Jen Thorpe
Jen Thorpe

Banking on sexism

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.

First — economic abuse is considered a form of domestic violence. Something like cancelling your wife/partner’s access to money is considered economic abuse. Second — the SAPS briefing to Parliament on February 15 this year revealed that about 54% of cases of domestic violence that were withdrawn was because of economic dependence on the perpetrator. Women went back because they were dependent on men who abused them, including economically dependent. Third — domestic violence is incredibly high in the farming districts, which the two characters in the 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 the lazy, sexist “creative” that came up with this ad at an agency, which obviously is so full of their own hype they haven’t bothered to listen to their own nonsense, STOP BANKING ON SEXISM. 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.

Tags: , , , ,

  • Masculinity and violence against women
  • Trump’s America: No country for old women
  • For the anally correct and the politically retentive
  • Zapiro, monkeys and red herrings
    • Faranaaz

      Jen, I couldn’t agree with you more. This kind of sexism really grates at me. Particularly because it perpetuates the idea that men should have control of household money. When I first started working, I met two fellow teachers, older women in their fifties, who had been friends since college. The one was telling me how proud she was of her friend, who had finally opened her own bank account. Because before that she had to put all her money, her entire salary, into her husband’s account, and then he would ration it back to her. She’d have to ask him for money, and justify why she wanted it to get it. I was really shocked to find that this still happens. Finances are one way that men hold power over women, and to just take for granted that this is alright and acceptable, and something to laugh about is shocking and upsetting. I too bank with FNB and am really quite appalled. If they really think women have no money savvy maybe they should invest their efforts into helping people become more financially literate. Many people could benefit from such a campaign.

    • Sean

      Advertising feeds on controversy, it is all about getting attention, whether negative or positive.

      And on that basis this is an excellent advert which has definitely gotten your attention.

      I expect that they did not however bargain on your blog enhacing their exposure the way it is, and I am sure they will be delighted !

    • Mr. Direct


      Sure – Standard bank should have offered a choice, bad marketing.

      To turn the argument around, would you find it offensive if FNB changed the roles, and the advert shows two woment complaining about the amount of money the husband spent on beer? I am not sure I would either.

      I bet there are demographics that show who makes the most bank account decisions in the average South African family, and the advert is geared to appeal to that audience. It is not sexist, racist, or ageist, it is just marketing.

      I think you are looking for fire where there is no smoke…

      But, if this is enough for you to avoid ever banking with either of them, that is your choice. I bank with Standard Bank because their logo is blue – I like blue.

      Now if the actor was shown abusing his shoe buying wife, then I would have an issue……

    • greatgodpan

      huh?……………ive heard that add and im sorry but non of what you have created in your mind was evident to me……and non of the above is of “major concern”…i cannot find anything “offensive”…….dont wish to be rude but i feel you may just be getting a little too carried away with your particular cause……….is life really this petty?…….mine is not.

    • Yaj

      @ Jen
      Are you surprised ? you can expect nothing more of these banksters . You need to understand the daylight robbery and fraud that these banks are engaged in through fractional reserve banking and securitisation. As an activist you really need to get your head around these issues. A useful place to start would be

    • Guinness Holic

      I was actually agreeing with you right up until you claimed; “…economic abuse is considered a form of domestic violence.”


      The Feminazis always lose me and others when they start to exaggerate, go off message, or find the most tenuous of explanations to link one personal pet-peeve to a much more serious crime. Using your daft logical progression, I could very well state that children caught wearing ANC t-shirts is an advert for child-abuse. As much as I wish this was true, even I (an ardent anti-ANC promoter) would see this as ultimately diluting the serious message/s.

      Finances and children are often used as tools of abuse, but they are not – in and of themselves – walking, talking, breathing ‘forms of domestic violence’.

      As you can see, that one exaggeration of yours has diverted attention away from the typical SAn patriarchy that you have to live with daily, and all it’s associated bias and hindrances. What you REALLY need is to change the culture (admittedly FNB isn’t helping) which is a massive undertaking, especially in black SA where women are still seen as nothing more than chattel, breeding machines and punchbags. There’s the real misery, and where ground zero in the fight against male violence is. Reading your dishwasher gripe becomes almost laughable and frivolous when you consider how black women in SA are treated by their men. You come across as nothing more than a spoilt, white, armchair crusader by your dusky sisters (and me).

    • David

      Cannot agree more. Well said, Jen!

    • ntozakhona

      The creative and other industries continue to reflect and perpetuate oppresive tendencies in our society. We tend to ignore their prejudices as normal or funny. There is nothing funny or normal about undermining the humanity of women, people with disabilities etc

      It is fashionable in some circles to refer to the Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities as the Ministry of Everything but healthy men. Really? Are women, children and people with disbilities things? Are men with diabilities not healthy?

      Liberation is not indivisible, liberal feminists need to learn that we cannot achieve a truly free non-racial and non=sexist society as long as they hang on to their discriminatory notions about other people, no human suffering is self-inflicted. Government must intervene where nrccessary to bring about redress, the notion of reverse discrimination is just a red herring to perpetuate the current power relations.

    • ntozakhona


    • bewilderbeast

      Banksters are ONLY greedy and anal. Nothing else. You cannot get a bankster to be decent. It is an impossibility. The “best” you can hope for (ugh!) is they’ll send some greaseball to “apologise” and lie to you.

    • The Critical Cynic

      @ ntozakhona
      so it’s ok to say “Government must intervene where nrccessary….” but they don’t and if anything they continue to perpetuate the sexism and chauvanism that Jen is so pasionately fighting against. I would bet that if you were to create a questionaire that could determine people’s views you would find a lot of South Africans continue to carry many forms of prejudice within them – a nation of hypocrites and bigots, with chips on our shoulders and all sorts of irrational thinking and illogical reasoning to explain our society.

      Hey Jen, how do you feel about the First for Women adverts that perpetuate the notion that women are better drivers than men – I recall reading a reasearch paper that looked at loads of accident statistics and determined that women are just as likely to crash as men are, but the major difference is that they are likely to be going slower and therefore cause less damage!
      Or how do you feel about the fact that most South Africans, men and women, don’t know how to pronounce the word women correctly – look out for this pheonomenon each August…

      This article is spot on and it highlights a very concerning trend in SA – the trend to pay lip-service to political correctness and then carry on with our old prejudices anyhow.

    • AnnJ

      I note that many of those who say that Jen’s article is rubbish seem to be men. I am yet to meet a man who has his personal finances controlled by someone else like the advert implies for the women. I think Jen is quite right and perhaps the time has come for women to speak up more when they see and hear adverts like these.

    • right on!

      Well done Jen! I too am an older woman and thank goodness when I married at the age of 19 many years ago (it was not unusual) my parents insisted on an antinuptial contract and separate bank accounts (which was unusual). However, my husband still had authority over how I spent my money, and in terms of the law in those days he even had to give permission for me to open any kind of account. That is control, which ever way you look at it. I was not “allowed” to buy stuff at for example, tupperware parties (if I was even “allowed” to go), because he didn’t want me wasting “our” money. Just plain humiliating. I have friends whose husbands insisted they stay at home and look after the kids and then gave them an “allowance” of R10 (no kidding!) to buy their luxuries, when “master” spent a comparative fortune on his beers etc. This man was an engineer BTW. We are whites so this happens in all cultures. Thank goodness times have changed (but the one friend still gets an allowance!). I divorced once the kids grew up and in the last decade have achieved more with my life than the ex has in his lifetime. Economic control is very much a form of abuse and women are culturally “conditioned” to accept it. We need the Jens of this world to speak where we cannot, so carry on Jen! And BTW, There is no reason why men should not complain about the patronising bank ads that paint them as stupid. There’s one airing now with Henry and his condecending wife… really irritating.

    • Dale Roberts

      I agree with every trenchant sentance you have written Jen. And Guinness Holic’s illogical refutation that financial abuse does not equate to domestic abuse is rejected with all the contempt it deserves. I would suggest he attempt to put a roof over his head and feed his children after being abandoned by a spouse who maliciously denies access to financial aid as a form of revenge. There is enormous emotional trauma involved. And this trauma reverberates through the family unit destroying adult and children without qualm. Trying to defend the indefensible because you belong to same male gender is immoral. Thank you for highlighting a peurile and sexist advert that undermines every fight for equality women have been involved in for centuries.

    • Jens Bierbrauer

      Interestingly, here in China the women traditionally control the family finances and are quite ferocious when a man spends “stupidly”. I know of at least one instance where a man had his head slammed into a wall repeatedly by his wife who was angry at his spending. This, of course, is also abuse.

      In my household we have three bank accounts. One for her, one for me and one for us. I think this is a sensible approach.

      As a man, when I return to SA I will boycott both Standard and FNB due to their advertising. In fact, I think I’ll boycott all South African banks as far as possible because their fees are ridiculous.

    • Momma Cyndi

      It isn’t the stereotyping that is the problem it is the women who buy into it. I used to get furious at things like this but now I get angry at the sisters who don’t teach their daughters better.

      I can laugh at the advert because I know that I control the household finances, as do all my biological sisters and we trained our daughters to do the same. Let some man even attempt to try that in my family!

      (on a side note, the bank won’t even speak to me about my husband’s credit card – he was in Gaza and there was a problem but communication was a bigger problem). I also know that the bank won’t speak to my husband about my credit card – I was in Liberia and ….. same ish – so how does a husband dictate a wife’s credit card?)

    • sammi

      wow, Jen timely statement! And this in a time when women have been proven to be the more fiscally responsible gender, if all the micro-lending banks’ policies & experiences are anything to go by.
      Alarming to see how fast & ferocious the male retaliation has been to your article (but why am I surprised?). Perhaps they’re so dumb & deep in their male insecurities they need you to spell out shoe-on-the-other-foot scenarios out to them, so they can actually feel the pain to their egos. Like one successful woman texting to another how irresponsibly her ‘man’ has been shopping for yet another bigger large-screen tv, and how she’ll just have to cancel his credit cards this time. and the other grinning at how she’s just bought him a dishwasher so he can concentrate on his other housework tasks, and been a better househusband. I’m waiting for the indignation….

    • Booger

      Maybe it’s time to acknowledge that your message isn’t getting through, nobody cares and your self-appointing crusade only matters to you and other unhappy people?

    • Max

      @ ntozakhona

      Corrigendum CORRIGENDUM

    • Hugh Robinson

      Oh get over it. Feminism has destroyed communication between the sexes. Look around take note. But then again you will only see what you wish to see and believe. The art of flirtation has all but disappeared together with feminine wiles

      As with all equality demands there is always that next step that no one ever considered a problem. Always that next demand to remove the rights of another say and do what he feels fit because it is offensive to someone of the particular cause. In short mind control and lack of tolerance

      A case in point do a male stand to give up your seat to a pregnant cripple female on crutches. From all indications gathered on the UK Bus and train system. The answer apparently is No. But then again I willingly do so and it is always gratefully accepted. Now as an one that is supposedly Neanderthal who is right?

      People appear to no longer understand the difference between affection and sexual advance and common flirtatious communication. My take is that the boundaries between men a woman have become so blurred that a male dare not tell a woman more that once that she looks great in X apparel in case it is considered as harassment.

      The equality issue may be okay with a butch but then women in general cannot demand to have their bread buttered on both sides then Bitch when they are treated as equals.

    • Wildcat

      You’re gonna have to take on the toy making companies as well. Some of them make irons and ironing boards, tea sets and play ovens which supermarkets then display with the girls toys….
      They should really make pink cowboys for girls and camo tea sets for boys…

      As far as money is concerned. My husband works and I choose not to. I control the budget because he is an airhead when it comes to finances. My cel phone receives the notice when he spends. It works for us.

      Even though I am not a career oriented person, my husband is the most empowering man I know, and thinks no less of me just because I am not his economic equal. We are intellectual equals and partners.

      I did not have to fight for this, it came naturally to us, but sadly some women have to either fight for it or just give up any hope of being their own person.

      I think the adverts of men acting stupidly are in bad taste also.

    • Mr. Direct

      Soon we will just have computerised voices reading out base scripts of services, because the sexes scream sexism, the colours scream racism, the faithful scream atheism, blah blah blah…

      I hope all of you ladies who agree with the author all feel nice and empowered now, and armed with your new Nedbank accounts, enjoy spending your hard earned money without male condescension in your minds. Don’t wonder which banks in South Africa pay their female employees better, or which of them have the highest amount of female managers. It does not matter, as long as the adverts are female friendly.

      I think, if you want to really fight the good fight, you have to pick your battles. I do not think this is one of them.

    • Jen Thorpe

      @guinness holic – let me direct you to the definition of domestic violence:

      “What is domestic violence?

      The following can be regarded as domestic violence:

      sexual abuse (whether you are married to the other person or not);
      physical abuse or assault (for example, slapping, biting, kicking, and threats of physical violence);
      damage to property or anything you value;
      stalking (when the other person follows or approaches you or your children repeatedly);
      economic abuse, that is, when the other person keeps money to which you are legally entitled from you in
      an unreasonable manner by –
      refusing to pay or share the rent or mortgage bond for the home you share; or
      disposing of any property (household goods) in which you have interest, without your permission;
      emotional abuse (that is, degrading or humiliating behaviour, including repeated insults, belittling, cursing and threats);
      any other controlling or abusive behaviour which poses a threat to your safety, health or well-being.”

    • Couch Zambane

      I’m no expert on advertising, sexism or domestic violence, but I’m glad for people who keep an eye on advertising, its potential harm and having their say.

      I watch a lot of TV ads for fun, and some the gender stereotyping and sexism you describe from the FNB ad is probably not that unusual. If you take a look at how some of these adverts portray women and men, I’m sure your blood will boil…

      …on the other hand there is also lots to love about South African advertising and the way it reflects aspects of ourselves and makes us laugh and think (and of course, consume).

      I just wonder if we can’t also amplify some of South Africa’s most creative ads that also paint a more positive picture of gender roles. I’d love to hear some opinions on that too.

      CZ @SATVads