UK Advertising Regulators Ban Gender Stereotypes in Commercials

"Completely loopy.”

The Advertising Standards Authority, a United Kingdom regulatory agency, announced a ban on gender stereotypes in commercials starting in 2018. That means showing women cleaning the house is out of the question.

The ASA says some stereotypes “can restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults.” It wants to draw a “tougher line” on ads that depict “stereotypical gender roles or characteristics which can potentially cause harm, including ads which mock people for not conforming to gender stereotypes.”

Ads that depict boys as the heroes and girls as princesses could be on the chopping block, as well as those that objectify women in swimsuits, or which show women being solely responsible for household chores and men fumbling to do simple parenting tasks.

“Portrayals which reinforce outdated and stereotypical views on gender roles in society can play their part in driving unfair outcomes for people,” ASA chief executive Guy Parker said. “While advertising is only one of many factors that contribute to unequal gender outcomes, tougher advertising standards can play an important role in tackling inequalities and improving outcomes for individuals, the economy and society as a whole.”

The ASA also believes traditional gender roles “limit how people see themselves, how others see them,” and ultimately “the life decisions they take.”

Daily Express columnist Ann Widdecombe, who was a former shadow home secretary, criticized the ASA's ban, saying, “Well, it’s stupid isn’t it? Frankly, it’s absolutely loopy. But more than that, it is actually sinister. Trying to control people’s thoughts like that is sinister. They should have better things to prioritise on, but seemingly they don’t. Completely loopy.”

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