An ad showing a father with his feet up while the mother is doing the housework would be outlawed in the United Kingdom under new regulations that ban using certain gender stereotypes to sell products.
The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority, the ASA, issued the ban in December and gave companies a six-month grace period, which expired last week, the Daily Caller reported.
The ASA’s chief executive, Guy Parker, said the ban was the result of a study the ASA conducted that concluded stereotypes in advertising can have “real-world psychological, physical, economic, social and political harm for individuals and groups.”
“Our evidence shows how harmful gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to inequality in society, with costs for all of us,” Parker said.
“Put simply, we found that some portrayals in ads can, over time, play a part in limiting people’s potential,” he said. “It’s in the interests of women and men, our economy and society that advertisers steer clear of these outdated portrayals, and we’re pleased with how the industry has already begun to respond.”
The ASA said advertisements “must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.”
It provided some specific examples of ads that would be forbidden:
- 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; 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 agency said it would not enforce the ban on the following examples:
- A woman doing the shopping or a man doing DIY.
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.
The Daily Caller noted the ASA official Twitter account responded to criticism by users.
In one exchange, a Twitter user argued that the ASA’s only job is to “ensure consumers aren’t misled by advertisements,” not to “push political agendas or enact the wishes of campaign groups. No longer fit for purpose.”
The ASA replied: “The ad rules, which have been in place since 1962, have always covered issues around harm and offence. They’re written by the ad industry and we administer them on their, and consumers’, behalf.”
The Twitter user, Mitch, responded: “And you decide what causes harm and offence? A little girl dressed as a ballerina. Offensive? A little boy playing football. Offensive?”
“Yes,” the ASA replied, “it’s our responsibility as the UK ad regulator to administer the rules and make judgements on whether an ad is likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
“It’s about content & context. Our rules don’t prohibit ads featuring a boy playing football/girl dressed as ballerina.
You’re only role as an organisation is to ensure consumers aren’t misled by advertisements. NOT to push political agendas or enact the wishes of campaign groups. No longer fit for purpose.
— mitch (@drogpower) June 20, 2019
And you decide what causes harm and offence? A little girl dressed as a ballerina. Offensive? A little boy playing football. Offensive?
— mitch (@drogpower) June 20, 2019