Advertising watchdog to get tough on gender stereotypes

  • Published
An advert for AptamilImage source, APtamil
Image caption,
The advert for Aptamil baby formula showed girls wanting to be ballerinas

Advertisements that show men failing at simple household tasks and women left to clean up are set to be banned by the UK advertising watchdog.

The Advertising Standards Authority will crack down on ads that feature stereotypical gender roles.

Ads that mock people for not conforming to gender types or reinforce gender roles had "costs for individuals, the economy and society", the ASA said.

As a result new rules will be drawn up that will take effect next year.

The ASA said it had decided to conduct a review following the public's reaction to the "beach body ready" advertising campaign in 2015. It prompted a wave of complaints for showing a bikini-clad model in an advertisement for a slimming product, which critics said was socially irresponsible.

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

But in several instances the regulator had received complaints about ads that featured sexist stereotypes or mocked people who didn't follow traditional roles, which it had not investigated or ruled against, because they were not in breach of the current guidelines.

One example was an advert for Aptamil baby milk formula that showed girls growing up to be ballerinas and boys becoming engineers.

Complaints had also been made about adverts for clothing retailer Gap that showed a boy becoming an academic, and a girl becoming a "social butterfly".

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Protein World's 2015 advert sparked a huge backlash

An advertisement for KFC featured one man teasing another, who said he suffered from anxiety, over his lack of masculinity.

The review suggested that new standards should consider whether the stereotypes shown would "reinforce assumptions that adversely limit how people see themselves and how others see them."

"Portrayals which reinforce outdated and stereotypical views on gender roles in society can play their part in driving unfair outcomes for people," said Guy Parker, chief executive of the ASA.

"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."

Not all stereotypes would be barred, however.

The ASA suggested showing a woman cleaning or a man doing DIY tasks was acceptable.

However it would be unacceptable if a family was shown making a mess and the woman was left with the sole responsibility to clean it up, or a man was shown "trying and failing to undertake simple parental or household tasks".

The ASA also said ads suggesting specific activities were suitable only for boys or girls were problematic.