U.K. Bans Ads Featuring Gender Stereotypes In Effort To Fight Sexism

A movie playing on TV.
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The United Kingdom has banned commercials that feature “harmful gender stereotypes,” including portrayals of women failing to drive and park, men watching TV with their feet up while women perform domestic chores, and boys and men being made fun of for behaving “like a girl.”

As reported by the BBC, the changes were implemented by advertising watchdog Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which stated that said commercials could end up “limiting people’s potential.” The ban had been announced back in December following a thorough review of how genders are stereotyped in ads and will be enforced from this Friday onward. It will affect every advertising covered by the ASA, including broadcast, print, and even online ads.

“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,” said Guy Parker, ASA’s chief executive.

According to CNN, the British watchdog provided examples of dated cliches when it comes to portraying men and women in commercials, such as a man failing to change their child’s diaper, a girl performing worse than a boy in academic tasks, or even 1950s-type ads suggesting mothers should excel at cleaning the house and looking good rather than focusing on their careers and well-being.

The ASA added that these unrealistic stereotypes could play a part in restricting “the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults and these stereotypes can be reinforced by some advertising, which plays a part in unequal gender outcomes.” Now, advertisers will have to follow the strict rules, with each ad being examined individually to make sure it complies with the new guidelines.

The ASA’s review was prompted by public uproar caused by a 2015 ad that was featured in several metro stations in London, showing a super-slim woman in a yellow bikini alongside the words “Are you beach body ready?” The advertisement was for a weight-loss product, and it was eventually banned after many protested the fact that it portrayed an unrealistic version of a normal person’s body.

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Not only that, but members of the public taking part in the study also opposed to commercials that depicted men and women being bad at performing certain tasks. For instance, parents “felt strongly” about an ad that showed a girl growing up to become a ballerina while the boys grew up to become engineers and mountain climbers, as its underlying message was that there were specific roles for each gender, limiting a child’s potential to become whoever they want to in the future, CNN reported.