Italy’s “Fertility Day” is a very important reminder about your one job in life, ladies

One of the most annoying things girls and young women frequently hear is that they’ll change their minds about not wanting children over time. And sure, this could wind up being the case, but that doesn’t change the fact that the condescending comment that we’ve all probably heard at some point is based on the sexist generalization that having children is the only way all women could ever lead fulfilled lives, and they’d best listen to their elders. But sure enough, as if having your personal preferences, with regard to what you’d like to do with your life and your body, dismissed weren’t annoying enough, I present to you Italy’s new “Fertility Day” campaign to tell women they pretty much only have one job in life, and they’d better get on that soon.

The campaign, led by Italy’s health ministry to combat the country’s steadily decreasing birth rate, which is the lowest in the European Union, released multiple posters to promote the upcoming celebration of modern patriarchy. (Mark your calendars, Fertility Day falls on Sept. 22!) One poster features a woman holding an hourglass in one hand and her noticeably flat stomach in the other. It reads: “Beauty knows no age. Fertility does.” Another poster emphasizes how “the constitution protects conscious and responsible procreation,” instead of how, you know, it also protects women’s right to do what they want with their lives, be that having five kids or zero.

“Fertility Day” has obviously and deservedly drawn loads of criticism, some even pointing out similarities between the modern campaign and 1930s fascist Italy, a time when women were quite literally regarded as baby-making machines ordered to “give more children to the fatherland.” It’s creepy and it’s sexist, but let’s face it, every society in the world is guilty of at least subliminally telling girls they’ll be wives and mothers, and boys, they’ll be policemen or firemen or lawyers or doctors or engineers or whatever they choose to be. Italy’s health ministry just went ahead and took it upon itself to be far more outright about conveying this message.

And FYI, just as it’s well within any woman’s rights to not have children and be just as empowered and fulfilled as any mother, it’s also never too late for any woman to have a child whenever she wants, contrary to what the hourglass in the poster wants you to believe.

To give Italy some credit, they do offer women relatively advanced maternity leave options, which include five months of paid leave at 80 percent of a woman’s salary, while also covering women during the workday for prenatal test and general pregnancy wellness appointments. It’s acknowledged that a woman can have more than one job in life so long as one of those jobs is giving birth.