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Girls & Women

Sexist Adverts Might Soon Be Banned in the UK

Remember when German car manufacturer Audi compared finding a wife to shopping for a car for an advert in China? Or how about the hypermasculinity of every other car advert, just as damaging as any stereotype?

Harmful stereotypes limit people in some way almost every single day. But it becomes unignorable when sexist ads break into our lives through print, billboards, and television screens across the globe.

However, 2018 will soon see another leap forward: The UK might ban all sexist adverts that perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes.

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The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) writes all the rules to keep British advertisers in check, and it’s planning to draw up new regulations to ban sexist ads across television, radio, billboards, posters, and print, according to the Guardian.

For the change to happen, it requires a final public consultation, launched on Thursday, after spending the last 10 months on evaluation. The rules will then be enforced by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA).

Read More: Remember That 'Beach Body Ready' Ad? It Just Relaunched in the Best Way

“Our review of the evidence strongly indicates that particular forms of gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to harm for adults and children by limiting how people see themselves and how others see them and the life decisions they take,” said Ella Smillie, who leads the project at CAP.

The consultation helpfully outlines several examples of ads likely to be deemed problematic in the future. (Sorry not sorry, Saint Laurent — it looks like you’re out of luck.)

  • A man with his feet up with family members creating a mess, while a woman is solely responsible for cleaning up the home.
  • A boy’s stereotypical personality or physique (e.g., daring) contrasted with a girl’s (e.g., caring).
  • Men or women failing to achieve a task specifically because of their gender, like a man’s inability to change nappies, or a woman’s inability to park a car.
  • A man belittled for carrying out stereotypically “female” roles or tasks.

The proposals don’t aim to ban gender stereotypes in adverts completely, but will take a closer look at adverts like the above to "identify specific harms that should be prevented."

A similar ban already exists in London after a controversial weight-loss billboard asking commuters if they were “beach body ready” went viral in 2016. Within a year, London Mayor Sadiq Khan had changed the advertising policy for all London transport services — and Paris soon followed.

Read More: Paris Bans Sexist 'Degrading' Ads in Public Places

“As the father of two teenage girls, I am extremely concerned about this kind of advertising which can demean people, particularly women, and make them ashamed of their bodies. It is high time it came to an end,” Khan said in an interview with the Evening Standard.

“Nobody should feel pressurised, while they travel on the Tube or bus, into unrealistic expectations surrounding their bodies and I want to send a clear message to the advertising industry about this,” he added.  

The new rules on advertising standards come after an ASA report called "Depictions, Perceptions, and Harm" found strong evidence that supported the case for regulation against gender stereotypes. The report concluded that problematic adverts can restrict how men and women view themselves, make choices, and interact with each other.

“[There] is evidence that certain gender stereotypes have the potential to cause harm or serious offence,” said Shahriar Coupal, director of CAP. “That’s why we are proposing a new rule and guidance to restrict particular gender stereotypes in ads where we believe there’s an evidence-based case to do so.”

Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN’s Global Goals to end extreme poverty, which includes action on gender equality. You can join us by taking action on these issues here.