Boots The Chemist has made a mildly sexist TV ad (not the one pictured) with the tagline “when he’s ill and you don’t have time to be – get cold and flu products for just 99p at Boots”.
BUT ARE THESE ADS ABOUT MEN AND MAN FLU REALLY SEXIST AND DOES IT REALLY MATTER FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE?
Well, The Men’s Health Forum has posted the ad showing “men going down with ‘man flu’ at the slightest cough and women soldiering on” and asked an important question…..
“Is this a good laugh or just the sort of thing to make men even less likely to go to the doctor when they’re ill?”
You could be forgiven for thinking that these men’s health chaps are a humourless bunch for even posing the question but do they have a point?
To help you come to your own conclusion before voting on the Men’s Health Forum online poll, The Men’s Network has sought to answer the following questions?
- Who does take more time off sick – men or women?
- Who is more likely to go the doctor with an illness – men or women?
- Who is more likely to not get a diagnosis for an illness – men or women?
- Who is Boots more committed to helping commercially – men or women?
- Is Boots – as a public sector supplier – in breach of Equalities legislation?
SO FIRST, WHO DOES TAKE MORE TIME OF SICK – MEN OR WOMEN?
That one is easy men work more hours than women and take less time off work according to Government statistics:
- Women take 50% more time off work than men
- 79% of men in the UK work compared to 70% of women
- 73% of Men are self-employed or full-time employees compared to 44% women
- Women are more than four times more likely to work part-time (26% compared with 6%)
Research by the London School of Economics has also shown that when paid work and unpaid work (such as childcare, housework and house maintenance) is taken into account men do more than their fair share at home and at work
YES BUT WHO GOES TO THE DOCTOR MORE – WIMPY MEN OR BRAVE WOMEN?
Again its women who make more than 49 million appointments a year compared to men who make around 34 million appointments.
Men also miss a higher proportion of doctor’s appointments – possibly because they find it harder to take time off work – not attending nearly 9% (3.1 million) of their appointments, while women do not attend nearly 7.3% (3.6 million).
YES BUT WHO IS MORE LIKELY NOT TO GET DIAGNOSED?
Well this is perhaps the most troubling aspect of the “joke” that women soldier on bravely while men are wimpy hypochondriacs it is completely at odds with the jokes about men refusing to ask for help or directions.
The truth is that that the joke about men not getting help rings more true. There are many key areas where men are less likely to get the vital healthcare help they need. Here are just three examples
- Men are equally likely to get depression but women are twice as likely to get diagnosed for depression
- Men over are 50% more likely to have undiagnosed diabetes
- Men are more that 1.5 times more likely to be undiagnosed for bowel cancer
When you start to consider that in the real world, real men, really are suffering from undiagnosed illnesses like diabetes, depression and cancer then the joke that women soldier on bravely while men are bunch of wimpy hypochondriacs begins to wear a little thin.
And it doesn’t really serve either these men – or the women in their lives who care about their sons and fathers and partners and want them to get the healthcare they need.
And it makes you wonder why as a commercial organisation would you seek to ridicule and misrepresent 50% of your potential market in this way? Which begs the question…..
WHO IS BOOTS MORE COMMITTED TO HELPING COMMERCIALLY – MEN OR WOMEN?
Well Boots says that it’s purpose is to “help people look and feel their best” and that it believes in “making a difference” and is “proud of the contribution we make to the wellbeing of the communities we serve”
So you’d expect Boots to serve men and women equally and be mindful of the fact that one of the key barriers to helping men “feel good” is that they are less likely to access healthcare and get the right diagnosis than women.
So perpetuating the myth that men are wimpy hypochondriacs and women soldier on bravely through illness is not only NOT based on the statistical reality of men’s health but actually adds to the barriers that men face – because making out that men are wimps and hypochondriacs can hardly contribute to getting more men into health services and getting diagnosed early – which is what is needed if Boots wants to help improve men’s health.
And Boots does say that is committed to “develop campaigns and information which support the public health agenda” so you’d expect them to be far more mindful of this kind of advertising
But then when you dig just a little deeper you’ll find that Boots is more committed to helping women than it is men – as its CSR policy specifically states that it will seek to “develop campaigns and information which support the public health agenda – PARTICULARLY THOSE MOST RELEVANT TO WOMEN!”
So the answer to the question who is Boots more committed to helping commercially – is women – a fact that is reflected in its ads that mock men and celebrate women; is reflected in its commitment to public health campaigns and information that favour men over women and is reflected in its instore fundraising appeals for women’s charities like Breast Cancer Care and the Eve Appeal.
But at least Boots is open and honest about the fact that it favours women, surely that’s it’s commercial prerogative……or is it?
IS BOOTS – AS A PUBLIC SECTOR SUPPLIER – IN BREACH OF UK EQUALITIES LEGISLATION?
Now this is an interesting question and we don’t profess to be legal experts here but it is worth noting that as Alliance Boots’ pharmaceutical wholesale division serves over 150,000 pharmacies, doctors, hospitals and health centres via over 360 depots it is taking a lot of tax payers money – how much, we don’t know right now.
The Government’s view on suppliers promoting gender equality is that the public sector has an important opportunity to use its purchasing power to promote equality where possible. It believes that it is right that public money is spent on goods and services in a way that advances the Government’s public policy objectives on equality.
In simple terms the public sector can demand that any of its suppliers treat their own staff and customers equally irrespecttve of their gender.
As Boots is a substantial government supplier and therefore expected to advance the Government’s public policy objectives on equality – it is reasonable to ask how is Boots commitment to “develop campaigns and information which support the parts of the public health agenda that are MOST RELEVANT TO WOMEN – support health equality between men and women.
As Alliance Boots employs over 115,000 staff and operates more than 3,250 retail stores with around 3,150 of these hosting pharmacies – we could ask – what’s it like working for men working for an employer that runs ads mocking men for being hypochondriacs and celebrating women for “soldiering on” regardless when the truth is that women take 50% more time off work than men and men are less likely to go to the doctors and more likely to live with an undiagnosed condition.
What’s it like as a man working in a store where all the campaigns and information that Boots develops to support the public health agenda are MOST RELEVANT TO WOMEN?
As a supplier to a Public Body Boots is required to have evidence of its compliance with equality practice that meets the Government’s own requirements.
We’re no experts on law but it does see that Boots’ approach isn’t within the spirit with modern Equalities thinking such as the European Goods and Services Directive implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services that aims:
- To prevent direct discrimination based on sex which occurs when one person is treated less favourably, on grounds of sex, than another person in a comparable situation
- To prevent indirect discrimination where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice would put persons of one sex at a particular disadvantage compared with persons of the other sex
- To prevent harassment: where an unwanted conduct related to the sex of a person occurs with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment – like running a business where statistics suggest that the women staff will be taking 50% more time off than male staff whilst publicly running adverts that mock men for being wimps who take time off work whilst women have to bravely soldier on.
BUT IS BOOTS THE CHEMIST REALLY SEXIST?
Well, we’ll leave you to decide but if you’re feeling a bit sniffy about their ad then don’t be a typical male wimp lying in bed all day whilst your brave womenfolk run around after you – click here and leave a comment about Boots (Sexist?) Man Flu ad at the Men’s Health Forum site today.
And for another example from the “men are stupid” school of advertising – check out Oven Pride’s – So Easy A Man Can Do It ad from 2009 here.