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UK Bans 'Harmful' Gender Stereotypes In Advertising… Good Luck With That

An example of an advertisement that would be banned under the U.K.'s new law.
An example of an advertisement that would be banned under the U.K.'s new law.
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Hapless husbands and housework-burdened moms were being banished from British advertising, as a crackdown on “harmful” gender stereotypes came into force last Friday.

Under new rules, advertisements must not include “gender stereotypes which are likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offense.”

Examples include depictions of a man failing to change a diaper or a woman to park a car, or ads that suggest women are solely responsible for cooking and cleaning.

Complaints will be assessed by industry watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority. It doesn’t have the power to impose fines, but British broadcasters are bound by the terms of their licenses to comply with its rulings.

The watchdog, which has previously banned ads for suggesting it was desirable for young women to be unhealthily thin, said it won’t ban all stereotypes, such as women cleaning or men doing home-improvement jobs. The authority said its aim is to remove those that are harmful, such as ads that contrast “caring” girls and “daring” boys, or mock men for carrying out stereotypically “female” tasks.

The goal is to prevent consumers, especially children, from internalizing these limited concepts of gender. But some experts say that the new standards will be difficult to enforce – especially online, where advertising is targeted to reach specific audiences.

AirTalk sits down with advertising experts in the U.S. and the U.K. to discuss the new standards.

With guest host Kyle Stokes

With files from the Associated Press


Shabnum Mustapha, media and public affairs manager for the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority

Mara Einstein, professor and chair of media studies at Queen’s College in New York and the author of “Black Ops Advertising: Native Ads, Content Marketing and the Covert World of the Digital Sell” (OR Books, 2016)

Chris Hackley, professor and chair in marketing at Royal Holloway, one of the colleges in the University of London system