Sexist advertisements seem to crop up a lot during the UK summer, including this banned air con advert which has appeared on a billboard.
Some hotfoot it to the nearest rooftop bar after work for some sugary cocktail refreshment. Others pull their heavy, swollen feet back home, where they then find it impossible to get a decent night’s sleep. And there are those who slyly Google “how hot does is need to be before I can leave work?” while melting at their desks.
But the news today (23 July) provided us with something that we can all agree on about this week’s heatwave: we’ve had enough of sexist summer advertisements.
The BBC has reported that a banned sexist air conditioning advert has appeared on a billboard in Nottingham.
The advert – which shows a woman wearing shorts and a t-shirt, along with the caption “Your wife is hot! Better get the air conditioning fixed” – was blocked from running on the sides of public buses. But it has still appeared on the billboard.
Professor Carrie Paechter, director of the Nottingham Centre for Children, Young People and Families, told the BBC that it was “like something out of the 1950s” and called for it to be removed.
She added: “If I had young children, I wouldn’t want them passing that on the way to school, because of the messages it gives them about society.
“The subliminal message about society is that it’s OK to comment on women’s bodies, and comment on women’s bodies as if they are the possession of someone else – ‘your wife’.
“It also gives the subliminal message that it’s the man of the house that’s responsible for getting the air conditioning fixed.”
According to the report, the advert’s male designer ran the idea past his team of male colleagues before going ahead with it. “I saw an advert like this in America, I chuckled to myself and thought ‘why not?’. Air conditioning is a very hard thing to advertise,” he said.
It comes after a new rule came into force last month prohibiting harmful gender stereotypes in adverts. This was the result of a review of gender stereotyping by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
Among the ASA’s six outlined scenarios in ads that are likely to be problematic under the new rules are:
- 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.
- 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.
In this case, the advert suggests that the woman isn’t capable of sorting out the air con in her own home, which emphasises the tired trope that the man needs to do it.
However, the new rules don’t stop ads from featuring:
- A woman doing the shopping or a man doing DIY.
- 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.
Sexism in advertising is still rife, and it was only in 2015 that another summer advert received a negative backlash.
Protein World’s billboards saw a bikini-clad woman plastered all over the London Underground.
All well and good – save for the fact the sexist ad (peddling weight loss supplements) was emblazoned with the words: “Are you beach body ready?”
Thousands of outraged people signed a Change.org petition calling for the ad to be removed, with founder Charlotte Baring writing: “Protein World is directly targeting individuals, aiming to make them feel physically inferior to the unrealistic body image of the bronzed model, in order to sell their product.
“Perhaps not everyone’s priority is having a ‘beach body’ (by the way, what is that?), and making somebody feel guilty for not prioritising it by questioning their personal choices is a step too far.”
Protein World did not, of course, apologise.
Instead, they released a statement which read: “It is a shame that in 2015 there are still a minority who aren’t focusing on celebrating those who aspire to be healthier, fitter and stronger.
“We now run Britain’s largest protein facility, selling our products in over 50 countries to more than 300,000 customers. Most of them are women. How could we possibly be sexist?”
They later went on to target their critics directly on Twitter, writing: “Surely as feminists, you understand that no one takes you seriously?”
Although the ASA decided this advert was not offensive or irresponsible, they have brought in the new rules since then.
Clearly, there’s still a long way to go. Perhaps a cold drink in the sun is exactly what we all need after seeing this after all.