park visits or beach trips. But hell, that’s got nothing to do with motherhood. There are different types of mothering, because there are different types of people.
Walsall NHS Trust released a statement
which said that basically they didn’t intend to offend anyone, that it was an advert which was intended for teenagers (to discourage wanton use of emergency contraception) and was put together on the back of a consultation run with teenagers.
So I can see how it happened, but I now am even more confused as to the thinking behind it. I don’t understand why you would consult a group of people that have no knowledge on the subject for your ad campaign. Did they just ask the teenagers “what would you miss if you had a baby?” and then use their responses? Presumably not stopping to educate the young people involved on what they would actually miss – sleep, money, long baths, the chance to poo in peace. Or did they ask “what are your favourite things?! I don’t get it.
In a statement Nicola Wenlock, Divisional Director of Midwifery, Gynaecology and Sexual Health for Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust said that the posters do not refer to gender.
“While they talk about emergency contraception, which would be taken by a female, the images have been selected because teenagers have told us what is important to them as part of the regular consultation we have with them.
Teenagers will also help to inform future campaigns,” she added.
It feels like that aside from being an outdated idea of parenthood and the changes it brings (obviously because the focus group which informed it has no experience of being a parent) the campaign also missed an opportunity to change the myths surrounding motherhood. For teenagers, the question to ask isn’t: what items will you miss if you became a parent – because they can still access them – rather: it should have asked: Can you survive on two hours sleep? Can you go days without washing? Are you ok about not going to the same parties as your friends? Potentially not finishing education?
But then there’s issues with the questions above also. I know people who have had kids young and they wanted to have them young. I get that teen pregnancies are perceived societally as not the ideal, but – and I’m basically hammering the same point over and over again here- people are all different and want different things. Having a baby doesn’t necessarily change that.