Watch­dog bans ca­sual sex­ism in ad­ver­tise­ments

‘Po­ten­tially harm­ful’ cam­paigns that en­dorse gen­der-based do­mes­tic roles have had their day

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Katie Mor­ley CON­SUMER AF­FAIRS EDITOR

Ad­ver­tise­ments that en­cour­age gen­der stereo­types face be­ing banned un­der watch­dog rules. The Ad­ver­tis­ing Stan­dards Author­ity is set­ting tougher stan­dards for “po­ten­tially harm­ful” ma­te­rial, which could in­clude women seen in the kitchen and men do­ing DIY.

AD­VER­TISE­MENTS that en­cour­age gen­der stereo­types – such as women clean­ing up af­ter their fam­ily or men duck­ing the house­work – face be­ing banned un­der watch­dog rules.

The Ad­ver­tis­ing Stan­dards Author­ity (ASA) has fol­lowed a year-long in­quiry with tougher stan­dards for “po­ten­tially harm­ful” ma­te­rial.

From next year, the rules, which will now be fi­nalised by the Com­mit­tee of Ad­ver­tis­ing Prac­tice, will see the ban­ning of in­ap­pro­pri­ate cam­paigns.

The ASA found there was ev­i­dence to sup­port stronger rules on the ba­sis that harm­ful stereo­types “can re­strict the choices, as­pi­ra­tions and op­por­tu­ni­ties of chil­dren, young peo­ple and adults”.

Con­tro­ver­sial ad­verts by Gap, KFC and Pro­tein World, all of which re­ceived com­plaints last year, could be af­fected by the crack­down. The new stan­dards will not ban all stereo­types, such as women clean­ing or men do­ing DIY jobs.

But ad­verts that depict sce­nar­ios such as a woman hav­ing sole re­spon­si­bil­ity for see­ing to her fam­ily’s un­tidy habits or a man try­ing and fail­ing to do sim­ple parental or house­hold tasks are likely to be out­lawed, it said.

Ad­verts de­pict­ing tra­di­tional do­mes­tic roles, such as the 1980s Oxo com­mer­cial, could also be dis­al­lowed. The se­quence showed a tra­di­tional fam­ily meal­time with a mother, played by Lynda Belling­ham, serv­ing her fam­ily a hot din­ner while her hus­band sits at the ta­ble read­ing the pa­per.

The ASA’S re­port also said cam­paigns sug­gest­ing a spe­cific ac­tiv­ity is in­ap­pro­pri­ate for boys be­cause it is stereo­typ­i­cally as­so­ci­ated with girls, and vice versa, could also be banned.

A poster for Pro­tein World, a slim­ming prod­uct aimed at women, caused a stir last year af­ter an ad­vert stated “Are you beach body ready?” and fea­tured an im­age of a toned and ath­letic woman wear­ing a bikini.

De­spite re­ceiv­ing more than 300 com­plaints, it was not banned by the ASA. How­ever, it is thought that such ma­te­rial may not be al­lowed un­der the new rules.

An­other po­ten­tially prob­lem­atic ad­vert is KFC’S re­cent tele­vi­sion ad­ver- tise­ment that fea­tured two men sit­ting in a restau­rant dis­cussing the TV sets they had pur­chased. The first char­ac­ter stated: “I just bought a 56in plasma” to which the sec­ond re­sponded “Awww, adorable. I just bought the 90. Be­cause I’m a man.”

The first char­ac­ter then stated: “It’s ul­tra-hd” with the sec­ond re­spond­ing, “Did it come free with your scented can­dles?” Af­ter a third char­ac­ter sat down with the prod­uct be­ing fea­tured, the first char­ac­ter stated more ag­gres­sively, “You know those can­dles help with my anx­i­ety … You’re a mon­ster.”

The ma­jor­ity of com­plainants ob­jected that the ad­vert was of­fen­sive be­cause it im­plied that it was ac­cept­able to make fun of a men­tal health prob­lem, with some claim­ing it was ir­re­spon­si­ble be­cause it equated anx­i­ety with a lack of mas­culin­ity and helped per­pet­u­ate the dam­ag­ing view that men shouldn’t ad­mit to men­tal health con­cerns.

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

Cam­paigns for Pro­tein World and Gap, left, and, Oxo, above, may not be al­lowed to reap­pear in the same form

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