Advertising watchdog ASA to clamp down on gender stereotyping

Tyrone Stewart

Ads challenge gender stereotypesThe Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) is set to develop new standards on ads that feature gender stereotypes, following a report from its sibling organisation, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The evidence-based report, titled ‘Depictions, Perceptions and Harm’, puts the case forward for there to be stronger regulation on ads that feature stereotypical gender roles or characteristics due to the harm they can potentially cause.

“Portrayals which reinforce outdated and stereotypical views on gender roles in society can play their part in driving unfair outcomes for people,” said Guy Parker, chief executive of the ASA.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

The new standards will not ban all forms of gender stereotypes. A ban on ads depicting a woman cleaning or a man putting up a fence will not take place, for example. However, ads will be banned if: a woman is depicted as the sole responsibility for cleaning up her family’s mess, an ad suggests that certain activities are only for one gender, an ad features a man failing to undertake simple parental or household tasks.

In addition, the standards will take a tougher line on objectification or sexualisation – though the ASA already has a good track record of banning these – and ads that mock people for not conforming to gender stereotypes.

“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,” said Ella Smillie, lead report author. “Tougher standards in the areas we’ve identified will address harms and ensure that modern society is better represented.”