Watchdog bans casual sexism in advertisements
‘Potentially harmful’ campaigns that endorse gender-based domestic roles have had their day
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