Ads using harmful gender stereotypes to be banned

Ads that perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes such as a men struggling with household chores or girls being less academic than boys are to be banned, the regulator has announced.

The new rule – that ads must not include gender stereotypes which are likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence – comes into effect in June following a consultation.

Scenarios likely to be “problematic” include depictions of a man with his feet up while a woman takes sole responsibility for cleaning up, and a man or a woman failing to achieve a task specifically because of their gender, such as a man struggling to change a nappy or a woman being unable to park a car, the Committee of Advertising Practice (Cap) said.

A woman vacuuming
There will be no ban on ads depicting scenarios such as a woman cleaning (PA)

Advertisers will also have to tread carefully when contrasting stereotypical personalities of boys and girls or if they belittle a man for carrying out stereotypically “female” roles or tasks.

The rule follows a review which found that some campaigns could reinforce harmful stereotypes, which in turn could restrict people’s choices, aspirations and opportunities.

It will not ban all forms of gender stereotypes, with the review falling short of calling for a ban on ads depicting scenarios such as a woman cleaning or a man doing DIY tasks.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) already applies rules on offence and social responsibility to ban ads which include gender stereotypes on grounds of objectification, inappropriate sexualisation and depiction of unhealthily thin body images.

Cap said the evidence from the review did not show that gender stereotypes were always problematic or that the use of seriously offensive or potentially harmful stereotypes in advertising was endemic.

a man hanging a door
Men will be able to be depicted dong DIY tasks (PA)

It said the aim of the new rule was therefore to identify specific harm that should be prevented rather than banning gender stereotypes outright.

Ella Smillie, Cap’s gender stereotyping project lead, said: “The evidence we published last year showed that harmful gender stereotypes in ads contribute to how people see themselves and their role in society.

“They can hold some people back from fulfilling their potential, or from aspiring to certain jobs and industries, bringing costs for individuals and the economy.”

Cap director Shahriar Coupal said: “Harmful gender stereotypes have no place in UK advertisements. Nearly all advertisers know this, but for those that don’t, our new rule calls time on stereotypes that hold back people and society.”

Cap will carry out a 12-month review after the new rule comes into force on June 19 to make sure it is meeting its objective.

LifeWeb editor