The UN Women’s Unstereotype Alliance recently called for removing stereotyping in advertisements. They released a short video which centres around the premise that “the problem is not seeing the problem”.

Stereotyping plagues our perception of ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and primarily gender. Media plays a crucial role here, by not just mirroring the stereotypes we adhere to socially, but also by further consolidating our belief in the accuracy of this stereotyping. Which is why if we want to end stereotyping in our homes and society, then we must first, remove stereotyping from advertising and the media.

Stereotyping holds back women

According to Women You Should Know the two-minute film intends to send “a clear message about the perils of stereotyping.”

Gender stereotyping sets specific definitions about feminine and masculine traits. It also assigns specific social and familial duties based on gender. It proclaims that men be strong, aggressive, dominating while women be sentimental, demure and submissive. These are the criterion which stereotyping uses to segregate us by gender. It also creates conflicts within individuals and families, by forcing everyone to concentrate more on social acceptance than personal happiness.

GROUND REALITIES

  • Advertisements not only reflect our sensibilities, they further reaffirm them in our minds.
  • Gender stereotyping forces men and women to choose social acceptance over personal happiness.
  • Advertisers can help in cutting down on this daily dose of stereotyping by adopting more progressive scripts.

It gives rise to insecurity among men, when their wives earn more or are more outspoken. It creates differences in a family when one member refuses to be bound by these dictates, hence bringing “shame” to others. But above everything else, stereotypes prevent us from appreciating personal capabilities due to regressive notions. It makes us question those who challenge these norms and shun them. People refuse to appreciate a talented female entrepreneur because she should rather be at home tending to her family. They refuse to acknowledge makeup skills of man because that is not the “manly” behaviour.

Advertisements end up endorsing our biased views both willingly and unwillingly.

Partly because those who conceive such ads are from among us. They are brought up on similar sensibilities and hence have the same social education of gender. But it is also determined by what sells. To show that women get drawn to men who spray some overpriced deodorant, sells. Or that boys are only drawn to fair demure women. Ad makers know their target audiences very well. And they are here to make ads to garner our attention.

Thus wheat flour ads show “homely” women cooking in kitchen and car ads show smart men basking in the comfort of their new ride.

While many brands are now making efforts to counter this stereotyping, we still have a long way to go. We need advertisers to gradually phase out stereotypical content so that its influence on our collective social psyche gets diluted. However, their efforts will be futile if we fail to notice the problem in first place.

The UN Women is trying to do this very thing with Unstereotype Alliance. It is asking all of us to see through the stereotypical ads and question their sensibilities. It is asking us to be less judgmental and conservative. Hopefully, both the makers and consumers of these ads will embrace the Unstereotype moment and help create a more inclusive and accepting world.

Also Read : Are we stereotyping gender roles with toys?

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own

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