Gender stereotyping in advertising to be investigated by charity commission

Sarah Young
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Gender stereotyping in advertising to be investigated by charity commission

The Fawcett Society has launched a commission to examine the effects of gender stereotyping in advertising.

The charity, which campaigns for gender equality and women’s rights, has launched the commission, which will be co-chaired by Labour MP David Lammy, after a study revealed widespread concern that product marketing reinforces gender stereotypes.

A poll of 1,000 people revealed that almost half (45 per cent) of participants said they had experienced gender stereotyping as a child.

What’s more, over half (51 per cent) said that their career choices had been constrained as a result, while 44 per cent revealed it had harmed their relationships.

Around 60 per cent of parents said they think product marketing emphasises gender stereotypes about the notion that pink is for girls and blue is for boys, while a similar number of people with and without children said they believe it is seen as more acceptable for a girl to be a tomboy than for a boy to be feminine.

The charity said children were aware of gender from as early as two years old and that they were associating intelligence with being male and “niceness” with being female from as young as age six.

It added that 46 per cent of the people surveyed said they would like to see the government take action to challenge such stereotypes.

As a result of the findings, the Fawcett Society's Commission on Gender Stereotypes in Early Childhood will run from 29 April until 2020.

It will gather evidence and explore how gender stereotypes interact with race and class.

Lammy said: “Unjust stereotypes are massively detrimental to our society.

"As well as holding back women and girls, they send damaging messages to boys about what it means to be a man - like whether it's OK to show emotion, or to have an equal role in parenting.

“Unravelling gender stereotypes is a social justice issue. This is about creating a fairer society where no child is limited just because of their sex, race, disability or any other characteristic.”

Sam Smethers, the Fawcett Society's chief executive, added: “Gender stereotypes are at the root of the persistent inequalities we see throughout our society.

”They are damaging for girls and boys, harming their self-esteem, segregating their career and life choices, conditioning their expectations.

“Evidence shows that there is no such thing as a female or a male brain but retailers persist in creating and perpetuating gender differences just to sell products.

"Our new commission will examine the way we raise and educate our children, proposing practical changes to support parents and teachers."

Earlier this month, a set of greetings cards went viral after people on Twitter pointed out that they perpetuated sexist gender stereotypes.

“You’re the kind of girl I’d buy flowers for,” read one card.

“You’re the kind of boy I’d make a sandwich for,” the other said.

British actor, writer and singer Natasha Hodgson tweeted a photo of the cards alongside the caption: "Ahh yes the two sides of heterosexuality, commerce and toil."

Another person commented: "Did someone from the 50s drop their cards through a portal to the modern day or something, wtf."