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UK advertisement authority bans ‘gender stereotypes’ in ads

The United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority is banning commercials that portray “potentially harmful” gender stereotypes. The new rules go into effect next year. (Image Source: YouTube Screenshot)

The United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority, a self-regulatory organization of the advertising industry, is cracking down on the “gender stereotypes” to which advertisers so often appeal.

The organization is banning advertisements that portray what it has deemed “potentially harmful” gender stereotypes. So those funny Mr. Clean ads and the famous Jell-O commercials appealing to overworked moms would likely be banned in the U.K.

Some of the problematic scenarios, according to Mashable, include ads depicting a family making a mess while the woman is left to clean it up, commercials suggesting “a specific activity is inappropriate for boys because it’s stereotypically associated with girls, or vice versa,” and advertisements showing men “trying and failing” to carry out “simple parental or household tasks.”

In a news release on the matter, the ASA determined a “tougher line” was needed on advertisements that portray “stereotypical gender roles or characteristics which can potentially cause harm, including ads which mock people for not conforming to gender stereotypes.”

The ASA argues the troublesome ads “can restrict the choices, aspirations, and opportunities of children, young people and adults.”

The new regulations go into effect next year and those who refuse to comply with the updated codes, which is rare, could face sanctions from the self-regulatory body.

Ella Smillie, the lead author of the ASA report, said gender stereotypes in advertising “can contribute to harm for adults and children.”

“Such portrayals can limit how people see themselves, how others see them, and limit the life decisions they take,” she said. “Tougher standards in the areas we’ve identified will address harms and ensure that modern society is better represented.”

The ASA, though, did say it doesn’t plan on banning every stereotype, like women cleaning and men performing DIY jobs. However, if that’s the case, it is difficult to imagine the organization exercising equal treatment across the board.

The regulating body faced quite a bit of backlash in 2015 for choosing not to ban a controversial Protein World advertisement featuring a thin, bikini-clad woman along with the text, “Are you beach body ready?”

Despite receiving more than 300 complaints, the ASA allowed the ad to remain. But under these new regulations, that ad might have met a different fate.


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