Depictions, perceptions and harm (2018)
An evidence-based case for for stronger regulation of ads that feature stereotypical gender roles or characteristics which might be harmful to people, including ads which mock people for not conforming to gender stereotypes.
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In April 2016, the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK launched a project into gender stereotyping in advertisements to test whether the UK Advertising Codes and the ASA’s enforcement of them take proper account of the relevant evidence base, including the views of the general public.
The project identified six categories of gender stereotypes:
- Roles: Occupations or positions usually associated with a specific gender
- Characteristics: Attributes or behaviours associated with a specific gender
- Mocking people for not conforming to stereotype: Making fun of someone for behaving or looking in a non-stereotypical way
- Sexualisation: Portraying individuals in a highly sexualised manner
- Objectification: Depicting someone in a way that focuses on their body or body parts
- Body image: Depicting an unhealthy body image
The evidence showed support for the ASA’s track record of banning ads that objectify or inappropriately sexualize people, and ads which suggest that it’s acceptable for young women to be unhealthily thin. It also noted that a tougher line is needed on ads that feature stereotypical gender roles or characteristics which can potentially cause harm, including ads which mock people for not conforming to gender stereotypes.
The report indicates that the latter should be considered on grounds of potential harm to the audience, banning those gender stereotypes that are most likely to reinforce assumptions that adversely limit how people see themselves and how others see them.
Subject to context and content considerations, the evidence suggested the following types of depictions are likely to be problematic:
- An ad which depicts family members creating a mess while a woman has sole responsibility for cleaning it up
- An ad that suggests a specific activity is inappropriate for boys because it is stereotypically associated with girls, or vice-versa
- An ad that features a man trying and failing to undertake simple parental or household tasks
Find out more about the report here.