Banking on sexism

Jen Thorpe
Jen Thorpe

By Jen Thorpe

Earlier this year I told Standard Bank that they could stick their dishwasher where the sun doesn’t shine.  The reason? It replicated 1950s sexism assuming that men in the family are breadwinners, sit around watching TV all day, and that the women in the family do all the cleaning. Accordingly men were given the opportunity of winning a home theatre system for ‘dad’, whereas women were given the opportunity of winning a ‘dishwasher’. Thrills. A huge brand fail that assumed false categories of gender relations in South African families.

This time, it’s FNB that’s getting me down. I must premise this by stating that I’m referring to radio adverts. I don’t own a television, so can’t comment on the potential sexist atrocities they portray on your small screen.

The advert in question involves two men discussing using their FNB business banking banking app/online banking/cellphone banking to manage their money.

There are two things of major concern. The first is that the protagonist comments that he is able to cancel his card online, which he enjoys because he can thus cancel it if his wife goes and buys too many shoes. Second, the advert ends with an sms tone that he receives, indicating that his ‘wife has been spending again’.

Number one – while some relationships may have a shared credit card, it is offensive to hear in 2012 that FNB assumes that women will be spending their husband’s money, and recklessly at that. It portrays women as selfish consumers with no money savvy themselves, who spend their husbands’ money at the expense of their business interests. SIES!!

Number two – in cases where women are economically dependent on men, is the right message to put forward that men shouldn’t worry, because they can control ‘their women’ by cancelling their card thereby limiting their spending? Let me put this in context.

1st – economic abuse is considered a form of domestic violence. Something like cancelling your wife/partner’s access to money is considered economic abuse. 2nd – the SAPS briefing to Parliament on the 15th of February this year, revealed that around 54% of cases of domestic violence that were withdrawn, it was because of economic dependence on the perpetrator. Women went back because they were dependent on men who abused them, including economically dependent. 3rd, domestic violence is incredibly high in the farming districts who these two characters in this advert represent.

FNB’s advert promotes surveillance behaviour by men over their partners (wives/girlfriends). It suggests that this is one of the perks of banking with them.

I bank with FNB and I am sickened by this advert. If you are too, contact them:

And a note to whatever lazy, sexist ‘creative’ came up with this ad at an agency who obviously is so full of their own hype that they haven’t bothered to listen to their own nonsense – STOP BANKING ON SEXISM to sell your product. If you are a ‘creative’, be freaking creative. And do a bit of research before you plan a dialogue between two men in our incredibly abusive society.


3 thoughts on “Banking on sexism”

  1. I think this ad a is symptom of a larger social problem – the fact that many men in this society can control their (female) partner’s access to money. What’s worse, is that some women accept this as the norm because it’s part of a culture that devalues women. For a while I worked at a place with many conservative Afrikaner women, and was shocked to learn that they (both old and young) considered it standard practice to deposit their salaries into their husbands’ accounts, and then ask for money for anything from groceries to shoes. There was a mostly unquestioned assumption that men were the authority in relationships, and controlling the finances was a part of that. I remember one woman praising her wonderful, kind man who was willing to give her money whenever she asked for it.

    FNB’s marketing is responding to a reality of South African society. I’m not saying you shouldn’t call them on their sexist advertising – you should. They’re supporting rather than questioning a misogynist practice. But their ad should lead us to question a society where this kind of marketing seems like a good idea and could actually improve business, rather than just criticising one company for perpetuating sexist attitudes.


  2. Well said. Never thought about the domestic violence part, so thanks for raising that issue. As I said regarding the dishwasher debacle, if advertisers can get it right (for the most part) when it comes to not reiterating racial stereotypes, then can SOMEBODY please make an effort and stop with the gender stereotypes already. In addition to being offensive, they’re so unoriginal. Yawn.


  3. The ad for the new online shopping site,, seems to follow a similar pattern to the fnb ad. Seems to be a trend in SA media to portray women/wives/girlfriends as using their husbands credit cards to do all their shopping. Such an old and over-used stereotype which i so wish the media would stop using!!


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