Advertising is both powerful and dangerous. It lures us in, and it convinces us to buy, change or react. There have been many an advertising campaign that's created or reinforced stereotypical gender roles, objectified, or just flat out offended groups of people, many of which have slipped through the teeth of the fine-toothed comb that is the UK watchdog. Until now.
In a new report, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has cracked down on sexist ads and is determined to toughen its rules. The report specifies adverts that present activities as specific to one gender or those that mock non-conforming gender roles. This includes adverts whereby men are seen attempting (and failing) to do housework and girls are seen to be less academic than boys (yes Gap, we're looking at you).
There isn't a blanket ban going into place with regards to sexist adverts - for example, a man cutting the grass or a woman using a dishwasher would still be approved by the ASA, but a woman having to clear up mess after her family would be seen as instilling a gender stereotype and would breach regulation code.
The report, Depiction, Perceptions and Harm, “shows that specific forms of gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to harm for adults and children,” said lead author, Ella Smillie.
“Such portrayal scan limit how people see themselves, how others see them, and limit the life decisions they take. Tougher standards in the areas we’ve identified will address harms and ensure that modern society is better represented.”
The watchdog's decision to toughen up follows a crackdown on airbrushing, which saw numerous beauty ads being banned in the UK, including a Rimmel campaign featuring Cara Delevigne. The report also proposes that the existing codes surrounding the objectification over over sexualising of women and girls are to be clarified, as well as regulations against body shaming.
The report says that these harmful stereotypes and expectations can “restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults.” Once the Committee of Advertising Practice writes these new standards into the rulebook, the UK watchdog will be seen as the most comprehensive review of stereotyping in the world.
These amendments made by the ASA will hopefully begin to further prevent the damage that can be caused as a result of unrealistic and discriminatory beauty and societal standards, and we're looking forward to seeing more regulatory bodies following suit.