Advertising Standards Authority of UK has put a ban on ads featuring “harmful gender stereotypes” or those, which are likely, to cause “serious or widespread offence” has come into force, reports BBC. This ban covers ban covers stereotypical scenarios such as a man with his feet up while a woman cleans, or a woman failing to park a car. ASA chief executive Guy Parker has revealed that the ban is in fact backed by evidence, saying, “Our evidence shows how harmful gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to inequality in society, with costs for all of us. Put simply, we found that some portrayals in ads can, over time, play a part in limiting people’s potential.”


  • Ads featuring harmful gender stereotypes have been banned in UK.
  • The decision comes backed by the evidence that stereotypes in ads can contribute to inequality in society.
  • Advertisement shapes our understanding of the world that we live in to a great extent.
  • But is implementing a broad ban enough?

While the ads may intend to sell us products, solely, they use our beliefs and sensibilities to connect with us.

Advertising plays a key role in shaping of identities, values and an individual’s understanding of the world around them. And how could it not, since it is everywhere one can see. From print to digital, from billboards to jingles on radio, there is no escaping them. While the ads may intend to sell us products, solely, they use our beliefs and sensibilities to connect with us. Which is where stereotypingcomes in. It is not as if a woman doing household chores, or men struggling with them is something creative heads manufactured and then sold to us. No, most of this stereotyping finds its roots in observation of the society. It goes on to subtly or loudly manipulate the sensibilities of the target audience to make a consumer out of them. In that process, the advertisers end up reinforcing gender-related stereotypes, and this could indeed have harmful consequences.

We live in times when patriarchal norms regarding each gender have finally been exposed as an impediment to equality. It was about time we reflected on what we created and consumed, and how it peddled the said beliefs. Do we want our impressionable children to learn that women are bad drivers and dads are poor at childcare? That men can’t even do something as basic as washing clothes on their own, or that women are too naive to handle their own money?

These stereotypes only get worse close home, as we live in a society where gender roles and behaviour is clearly defined.

Some may argue that this ban curtails freedom of expression. But advertising is about creativity and using stereotypes to sell a product is plain lazy. It is especially harmful to social minorities that are still struggling for acceptance, the LGBTcommunity for instance. When a happy home is repeatedly shown as the one with a mommy and daddy, children with homosexual parents may think that something is wrong with their family. Or when a brand sells clothes for boys and girls, it may make a child who doesn’t identify, as either feels left out. Hence putting a broad ban isn’t enough, as the directives laid out need to be inclusive as well.

These stereotypesonly get worse close home, as we live in a society where gender roles and behaviour is clearly defined. However, in a country like India, that prides itself in diversity, but also rejects inclusion, would it just be enough to ban such ads? When the problem clearly lies with the mind-set, how effective can these bans be, and this goes for the western countries too?

While the move is welcome it would be more effective if advertisers are sensitised and motivated to be inclusive and socially responsible. The problem is much more complex than man putting his feet up on a table while a woman cleans. It is about a behaviour that is intertwined with the culture. So in the longer run, it is us the audience who should disconnect from our stereotypical values. Once we no longer tread that path, the advertisers will follow too.

Also Read: #MeToo Movement: It Is Raining Clean Chits In Bollywood

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