Ads that perpetuate sexist gender stereotypes could finally be banned in the UK

Ads which perpetuate sexist gender stereotypes could soon be banned under new rules [Photo: Getty]
Ads which perpetuate sexist gender stereotypes could soon be banned under new rules [Photo: Getty]

Sexist ads that perpetuate gender stereotypes could soon be banned under new rules being proposed by the industry watchdog.

Ads implying women are solely responsible for household chores and featuring men struggling to cope with simple parenting tasks could soon be a thing of the past under new advertising guidelines.

A study by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), published on Tuesday, revealed plans to crackdown on adverts that feature stereotypical gender roles and “mock people for not conforming.”

Report leader Ella Smillie said of the proposed rules: “Our review shows that specific forms of gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to harm for adults and children. Such portrayals can limit how people see themselves, how others see them, and limit the life decisions they take.”

Despite the proposed clampdown, the ASA says that the new rules will not see a blanket ban on adverts featuring a woman cleaning or a man doing DIY, but context and content will be taken into consideration.

Guy Parker, chief executive of the watchdog, explained: “Portrayals which reinforce outdated and stereotypical views on gender roles in society can play their part in driving unfair outcomes for people.”

The new crackdown also plans to scrutinise ads that “body shame” women. It follows last year’s furore over Protein World’s controversial “Beach Body Ready” campaign, which was not initially banned despite a petition with more than 70K signatures calling the ad out for being socially irresponsible. (In the end the ad was actually banned for making misleading health claims about the Protein World supplement!)

Ads which body shame women could also be scrutinised [Photo: PA]
Ads which body shame women could also be scrutinised [Photo: PA]

In the past the ASA has banned ads on grounds of objectification, inappropriate sexualisation, like the Femfresh ad that was recently banned, and for suggesting it is desirable for young women to be unhealthily thin.

But the watchdog claimed to have received complaints about ads that featured sexist stereotypes or mocked people who didn’t follow traditional roles, which it had not gone on to investigate or rule against because they did not breach current guidelines.

One example was an advert for baby milk formula Aptamil which featured baby girls growing up to be ballerinas and boys becoming engineers. The ASA had also received complaints about GAP adverts which showed a boy becoming an academic, and a girl becoming a “social butterfly”.

But these are not the only examples that have riled consumers. Back in February parents were outraged about the gender stereotyping in an Early Learning Centre (ELC) advert for children’s fancy dress costumes.

The images featured girls dressed as princesses and ballerinas and boys dressed as Spiderman, a wizard and a doctor and was called out by parents for reinforcing traditional gender stereotypes.

Earlier this year we also reported on a sexist advert for a mobile spa that had London underground commuters up in arms.

“Out with the guys ’til 4am again?! Keep her sweet with a spa mani/pedi at home,” read USPAAH‘s advert, which was plastered all over Tube stations across the capital.

Then there was the Welsh bus company who were forced to pull an ad for a new service in Cardiff after being called out for sexism.

N.A.T Group emblazoned the back of its fleet of buses with a picture of a topless woman holding a sign saying: “Ride Me All Day For £3”

And don’t forget the Calvin Klein advert that was slammed for objectifying women after featuring an image looking up the skirt of 23-year-old Danish actress, Klara Kristin, with the slogan “I flash in #mycalvins” along with the Instagram caption, “Take a peek.”

Overall, the ASA hope their new tougher stance will play an important role in tackling sexism and inequality.

“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,” Guy Parker continued.

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