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Breaking News: Sexist Ads Are Harmful

In a world of pay gaps and gender violence, one industry is taking action against something that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. Though this type of information is usually only known by rocket scientists (apparently), advertising companies have recently become aware that sexist advertising is indeed harmful, and have decided to do something about it.

A series on sexist advertisements in Britain that depicts strict roles for males and females has caused the advertising regulator to consider new rules that could prevent ads from including gender stereotypes.

According to The New York Times, “Britain’s advertising regulator…announced Tuesday that new rules would be developed to ban advertising that promotes gender stereotypes or denigrates people who do not conform to them; sexually objectifies women; or promotes unhealthy body images.”

The regulator found that the rules in place prior to July 18 did not address the “harm or offense” that gender stereotypes could cause for people viewing the advertisements. The findings in a report released on gender stereotypes in advertising stated, “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. These assumptions can lead to unequal gender outcomes in public and private aspects of people‘s lives….”

According to The New York Times, advertisements depicting girls growing up to be ballerinas and boys growing up to be mathematicians may cause girls to believe that they can never grow up to work in STEM fields and boys to think they are not cut out for the creative world.

Young children are not the only ones being affected, though. “Another ad … showed a bikini-wearing woman whose bronzed image, critics said, promoted an unrealistic standard of beauty. A third ad…showed the American actress Kate Upton scantily dressed on a horse, making it seem as though sexual desirability were a prerequisite for leadership.”

These types of advertisements could acknowledge the incorrect assumptions about what roles each gender can and cannot play in society.

Britain is finally putting a stop to that. “The Committee of Advertising Practice, which sets British advertising standards, in consultation with the industry, will develop new standards, starting later this year. The Advertising Standards Authority, an independent body, will then enforce those rules.”

Although specific rules have yet to be discussed, the chief executive of the Advertising Standards Authority, Guy Parker, offered some examples. For instance, the new enforcements would not allow advertisements to depict a woman as the sole backbone of a family while her husband just sits around.

Though this concept of sexist advertising being harmful may come as a…shock to most, it is important to tackle this issue before it gets even more out of hand. Thankfully, Britain’s advertising regulator is working to ensure that young children and even grown people do not limit themselves to what advertisements tell them they can be. It’s about time.

Featured Image of Thijs Paanakker on  Flickr
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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