International Women’s Day 2019 – Gender stereotypes in ads.

International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the achievements of women across the globe, as well as a day to call for action to progress gender equality.

The publication of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) report Depictions, Perceptions and Harm in 2017 identified that there’s potential for some types of gender stereotypical roles and characteristics to cause harm by reinforcing limiting perceptions about how people should look or behave on account of their gender.  This led to the Committee of Advertising Practice(CAP) introducing a new rule and guidance which will come into force on 14 June 2019.

The ASA already takes a tough position on sexualisation, objectification and unhealthily-thin body image in ads.  Where these cases have previously been considered under rules about offence and social responsibility, they could also fall under the new rule.

Key points from the new guidance

The new guidance sets out a number of principles accompanied by illustrative scenarios to help advertisers understand what is likely to be acceptable under the new rule.  In summary:

  • While not all gender stereotypes are harmful, depicting gender-stereotypical roles or characteristics as being only available to one gender and never carried out by another is likely to be a problem.
  • Ads can still depict glamorous, attractive or aspirational people but should avoid suggesting that an individual’s happiness or emotional wellbeing should depend on conforming to an idealised gender-stereotypical body shape or physical features.
  • While ads targeted at children can feature just one gender, they should take care not to explicitly convey that a particular children’s product, pursuit, activity, including choice of play or career, is inappropriate for one or another gender.
  • Ads should be sensitive to the emotional and physical well-being of vulnerable groups of people like young mums and young people who may be under pressure to conform to particular gender stereotypes.
  • Mocking someone who doesn’t conform to gender-stereotypical appearances or activities is never likely to be acceptable.

But it’s just a bit of banter

The new guidance makes it clear that the harmful impact of some stereotypes isn’t mitigated by using humour, so framing problematic depictions as ‘banter’ is unlikely to get you off the hook.

 What about men? 

The potential for harm and offence to arise from gender stereotypes doesn’t just apply to women, the ASA report and new CAP guidance clarifies the kinds of depictions of men that are likely to be a problem.

Stay tuned for more on this on 19th November – International Men’s Day.

Source: CAP

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