Following a public consultation earlier this month, the UK’s CAP (Committee of Advertising Practice) has announced that adverts will “no longer be able to depict harmful gender stereotypes.”
During a review of gender stereotyping earlier this year, the UK’s ASA (Advertising Standards Agency) found evidence that “harmful stereotypes can restrict 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.” After the review, CAP used the ASA’s evidence to consult with the public on a range of proposals that would ban specific harmful gender stereotypes in ads. Most respondents supported the proposals.
The result is a new rule in the UK’s Advertising Codes, that will come into force and apply to broadcast and non-broadcast media (including online and social media) from 14 June 2019. The new rule clearly states that “[Advertisements] must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.”
In its announcement, CAP explains that the rule does not attempt to ban gender stereotypes altogether, “but to identify specific harms that should be prevented.” To help advertisers understand the new rule and how they should apply it, the following scenarios are labelled as likely problematic.
- An ad that depicts a man with his feet up and family members creating a mess around a home while a woman is solely responsible for cleaning up the mess.
- An ad that depicts a man or a woman failing to achieve a task specifically because of their gender, e.g. a man’s inability to change nappies; a woman’s inability to park a car.
- Where an ad features a person with a physique that does not match an ideal stereotypically associated with their gender, the ad should not imply that their physique is a significant reason for them not being successful, for example in their romantic or social lives.
- An ad that seeks to emphasise the contrast between a boy’s stereotypical personality (e.g. daring) with a girl’s stereotypical personality (e.g. caring) needs to be handled with care.
- An ad aimed at new mums which suggests that looking attractive or keeping a home pristine is a priority over other factors such as their emotional wellbeing.
- An ad that belittles a man for carrying out stereotypically ‘female’ roles or tasks.
The new rule and above guidance is not intended to prevent ads from featuring the following:
- Glamorous, attractive, successful, aspirational or healthy people or lifestyles;
- One gender only, including in ads for products developed for and aimed at one gender;
- Gender stereotypes as a means to challenge their negative effects.
After the new rule comes into force in February, CAP will be reviewing it after 12 months to make sure it’s doing what it should – which is to prevent harmful gender stereotypes. Advertisers interested further in the new rule can read CAP’s Regulatory Statement and their new guidance in the ASA’s Resources section.
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