UK News

Ads that include gender stereotypes are to be banned

A review found that some ad campaigns could reinforce harmful stereotypes,
By Josie Clarke, Press Association Consumer Affairs Correspondent

Ads that contrast girls as caring with boys as daring or suggest that new mothers should prioritise looking attractive over emotional well-being are likely to be among those banned under a proposed new rule to end harmful gender stereotyping.

The new rule - that ads must not include gender stereotypes which are likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence - is up for public consultation from Wednesday.

It follows a review which found that some campaigns could reinforce harmful stereotypes, which in turn could restrict people's choices, aspirations and opportunities.

Under the change, ads that depict a woman as having sole responsibility for cleaning up household mess or show men or women failing at tasks because of their gender - such as a man struggling to change a nappy or a woman unable to park a car - are "likely to be problematic", the Committees of Advertising Practice (Cap) said.

Advertisers will also have to exercise caution when using physical stereotypes associated with gender and should not use scenes that belittle men for carrying out stereotypically female roles or tasks.

The new rule will not ban all forms of gender stereotypes, with evidence falling short of calling for a ban on ads depicting scenarios such as a woman cleaning or a man doing DIY tasks.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) already applies rules on offence and social responsibility to ban ads which include gender stereotypes on grounds of objectification, inappropriate sexualisation and depiction of unhealthily thin body images.

Cap said the evidence from the review did not show that gender stereotypes were always problematic or that the use of seriously offensive or potentially harmful stereotypes in advertising was endemic.

It said the aim of the new rule was therefore to identify specific harm that should be prevented rather than banning gender stereotypes outright.

Cap director Shahriar Coupal said: "Amid wide-ranging views about the portrayal of gender in ads is evidence that certain gender stereotypes have the potential to cause harm or serious offence.

"That's why we're proposing a new rule and guidance to restrict particular gender stereotypes in ads where we believe there's an evidence-based case to do so.

"Our action is intended to help tackle the harms identified in the ASA's recent report on the evidence around gender portrayal in ads."

The consultation closes on July 26.

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