A whopping 64-page report was recently published by the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK, where it also announced that there would be a blanket ban on gender stereotyping in advertisements with a six-month buffer period. Any advertising which "can lead to unequal gender outcomes in public and private aspects of people’s lives", like the “Are you beach body ready?” will no longer make it to media platforms.
ASA will not ban men and women performing stereotypical activities
"Advertisements must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offense..." said the ASA and also added that ads cannot show people "failing to achieve a task specifically because of their gender", like a man failing to do chores at home or a woman struggling to drive a car. On the other hand, the ASA will not ban men and women performing stereotypical activities like women looking after babies and men working on construction projects, for example. In addition to this, ads that present "glamorous, attractive, successful, aspirational, or healthy people or lifestyles," will also not be banned. While carried out in good spirit, there seem to be some loopholes in this move due to the fact that it does not address racial or class issues and the fact that ads can still continue to "gender stereotypes as a means to challenge their negative effects." How is this going to be policed and who will decide what is appropriate.
Branded "Orwellian" by some, it was said that this ban might result in enforcing a policy of sameness and might actually backfire. While it is true that women generally are drawn to nurturing jobs, like early learning, and men to one with bravado, like the military, for example, this does not mean that women cannot join the military and men cannot look after children. The truth is that one cannot put men and women in the same biological box, however, are men and women given the same value, in spite of their complementary differences? Men and women are equally important even though they function differently. Also, the very definition of gender stereotypes can be socially murky because for some companies it is actually subjective. Therefore, the companies who create such advertising should be held accountable rather than imposing a blanket ban, because, at the end of it all, people want to sell products and will often do anything to achieve profit. Who will be held responsible?
Image credit: BBC