Adverts which promote ‘harmful’ gender stereotypes are now officially banned as of today (Fri 14 June).
Under new rules set out by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), companies will no longer be able to depict scenes which endorses negative stereotypes, such as men struggling to do housework, or a woman failing to park a car.
The new rule stipulates that adverts must not include scenes that are “likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”, with the ban applying to both broadcast and non-broadcast media.
The change comes following a review by the ASA, which found evidence suggesting that harmful stereotypes can restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults. The ASA said these stereotypes can be reinforced by some advertising, which plays a part in unequal gender outcomes.
The rules were first announced in December last year, giving advertisers six months to prepare for them to come into effect.
Ella Smillie, gender stereotyping project lead at the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) said, “The evidence we published last year showed that harmful gender stereotypes in ads contribute to how people see themselves and their role in society.
“They can hold some people back from fulfilling their potential, or from aspiring to certain jobs and industries, bringing costs for individuals and the economy.
“We’ve spent time consulting on new standards to make sure they target specifically those images and portrayals we found cause harm.”
The ASA already restricts offensive ads and those that gender stereotype on grounds of objectification, inappropriate sexualisation, and depiction of unhealthily thin body images.
What is banned under the new rules?
The CAP has published guidance to help advertisers stick to the new rules, with the following scenarios among those now likely to be considered problematic:
- An ad that depicts a man with his feet up and family members creating mess around a home, while a woman is solely responsible for cleaning up the mess
- An ad that depicts a man or a woman failing to achieve a task specifically because of their gender, e.g. a man’s inability to change nappies, or a woman’s inability to park a car
- Where an ad features a person with a physique that does not match an ideal stereotypically associated with their gender, the ad should not imply that their physique is a significant reason for them not being successful, for example in their romantic or social lives
- An ad that seeks to emphasise the contrast between a boy’s stereotypical personality (e.g. daring) with a girl’s stereotypical personality (e.g. caring) needs to be handled with care
- An ad aimed at new mums which suggests that looking attractive or keeping a home pristine is a priority over other factors such as their emotional wellbeing
- An ad that belittles a man for carrying out stereotypically ‘female’ roles or tasks
The rule and guidance does not intend to prevent ads from featuring:
- Glamorous, attractive, successful, aspirational or healthy people or lifestyles
- One gender only, including in ads for products developed for and aimed at one gender
- Gender stereotypes as a means to challenge their negative effects