Advertising watchdog to crack down on gender role stereotypes

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The UK’s advertising watchdog is to bring in tougher regulation of ads which typecast men and women into gender specific roles.

New rules are to be drawn up in the wake of a major review by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) which found that ads that mock people for not conforming to gender types or reinforce gender roles had “costs for individuals, the economy and society”.

Adverts that show men failing at simple household tasks and women being left to clean up are one example.

They will also tighten up practises on monitoring adverts that objectify or inappropriately sexualise people, or suggest it is acceptable to be unhealthily thin.

The ASA announcement comes at the end of the review into gender stereotyping in advertising, which found that the watchdog’s practise of banning such ads was working.

It also comes after the watchdog ruled that a FemFresh advert could not be shown because it focused on women’s groins.

The ASA’s sister body CAP – the authors of the UK‘s advertising codes – will now work to further clarify standards to keep them off billboards and airwaves.

Advertisers will be banned from showing men failing to work the dishwasher simply because they are men because of concerns detailed in the review of the harmful effects of gender depictions.

“Problematic” stereotypical gender role scenarios that will be barred include a family making a mess while a woman bears the sole burden of cleaning up, and a man trying and failing to perform “simple parental or household tasks”.

Portrayals of women cleaning and men doing DIY will still be allowed, but the ban will also include any ad that suggests a specific activity is “inappropriate for boys because it is stereotypically associated with girls, or vice-versa”.

Ella Smillie, lead author of the report Depictions, Perceptions and Harm, said such portrayals “can limit how people see themselves, how others see them, and limit the life decisions they take”. 

Chief executive Guy Parker explained: “Portrayals which reinforce outdated and stereotypical views on gender roles in society can play their part in driving unfair outcomes for people.

“While advertising is only one of many factors that contribute to unequal gender outcomes, tougher advertising standards can play an important role in tackling inequalities and improving outcomes for individuals, the economy and society as a whole.”

The days of adverts such as Oven Pride’s 2011 commercial, which carried the slogan “So easy even a man can do it”, appear to be numbered.

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