Image for UK advertising watchdog to ban ‘harmful’ sexist ads

UK advertising watchdog to ban ‘harmful’ sexist ads

The UK’s ad regulator has banned sexist stereotypes, saying that they “hold back people and society”

The UK’s ad regulator has banned sexist stereotypes, saying that they “hold back people and society”

Come 14 June 2019, advertisements aired in the UK will no longer be able to depict harmful gender stereotypes. A new rule in the Advertising Codes, which applies to broadcast and non-broadcast media – including online and social media – will not be allowed to include gender stereotypes that are “likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”.

The change follows a public consultation and a review of gender stereotyping in ads by the Advertising Standards Authority. The review found evidence suggesting that harmful stereotypes can restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults and these stereotypes can be reinforced by some advertising. It plays a part in unequal gender outcomes, found the research.

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The new rule does not seek to ban gender stereotypes outright, but to identify specific harms that should be prevented. The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) has published guidance to help advertisers stick to the new rule by providing examples of scenarios that are likely to be problematic in ads.

They used the following examples: –

• An ad that depicts a man with his feet up and family members creating mess around a home while a woman is solely responsible for cleaning up the mess

• An ad that depicts a man or a woman failing to achieve a task specifically because of their gender e.g. a man’s inability to change nappies; a woman’s inability to park a car

• Where an ad features a person with a physique that does not match an ideal stereotypically associated with their gender, the ad should not imply that their physique is a significant reason for them not being successful, for example in their romantic or social lives

• An ad that seeks to emphasise the contrast between a boy’s stereotypical personality (e.g. daring) with a girl’s stereotypical personality (e.g. caring) needs to be handled with care

• An ad aimed at new mums which suggests that looking attractive or keeping a home pristine is a priority over other factors such as their emotional wellbeing

Ella Smillie, CAP’s gender stereotyping project lead, said: “The evidence we published last year showed that harmful gender stereotypes in ads contribute to how people see themselves and their role in society. They can hold some people back from fulfilling their potential, or from aspiring to certain jobs and industries, bringing costs for individuals and the economy. We’ve spent time consulting on new standards to make sure they target specifically those images and portrayals we found cause harm.”

Our new rule calls time on stereotypes that hold back people and society

Shahriar Coupal, CAP director, added: “Harmful gender stereotypes have no place in UK advertisements. Nearly all advertisers know this, but for those that don’t, our new rule calls time on stereotypes that hold back people and society.”

CAP will carry out a 12-month review after the new rule comes into force to make sure it’s meeting its objective to prevent harmful gender stereotypes.

Image: The new rules are thought to have been partly prompted by the controversial ‘beach body ready’ adverts. Credit: Flickr user GrahamC99

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