A sign promoting abortive services has been widely criticized as being distasteful and overtly sexist. Advertising The Sanilac County Health Department in Michigan, the billboard depicts an accomplished and happy-looking college student, contrasted with a distressed and overwhelmed young pregnant lady. “You can choose… this or this…” the text ominously declares.
Woah… WHAT!?!? Or how about women can do both? They don’t have to choose between their baby and being successful.Disturbing billboard put up by The Sanilac County Health Department in Michigan.
There is so much wrong with this advertisement that it is difficult to know exactly where to start. It is impossible to escape the blatant sexism through the laying out of such a binary choice. It is effectively communicating this: ‘Women, have a baby and endure a life of crippling debt, hopelessness and dread, or abort the child and enjoy success, health and happiness.’
The question has to be asked: why does a woman have to choose one or the other? The insinuation held within this simple and clumsy message is that women are simply not capable of dealing with the realities of having a child alongside having a career or being enrolled in school — an assertion that fundamentally sexist and, ironically, in wild contradiction to feminist ideals.
Many social media users took issue with the offensive message being communicated by this distasteful advertisement.
“How ironically unfeminist!” one person wrote. “I submitted my master’s thesis the same month I gave birth. I took “control of my future” by rejecting society’s pressure on young women to take one path and in one particular way (and at one particular time in their lives).”
“Graduated nursing school while 8 months pregnant with my 3rd child and my other two boys were 4 years old and 2 years old at that time,” Regina Knapp wrote alongside a picture of herself, heavily pregnant, at her graduation ceremony. “We were a low-income family back then,” she added. “If I could do it, anyone can.”
“Graduated with a 3.6 and I was an active member of more than one student organization and worked a full-time job,” another mom added. “This billboard is overwhelmingly offensive.”
One person was so outraged by the billboard’s ghastly optic that she chose to phone the number and lodge a complaint.
“So I just called that number, they apologized and said they are getting a lot of calls about it and did not mean to offend anybody,” April Shay Kurkowski posted. “I did ask to be transferred to the PR office, and left a message for their PR person offering guidance about how to empower women and let them know that having my child at 19 did not inhibit my growth, nor was a failure.”
She added: “I am a successful physician now. I offered to help them with guidance for their next campaign. I also thanked them for all the services that they provide as a health department. I would encourage everybody to call.”
Forced to apologize
Upon receiving such fierce backlash, the Sanilac County Health Department quickly rushed to apologize. “We now realize, and apologize, that our original intent for the billboard was not correctly portrayed by its content,” the department stated on its website.
The Michigan health provider continued: “We believe in strengthening the health and wellness of all our community members; women, children, and men, and this billboard did not accurately portray that. Please accept our apologies and know that the billboard is being taken down as quickly as possible.”