The UK’s Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) is proposing a new legislation to ban any ads containing gender stereotypes. This includes the standard advertising trope of men being incompetent at housework.
The new regulations put forth by the ASA are designed to stop ads that portray any activities as specific to a particular gender or that mock anyone for not conforming to a gender stereotype.
According to the report “new standards are not intended to ban all forms of gender stereotypes”. They have also noted that is would be inappropriate and unrealistic to prevent ads from depicting all forms of stereotype such as a woman cleaning or a man doing DIY. Instead, the standard is designed to deal with ads featuring “problematic” stereotyping that “can potentially cause harm.”
The report states that problematic stereotypes include:
- Ads which depict family members making a mess while a woman has sole responsibility for cleaning it up
- Ads that suggest “a specific activity is inappropriate for boys because it’s stereotypically associated with girls, or vice-versa” and
- Ads featuring men “trying and failing” to conduct “simple parental or household tasks.”
It will be interesting to see if this comes into force and if it does, what countries will follow next.
My biggest question will be how they deal with differentiating between offensive stereotyping and obvious humour. The difficult thing about humour is it often parodies the actual stereotype by jokingly conforming to it.
It is a tricky one to navigate and will certainly be difficult for brands that have long leveraged the more humorous elements of the stereotypes. I for one have never been offended by the incompetent male ads (as often there is a ring of truth about them hahahaaa)