An advert reading ‘Career women make bad mothers’ has been pulled following complaints from members of parenting forum Mumsnet. The advert was part of a campaign to promote outdoor advertising (as opposed to online forms), and was designed to provoke public reaction – the ads link to an online forum where you can discuss the featured question.

While the other slogans in the campaign rely on gentle, cheeky provocation (‘1966 – It won’t happen this year’ and ‘Educashun isn’t working’), the offending slogan voices a sentiment that is the basis of discrimination. It encourages the public to continue a sexist debate that should have been put to rest years ago. And that debate has real life negative consequences for thousands of women. From the guilt and inner torment all women are supposed to feel when faced with the “work/life balance” that men are somehow magically excused from worrying about, to the obstacles placed in the path of pregnant women and mothers in the workplace, the idea that working women are irresponsible parents refusing to accept their “natural” place in the world is at the heart of much of the discrimination experienced by women in the UK.

The founder of the agency behind the campaign said:

Vocalising opinion has always been a great British pastime. We want to give people another forum for voicing their innermost grievances and create a brand which truly democratises debate.

So working mothers are one of the nation’s innermost grievances? I’m not surprised the Mumsnet activists were up in arms, and good on them. Women being forced to justify their commitment to their children because they choose – or most often need – to work is a damned disgrace, not an opportunity for another bloody brand awareness campaign based around the most watered down concept of democracy imaginable.

I expect the agency responsible is delighted with the publicity; after all, it does prove that outdoor advertising can make an impact, even if it is the wrong one. Nevertheless, I think the Mumsnet members’ were right to complain: sexism shouldn’t be allowed to go unchallenged, and while our anger and objections may be exploited or laughed at now, we must believe that these kind of discriminatory stunts will one day become so unacceptable that no one would even begin to dream them up.