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Ads Which Perpetuate Sexist Stereotypes to Be Banned in Britain

18 Juillet 2017

The ASA's report Depictions, Perceptions and Harm concluded that while the regulator had a record of banning ads on grounds of objectification, inappropriate sexualisation and the suggestion that it was desirable for young women to be unhealthily thin, a "tougher line" was needed on ads that feature stereotypical gender roles, including those which mock people for not conforming.

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

It said ads that feature stereotypical gender roles or characteristics could have a harmful impact, particularly on children, by limiting aspirations.

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".

Chief Executive of the ASA, Guy Parker, said of the findings: "Portrayals which reinforce outdated and stereotypical views on gender roles in society can play their part in driving unfair outcomes for people".

"Tougher standards in the areas we've identified will address harms and ensure that modern society is better represented".

Certain stereotypes can contribute to widespread assumptions about how people should look or behave and these messages can become internalised, the report said.

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

"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 study found: "Overall, young children appear to be in particular need of protection from harmful stereotypes as they are more likely to internalise the messages they see".

The new standards, which the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) - the authors of the UK Advertising Codes - have been tasked with developing, are "not meant to ban all forms of gender stereotypes" the ASA said.

Global research by Unilever, for example, showed that women are overwhelmingly depicted as passive, personality-free figures in ads around the world, prompting it to develop guidelines covering how its brands and agencies deal with issues like role assignment, personality and appearance in ads.

The new standards will come into force next year.

Ads Which Perpetuate Sexist Stereotypes to Be Banned in Britain