Ban on harmful gender stereotypes in ads comes into force
A ban on adverts that perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes, such as men struggling with household chores or girls being less academic than boys, comes into force on Friday.
Scenarios likely to be problematic under the new rule – that ads must not include gender stereotypes which are likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence – also include a man with his feet up while a woman takes sole responsibility for cleaning up her family’s mess, a man struggling to change a nappy, or a woman unable to park a car.
Advertisers will also have to tread carefully when, for example, contrasting a daring boy with a caring girl, or if they belittle a man for carrying out stereotypically “female” roles or tasks, the Committee of Advertising Practice (Cap) warned.
The rule follows a review which found that some campaigns could reinforce harmful stereotypes, and in turn could restrict people’s choices, aspirations and opportunities.
It will not veto all forms of gender stereotypes, with the review falling short of calling for a ban on ads depicting scenarios such as a woman cleaning or a man doing DIY tasks.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) already applies rules on offence and social responsibility to ban ads which include gender stereotypes on grounds of objectification, inappropriate sexualisation, and depiction of unhealthily thin body images.
Cap said the evidence from the review did not show that gender stereotypes were always problematic or that the use of seriously offensive or potentially harmful stereotypes in advertising was endemic.
It said the aim of the new rule was therefore to identify specific harm that should be prevented, rather than banning gender stereotypes outright.
The advertising industry has had six months to prepare for the rule, and the ASA will now deal with any complaints it receives on a case-by-case basis.
Cap will carry out a review in 12 months’ time to make sure the rule is meeting its objective.
ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “Our evidence shows how harmful gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to inequality in society, with costs for all of us. Put simply, we found that some portrayals in ads can, over time, play a part in limiting people’s potential.
“It’s in the interests of women and men, our economy and society that advertisers steer clear of these outdated portrayals, and we’re pleased with how the industry has already begun to respond.”
Advertising Association chief executive Stephen Woodford said: “Advertising at its best should be a positive and progressive force in society.
“The new rule on tackling harmful gender stereotypes in adverts from the Committees of Advertising Practice is an important addition to the expectations we all have for responsible advertising.”