No More Dodgy Women Drivers as UK Bans Sexist Stereotypes in Ads

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A woman walks past a Marks and Spencer's billboard advertisement in south London
A woman walks past a Marks and Spencer's billboard advertisement, in south London May 19, 2009. British retailer Marks & Spencer said it was hopeful the downturn in its markets had bottomed out as it reported a 40 percent slide in full-year profits and cut its dividend by a third to conserve cash. REUTERS/Kieran Doherty (BRITAIN BUSINESS) - LM1E55J14ED01
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By Umberto Bacchi
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

Britain is to ban advertising showing women who can’t park or men who struggle to change a nappy in a crackdown on gender stereotypes, the industry watchdog said on Friday

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said a review had found some stereotypes were harmful, citing ads that belittle men for carrying out tasks seen as female, or suggest new mothers should prioritise looking good over emotional wellbeing.

“Our new rule calls time on stereotypes that hold back people and society,” said Shahriar Coupal, director of the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP), which sets the advertising standards applied by the ASA.

From next June, adverts featuring a depiction of gender roles that could cause offence or harm will be axed, it said.

 

 

The ban will apply to broadcast and non-broadcast media, including TV, radio, newspapers and social media.

It follows a campaign for weight loss products featuring a bikini-clad model with the tag line “Are you beach body ready?” that drew a barrage of complaints.

In November, retailer Marks and Spencer came under fire for a window display juxtaposing men is suits and women in knickers, while two months earlier Sweden’s advertising watchdog said a viral meme showing a man staring at another woman was sexist.

“Harmful gender stereotypes in ads contribute to how people see themselves,” said Ella Smillie, CAP’s gender stereotyping project lead.

“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.”

 

Women’s rights groups welcomed the move, which follows a public consultation by the watchdog

“Our society and our economy pays a heavy price for the constraints we place on boys and girls from our earliest moments of life. It has to change,” said Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society.

Some suggested the new rule went too far.

“What next, the politically correct going for our comedy shows!” tweeted Andrea Jenkyns, a lawmaker with the ruling Conservatives, a right-wing party.

However, Britain’s main industry body supported the ban.

“Our most recent research on public trust has shown the public particularly appreciates advertising when it takes a progressive stance,” said Stephen Woodford, head of the Advertising Association.

 

(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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