UK Creates New Policy to Address Gender Stereotypes in Ads

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) of the UK has released a report and new guidelines to limit gender stereotyping across broadcast media in the UK.

The ASA report cites findings from earlier research that show a deep and long lasting effect of stereotypes on children, and an affect on adults who have internalized the messaging having it reinforced throughout their adulthood. The previous rules covered two main areas.
Ads that:
“Objectify or inappropriately sexualise [SIC] women and girls”
“Suggest it is acceptable for young women to be unhealthily thin”

However the ASA states their own policy that other stereotypes did not cause harm were further evaluated and found to be lacking and that longterm stereotyping messaging has a long lasting and real effect of harm for themes such as mocking those who don’t confirm to gender stereotypes. “Overall, young children appear to be in particular need of protection from harmful stereotypes as they are more likely to internalise [SIC] the messages they see.”

The ASA intends to limit depictions not only of sexualized material and unhealthful levels of weight or thinness, but also stereotypes for jobs and interest specific to women’s/girl’s versus men’s/boys responsibilities, jobs and interests.

The guidelines callout specific instances that may be seen as more subtle but still have an impact on the depiction of gender and capabilities.

Of the examples specified where gender stereotyping was portrayed for very young children, the report notes an ad for baby formula where healthy boys grow up to be engineers, and girls ballerinas. An ad from the Gap was also noted for praising boys for being “little scholars” and girls for being “social butterflies.”

The new ASA guidelines fall under the UK’s Equality Act of 2010 which addresses discrimination based on age, race, religion and gender and other protected classes or characteristics. The guidelines, while they will not incur fees, do regulate UK broadcasting. All broadcasting parties agree to comply by the ASA, through their broadcast licensing,  according to a USA Today article.

See the entire ASA report publication below.
1 Depictions, Perceptions and Harm A report on gender stereotypes in advertising, ASA


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