Britain bans ads that portray “harmful” stereotypes of gender

A man struggling to change a nappy or a woman failing to park a car properly are examples of what will now be banned from being depicted in advertisements in Britain, according to new rules and guidelines by the country’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Is this being overly sensitive, or is it merely reflective of our changing mores and societal and cultural expectations? Or is it excessive coddling by a nanny state that feels we cannot think and make choices and judgements for ourselves?

According to a report by Yahoo News, one of the ads identified as problematic by the ASA was a 2017 television advert for Aptamil baby milk formula, which showed a baby girl growing up to be a ballerina and baby boys becoming engineers and mountain climbers.

According to the ASA’s website, Guy Parker, Chief Executive of the Advertising Standards Authority, stated:

“Our evidence shows how harmful gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to inequality in society, with costs for all of us.  Put simply, 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  It’s in the interests of women and men, our economy and society that advertisers steer clear of these outdated portrayals, and we’re pleased with how the industry has already begun to respond”.

However, some sterotyped scenarios will not be cut, such as a woman cleaning and a man doing handiwork, as these depictions are believed not to have caused as much offence.

According to the ASA’s website, some of the scenarios in ads that are likely to be problematic under the new rule include:

An ad that depicts a man with his feet up and family members creating mess around a home while a woman is solely responsible for cleaning up the mess.

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.

Where an ad features a person with a physique that does not match an ideal stereotypically associated with their gender, the ad should not imply that their physique is a significant reason for them not being successful, for example in their romantic or social lives.

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.

An ad aimed at new mums which suggests that looking attractive or keeping a home pristine is a priority over other factors such as their emotional wellbeing.

An ad that belittles a man for carrying out stereotypically ‘female’ roles or tasks.

The rule and its supporting guidance doesn’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.


You be the judge.

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