Whip cracked on sex­ist stereo­types

UK ad­ver­tis­ing body in bid to put an end harm­ful gen­der roles

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - DAILY MAIL AND KHAYA KOKO

BRITAIN’S ad­ver­tis­ing watch­dog plans to ban some por­tray­als of housewives from ad­verts in a crack­down on sex­ist stereo­types.

This means that de­pic­tions of women be­ing solely re­spon­si­ble for cook­ing, clean­ing and child­care in com­mer­cials will dis­ap­pear on UK tele­vi­sions.

The changes come from the Ad­ver­tis­ing Stan­dards Au­thor­ity (ASA), which ar­gued that these stereo­types were lim­it­ing the as­pi­ra­tions of both women and men.

The ASA will also crack down on im­ages that ap­pear to sex­u­alise women or sug­gest it is ac­cept­able for them to be un­healthily thin.

“A tougher line is needed on ads that fea­ture stereo­typ­i­cal gen­der roles or char­ac­ter­is­tics which can po­ten­tially cause harm,” the watch­dog said.

The new regime will, how­ever, not stop the use of all im­ages of housewives, but will mean ban­ning gen­der stereo­types that are most likely to re­in­force as­sump­tions that ad­versely limit how peo­ple see them­selves and how others see them.

Just last week, Mother­care, a Bri­tish re­tailer which spe­cialises in prod­ucts for ex­pec­tant moth­ers as well as mer­chan­dise for chil­dren up to eight years old, was crit­i­cised for us­ing im­ages of lit­tle girls dressed as 1950s housewives to sell toy irons and vac­uum clean­ers on its web­site.

And in 2012, a Christ­mas TV ad by Asda, a su­per­mar­ket gi­ant, drew more than 600 com­plaints of sex­ism when it showed an ex­hausted mom strug­gling to buy the presents and tree, dec­o­rat­ing the home, wrap­ping the gifts, writ­ing cards and cook­ing the fes­tive feast, while the rest of the fam­ily had their feet up hav­ing fun.

The ad­vert ended with the line: “Be­hind ev­ery great Christ­mas there’s mum.”

The ASA, how­ever, re­jected the com­plaints on the ba­sis the com­mer­cial ac­cu­rately rep­re­sented the ex­pe­ri­ence of a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of fam­i­lies.

How­ever, most main­stream ad­ver­tis­ers have al­ready turned their back on this type of marketing.

Con­sumer goods gi­ant Unilever has al­ready blocked the de­pic­tion of women as sex ob­jects or stereo­typ­i­cal mums un­der a pol­icy it calls “un­stereo­type”.

In the past, its Knorr TV ad­verts used to show a mother and daugh­ter in the kitchen, but they now fea­ture a fa­ther and son. It has also dropped its Lynx com­mer­cials which fea­tured women in biki­nis hunt­ing down young men.

The sit­u­a­tion is, how­ever, dif­fer­ent in South Africa. Leon Grob­ler, the man­ager for dis­pute res­o­lu­tion at the Ad­ver­tis­ing Stan­dards Au­thor­ity of South Africa (Asasa), said they were aware of the sit­u­a­tion in Britain, hav­ing read short write-ups on the changes in the UK’s ad­ver­tis­ing pol­icy.

How­ever, Grob­ler ex­plained that Asasa was con­fig­ured dif­fer­ently from its UK coun­ter­part, and did not have the same mus­cle to in­ter­vene proac­tively.

“Firstly, Asasa is not per­mit­ted to proac­tively cam­paign for changes. We are only in­volved when for­mal dis­putes are lodged,” Grob­ler ex­plained.

“How­ever, we do take an ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tory role in in­dus­try-re­lated dis­cus­sions. For ex­am­ple, we have been very in­volved in dis­cus­sions around ad­ver­tis­ing of un­healthy food for chil­dren.”

In Asasa’s Ad­ver­tis­ing Code of Prac­tice, sec­tion 3 deals with un­ac­cept­able ad­ver­tis­ing, where sec­tion 3.5 deals with gen­der, and states: “Gen­der stereo­typ­ing or neg­a­tive gen­der por­trayal shall not be per­mit­ted in ad­ver­tis­ing, un­less, in the opin­ion of Asata, such stereo­typ­ing or por­trayal is rea­son­able and jus­ti­fi­able in an open and demo­cratic so­ci­ety based on hu­man dig­nity, equal­ity and free­dom.”

An apt ex­am­ple of Asasa in­ter­ven­ing in com­plaints, Grob­ler noted, was the case brought against the in­fa­mous strip club Teaz­ers last year by Dr Carmen Lee, who com­plained about the strip club’s bill­board on New Road, Midrand, just be­fore the N1 on­ramp.

The bill­board, cap­tioned “Like this?”, fea­tured a woman’s torso wear­ing a bra with the thumbs-up “like” emoti­con on each breast, which Lee found of­fen­sive.

Asasa agreed with the com­plainant, or­der­ing the re­moval of the ad­vert and as­sert­ing: “The model fea­tured in the bill­board is not shown, cel­e­brated or even de­picted as a woman, but merely as a pair of breasts for peo­ple to Like.

“Ef­fec­tively, her value is il­lus­trated only by means of her breasts, thereby re­duc­ing her to a sex­ual stereo­type, which is con­trary to what the code in­tends.”

Over in the UK, Guy Parker, the ASA’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, said por­tray­als which re­in­force out­dated and stereo­typ­i­cal views on gen­der roles in so­ci­ety could play a part in bring­ing about un­fair out­comes.

“Tougher ad­ver­tis­ing stan­dards can play an im­por­tant role in tack­ling in­equal­i­ties and im­prov­ing out­comes for in­di­vid­u­als, the econ­omy and so­ci­ety as a whole,” he said.

‘We are only in­volved when for­mal dis­putes are lodged’

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

GEN­DER ROLES: Bri­tish tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter Anthea Turner poses in this pro­mo­tional shot for her show.

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