Advertising in the United Kingdom (UK) will be changing over the next few months as stricter advertising regulations to prohibit and ban gender stereotyping are put into place. Soon, commercials that show women in a role of cooking and cleaning for the family, and husbands who can’t figure out how to work a vacuum, will no longer be allowed to air.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the UK’s independent advertising regulator, and together with the Committees of Advertising Practices, the two plan to reshape advertising, bringing it up to date and modern. Or so they claim. In 2012, the ASA “conducted research into harm and offence in ads, which identified gender stereotyping as an issue of concern for some participants.” The results of that project revealed six categories the advertising regulator said is gender stereotyping:
- Roles: Occupations or positions usually associated with a specific gender
- Characteristics: Attributes or behaviors associated with a specific gender
- Mocking: Making fun of someone for not conforming to a stereotype or behaving in a non-stereotypical way
- Sexualization: Portraying individuals in a highly sexualized manner
- Objectification: Depicting someone in a way that focuses on their body or body parts
- Body image: Depicting an unhealthy body image such as a thin model in a bikini
ASA claims numerous complaints on various adverts led to the study and consideration of new, tougher regulations. One example they used was a 2015 poster by Protein World which received 380 complaints from the public. The poster portrayed a thin, young woman wearing a string bikini with the tagline: “Are you beach body ready?” In the background, the company’s signature weight-loss supplements. ASA said in its report that this type of imagery is unhealthy for young, impressionable girls who often think they must look like the model to fit properly into society.
GAP is another example of what ASA regards as gender stereotyping. In one of the clothing store’s ads, a young girl was featured as a social butterfly and a young boy as an academic. “Gender stereotypes have the potential to cause harm by inviting assumptions about adults and children that might negatively restrict how they see themselves and how others see them,” the report states.
While it is true children are impressionable, I do not know very many – actually, I don’t know any – little girls who expected to grow up to look and be like Barbie. Who would want those plastic legs and arms that could break off unexpectedly anyway? And who would want to date Ken, whose hair was made of hard plastic? Yes, those ads can be offensive to some, but to others, they are an inspiration, a nudge to look and feel better by getting into shape and losing weight.
ASA will also be restricting advertisements that show males and females in what was once considered traditional roles. It stated in the report that adverts with women just cleaning house would not be subject to rejection; however, if it implied that their sole role and duty in life was to clean up after the family, it would be banned. The advertisement regulator will be keeping an eye out for any commercials that “suggests an activity is inappropriate for a girl because it is stereotypically associated with boys or vice versa,” and any ad “that features a man trying and failing to undertake simple parental or household tasks.” What comes to mind immediately here is accident-prone Tim Allen as Tim “The Toolman” Taylor and his hilarious attempts to fix things with “more power,” and never quite getting it right. Apparently, this 1990’s hit comedy is gender stereotyping according to ASA’s study. Imagine life if we had never known Tim or his sidekick Al?
ASA will likely not be the only advertising watchdog to start cracking down on even the most seemingly innocuous commercials. Expect to see much more similar actions coming to a television from this side of the pond. In fact, it’s already happening in our television shows, comics, and movies. In 2014, Marvel Comics transformed Thor’s character into a woman, stripping him of his power and giving it to his secret identity host, Jane Foster. Jane’s character is not called a female version of Thor, but is regarded as the Thor.
More recently, many Dr. Who fans cried out in surprise and even outrage after it was announced Monday that the fourteenth Dr. Who character will be played by a woman – British actress Jodie Whittaker. Dr. Who is a Time Lord who regenerates into a new body whenever he dies, allowing for multiple actors to step in and take over in the science fiction series. Males played the past thirteen Dr. Whos. Some fans took to their Twitter accounts applauding the network for the change while others said they would stop watching the program altogether. And because there’s no way to please everyone, there were still others tweeting out their outrage that the newest Dr. Who wasn’t a woman of color.
It is important to respect other people, their beliefs, and preferences, but when is enough, enough? It is getting to the point that any utterance can and will be misconstrued as either an insult, a racial slur, a bigoted response or some other microaggression. People are taking out their high-powered microscopes to study every word, deed, and action just to find something that can be considered foul to another. No matter how far they need to dig or how long it takes them, those determined to find a wrong will do so. And some leftist will yank the torch out of their hands and run with it, crying racist and bigot all the way.
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