Advertising companies operating in the United Kingdom (UK) will soon face new regulations on the any material that may be considered “gender stereotyping.”
The Advertising Standards Association (ASA,) a group that serves as an ombudsman for advertising in the United Kingdom’s media industry, released the news in a new report.
Expanding the regulations to cover gender stereotypes is necessary for the mental health of UK citizens, according to the report.
“Evidence demonstrates that reinforcing and perpetuating traditional gender roles can lead to suboptimal outcomes for individuals and groups in terms of their professional attainment and personal development,” the authors wrote.
In their findings, the researchers identified six types of gender stereotypes they felt were becoming too pervasive in the advertising industry, including: roles, characteristics, mocking people for not conforming to stereotypes, sexualization, objectification, and body image.
For example, “an ad which depicts family members creating mess while a woman has sole responsibility for cleaning it up” would be considered gender stereotyping under the new guidelines. The authors did acknowledge however, that it would be “inappropriate and unrealistic” to try and prevent any ad with a women cleaning.
Additionally, any “ad that features a man trying and failing to undertake simple parental or household tasks” would also be considered unacceptable by the ASA under the new guidelines.
According to authors, the ASA made the decision to begin policing gender stereotypes after the organization banned a controversial ad by the nutrition company Protein World in 2015 that depicted a slender woman in bikini with the tagline “Are You Beach Body Ready?” The ad was deemed unacceptable by the ASA for misleading health claims, but was also widely criticized as being sexist and objectifying women.
While most people will likely support addressing issues such as the sexualization and objectification of women in advertising, it is patently bizarre to begin policing ads that may be considered offensive by 0.0004 percent of society because they show a mom cleaning after her kids.
Much of this is subjective and it is unclear who will have the final say in regards to if an ad crosses the gender-stereotyping-line. While the degree to which lawmakers in the UK will enforce such rules is unclear, these new guidelines are a clear attack on the free speech of the British people.