Yes the Government’s Covid advert was sexist, but did it reflect the (awful) truth?

Last week the government withdrew a social media advert urging people to “Stay Home. Save Lives” after it was criticised for stereotyping women.

The image depicted women home schooling children and doing domestic chores, while the only man featured was relaxing on a sofa.  It, rightly, drew the ire of social media with people calling out its outdated and sexist representations of household roles. 

I am glad the advert has been withdrawn, nobody, particularly a government should perpetuate sexist stereotypes.

However, I couldn’t help thinking that the advert was unfortunately an accurate representation of life on lockdown for many women, see “Coronavirus and gender: More chores for women set back gains in equality”: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-55016842.

Childcare on lockdown has forced most families to make an economic choice to prioritise the breadwinner’s work. Statistically as men are still paid more than women (despite it being 2021) this means that in most cases it is the females who have been relegated to care for the children. 

Professional women have been compelled to become carers, educators and cleaners.  I appreciate this is a sweeping statement and is of course not the case for everyone, but I fear that one of the long term implications of Covid will be a longstanding setback for womens’ professional development and a reinforced perception of gender based roles we thought was far behind us.  This cannot be good for society.  Whilst an advert can be withdrawn, a generation of disadvantage due to sex cannot be so easily rectified.

I see on social media that people moan about ‘#MeToo’ going ‘too far’ and that they have ‘Feminism Fatigue’.  However, the disproportionate negative impact that lockdown has had on women demonstrates more than ever how far we remain from achieving societal equality.  Even more alarmingly it shows us how precarious the footing we believed we held in society is and how easily it can be undermined and eroded.

I am a fierce and unapologetic feminist and shall remain so until the day I die.  I shall have to as apparently it will be over 250 years until women achieve true equality in the year 2277.  Given that January 2021 lasted about three years that is some way away!

This blog was brought to you by Tess Barrett, Solicitor, didlaw.