'Harmful and outdated' gender stereotyping in adverts to be banned

Advertising that uses potentially harmful gender stereotypes such as mothers cleaning up after the family alone or fathers failing at simple household tasks is to be banned next year, the regulator has announced.

Thursday, 14th December 2017, 10:45 am
Updated Thursday, 14th December 2017, 10:50 am
The introduction of a new advertising rule from 2018 will help advertisers to know where to draw the line
The introduction of a new advertising rule from 2018 will help advertisers to know where to draw the line

The decision by the Committees of Advertising Practice (Cap) follows a review earlier this year which found that some advertising could reinforce harmful gender stereotypes, which in turn could restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults.

The Advertising Standards Authority's (ASA) review found certain types of depictions were likely to be "problematic", such as a woman having sole responsibility for cleaning up her family's mess or a man trying and failing to undertake simple parental or household tasks.

Campaigns that suggest a specific activity is inappropriate for boys because it is stereotypically associated with girls and vice versa are also likely to be banned.

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The new rule will not ban all forms of gender stereotypes, with evidence falling short of calling for a ban on ads depicting scenarios such as a woman cleaning or a man doing DIY tasks.

The ASA said companies had responded positively and constructively to its report with suggestions for voluntary action, but said it welcomed Cap's decision as there was "more to do".

Cap spokeswoman Ella Smillie said: "Some gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to harm for adults and children by limiting how people see themselves, how others see them and potentially restricting the life decisions they take.

"The introduction of a new advertising rule from 2018 will help advertisers to know where to draw the line on the use of acceptable and unacceptable stereotypes."

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: "While advertising is only one of many factors that contribute to unequal gender outcomes, we welcome Cap's decision to introduce a new rule on harmful gender stereotypes in ads.

"Although companies have responded positively and constructively to our report, with welcome examples of voluntary action, there is more to do.

"We are determined to make sure our regulation calls out harmful and outdated practices and a new rule in the advertising codes will help tackle the harmful gender stereotypes identified in our review of the evidence."

The move follows an announcement earlier this year by a Unilever-led alliance of major brands and organisations aiming to end gender stereotyping in advertising.

The Unstereotype Initiative, sponsored by UN Women, also includes Facebook, Google, Alibaba and Mars, as well as industry bodies such as the UK's Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), and aims to work against stereotypical gender portrayals such as women being presented as cooks in family adverts.

A consultation on Cap's rule will begin in the spring.