"Racism is in the eye of the beholder," according to Italy's Health Ministry—and an awful lot of people are beholding just that in ads the ministry sent out to promote a national push for procreation. NBC News reports on the country's much-ballyhooed Fertility Day, an event taking place Thursday that the government hopes will boost the country's flagging birthrate, said to be the lowest in the EU. Events planned in cities around Italy (including Rome) on Fertility Day will include state-sponsored events where locals will be bombarded with baby-friendly propaganda about family planning, specifically about expanding families, per Quartz. The ads around the hot-and-heavy holiday are not only attracting claims of racism, but of sexism, too, with Fortune earlier this month calling the campaign "a sexist mess," while Quartz labeled it "an embarrassing misstep."
The campaign kicked off in August, featuring a series of promos that some say are nothing more than fertility fear-mongering. One of the ads shows a woman holding an hourglass with the caption "Beauty has no age. Fertility does." And a pamphlet shows two cheerful white couples with the caption "Good habits to promote," while the caption "Bad company to leave behind" is accompanied by a photo of a black woman apparently smoking pot, while a white woman hangs out with a black man who's drinking. Critics say a) the low birthrate isn't women's problem, and b) the country isn't addressing unemployment, the real reason many people are choosing not to have kids. Even Italy's prime minister is shaking his head. "I don't know of any of my friends who had kids after they saw an [ad]," Matteo Renzi said in an early September radio interview, per Reuters. (If you do want to have a baby, though: Chill.)