Italy Begs Citizens To Have Babies

While over-population is certainly cited a lot as one of the “dangers” facing the world, individual countries are fretting about not having enough children. Case in point: Italy, which has the second-lowest birth rate in Europe (with 1.37 children per woman and dropping).

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The Italian Health Ministry recently declared September 22 “Fertility Day,” kicking off a multi-platform PR campaign for the promotion of making more Italian babies. Events will be held nation-wide for “F Day,” featuring “Fertility Villages,” pink and blue balloons, and tips on how to preserve one’s seed.

The ad campaign includes one of a woman holding up an hourglass and making a tsk-tsk face, and one with an anti-smoking message featuring a man’s hand with a broken cigarette (hint: THE CIGARETTE IS A PENIS!).

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To help convince the all-important millennial potential parent demographic, there is even a video game designed to drive the point home. In a screenshot from “The Fertility Game”—which is described as being sort of like “Space Invaders”—we see a long glowing pink corridor with a cartoon egg (complete with eyelashes). A martini glass floats towards her menacingly:

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If you think the #FertilityDay initiative is making the heads of feminists explode all over Italy, you would be right. It is a complete shitstorm, with accusations of gross sexism. In fact, the “Fertility Game” seems to have gone all 404.

But even the non-ideologically inclined have words of criticism for “F Day.” Some women simply can’t have children for various reasons, and others argue that they would LOVE to have more kids…if the economy and job market supported it. As author Roberto Saviano commented on Twitter, the campaign is “an insult to all: Those who are not able to conceive, and to those who would like to, but do not have jobs.”

The elephant in the room here, it seems to me, is the issue of immigration. Italy is home to the fifth-highest number of immigrants in Europe. Because of where it is located, it absorbs a high amount of immigrants from and through Libya.

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Is #FertilityDay, in part, an at least subconscious response to this influx of people from other countries? The imagery in all the Fertility Day ads I’ve seen so far are of very fair-skinned people—people who, perhaps in the minds of some in the country, are “real” Italians. (As a person of Italian heritage, I’ve actually connected this nationality with more of a range of skin tones…from lighter with blue eyes to more of an olive hue as many of my relatives. This makes the extreme whiteness of the ads here even more eyebrow-raising—though the male one with the cigarette has a slightly more tan hue. ).

So if the idea of a “Fertility Day” sounds very primitive…we may be dealing with an equally primitive, primal rationale under the surface. It has just been updated with hashtags and video games.

And don’t be surprised if “Fertility Days” start being held where you live.

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