UK’s Advertising Standards Authority Bans ‘Gender Stereotypes’ In Ads

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Ian Miles Cheong Contributor
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The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority, the self-regulatory organization of the ad industry across the pond, is seeking to cut the cord on gender stereotypes.

Following a year-long inquiry, the organization has updated its already stringent standards to prohibit advertisements that portray what it refers to as “potentially harmful” gender stereotypes. Fitness ads that depict women in swimsuits and children’s clothing ads that depict boys as geniuses in direct contrast to girls as princesses risk being banned.

The ASA states that a “tougher line” was needed on ads that depicted “stereotypical gender roles or characteristics which can potentially cause harm, including ads which mock people for not conforming to gender stereotypes.”

According to the Telegraph, the new standards are set to be enforced beginning in 2018. The ASA argues that harmful stereotypes “can restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults.”

“These stereotypes can be reinforced by some advertising, which plays a part in unequal gender outcomes, with costs for individuals, the economy and society,” it concluded.

“Our review shows that specific forms of gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to harm for adults and children,” said Ella Smillie, who penned the inquiry. “Such portrayals can limit how people see themselves, how others see them, and limit the life decisions they take. Tougher standards in the areas we’ve identified will address harms and ensure that modern society is better represented.”

The ASA has previously banned advertisements on grounds that they sexually objectified women.
The organization says that the new standards will not ban every stereotype, such as women cleaning or men performing DIY jobs. But given the arbitrary nature of advertising and the products they represent, it’s difficult to see fair enforcement in every case — especially when feminists readily lodge complaints about offensive ads, just as they did with the infamous “Beach Body Ready” ad for Protein World in 2015.

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter.