'Harmful' Gender Stereotypes Are Now Banned From All Advertising In UK

by Cassandra Stone

The UK is cracking down on gender stereotypes that ‘limit people’s potential’

Finally, in the year 2019, advertisements featuring sexist tropes will be banned as the powers that be are cracking down on the “harmful” influence they perpetuate. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the United Kingdom says the ban is necessary because gender stereotypes can play a part in “limiting people’s potential.”

Examples of ads that will no longer pass muster are scenarios where a man has his feet up while a woman cleans the house, or a woman who can’t seem to be able to park a car, ads aimed at vulnerable new moms that suggest she needs to look good or keep her house clean rather than worry about her emotional wellbeing, and ads that belittle a man for carrying out stereotypical female roles like cooking and cleaning.

After reviewing the case for the ban, the ASA said they found evidence suggesting that “harmful stereotypes could restrict the choices, aspirations, and opportunities of children, young people, and adults and these stereotypes can be reinforced by some advertising, which plays a part in unequal gender outcomes.”

The ASA chief executive director, Guy Parker, explains further. “Our evidence shows how harmful gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to inequality in society, with costs for all of us. Put simply, we found that some portrayals in ads can, over time, play a part in limiting people’s potential.”

Through the review, the ASA had members of the general public screen various advertisements and share their thoughts and feelings about how men and women were depicted. Plenty of people, particularly parents, pointed out how these stereotypes often begin with babies.

One of the ads featured in the screening was a commercial for formula, which showed a baby girl growing up to be a ballerina and baby boys as engineers and mountain climbers. The ASA found some parents “felt strongly about the gender-based aspirations shown in this advert specifically noting the stereotypical future professions of the boys and girls shown,” they said in the report. “These parents queried why these stereotypes were needed, feeling that they lacked a diversity of gender roles and did not represent real life.”

Not all gender stereotypes will be banned, only the ones the ASA deems to be “harmful.” For example, commercials or ads that feature women shopping or men working outside are passable, as well as ads that use gender stereotypes as a way of challenging their negative effects. The ASA will continue monitoring complaints about advertisements on a “case-by-case basis” and determine what companies are breaking the new rules.

Now if only we could get this type of regulation in the U.S., where moms, dads, and kids are often portrayed in extremely stereotypical scenarios.