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Harmful gender stereotypes have officially been banned from adverts in the UK

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Lauren Geall
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The rule, which comes into force today, bans advertisers from using gender stereotypes which “are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”. 

A new rule by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) which  bans the use of harmful gender stereotypes in advertising comes into force today, and it can’t have come soon enough. 

In 2017, Co-op came under fire after they advertised their Fairtrade Piñata Egg alongside the caption: “Be a good egg. Treat your daughter for doing the washing up.” And although they pulled the ad and issued an apology, people were left feeling pretty disappointed – and  Co-op are not the only ones guilty of such blatant gender stereotyping. 

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In fact, it’s such a problem, that the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) conducted a review into the impact of gender stereotypes in adverts, and found evidence that harmful stereotypes can “restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults,” and that stereotypes can even be “reinforced” when they’re used in advertising material.

As a result, from today, the ASA has officially introduced a ban on gender stereotypes in adverts “that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”.

Scenarios which would be banned under the new rule include ads which show a man with his feet up while a woman cleans or belittles a man for carrying out stereotypically ‘female’ roles or tasks. 

Woman holding gender sign with equal mark
Harmful gender stereotypes in advertising can contribute to inequality in society

Other banned situations include ads that show a man or woman failing to do a task specifically because of their gender, for example, a woman failing at DIY, or failing to park a car.

The ASA stressed that the ban doesn’t stop advertisers from using gender stereotypes “to challenge their negative effects,” and will deal with each advert on a “case-by-case basis”.

As part of the review, the ASA showed a group of children, young adults and adults a selection of advertising material, some of which played upon gender stereotypes, to gage their response to the material. One of the most clearly gender-stereotypical ads was a 2017 TV advert for Aptamil Baby Formula, which showed a baby girl growing up to be a ballerina and a baby boy becoming an engineer. 

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Guy Parker, Chief Executive of the ASA, said that the review revealed how “harmful gender stereotypes can contribute to inequality in society, with costs for all of us.

“Put simply,” he continued, “we found that some portrayals in ads can, over time, play a part in limiting people’s potential. It’s in the interests of women and men, our economy and society that advertisers steer clear of these outdated portrayals, and we’re pleased with how the industry has already begun to respond”.

Images: Getty 

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