Gender Stereotyping

Two advertisements have been censored by the Advertising Standards Authority. One advertisement showed two men not caring well for a young child. the other advertisement shows men doing adventurous activities while a woman sat on a park bench next to a pram.

The reason for banning these advertisements was that the ASA say that this kind of stereotyping causes “real world harms”.

It is hard for me to see what “real world harms” will arise if some advertisers indulge in humorous stereotyping. It is harder still for me to understand what qualifications the ASA has in being able to assess whether an advertisement can create real world harms.

For example, there are numerous television and newspaper advertisements for gambling companies all permitted by the ASA. Certainly gambling creates more harm than gender stereotyping. Certain types of “fast food” create plenty of real world harm to those who eat the foods and to the environment. Air travel causes almost irreversible real world harms. Fossil fuel based energy probably causes the greatest world harms that we face at the moment probably planet threatening and life threatening as a cause of climate change , but the ASA decides to pick on gender stereotyping, leaving greater real world harms alone.

I do not find the ASA’s behaviour odd. When I was running a solar panel business, years ago, the ASA asked me to prove with documentary evidence that solar panels worked off light, and could produce energy on cloudy days. I suggested they consult an elementary book on physics and educate themselves before wasting people’s time. That suggestion still holds good today.

What I find odd is that the ASA assume gender stereotyping is harmful based on some academic theses, ignoring those theses who claim that it is not harmful. I find it even odder that short humorous television adverts are considered as ascribing to an individual woman or man specific attributes, characteristics, or roles by reason only of her or his membership in the social group of women or men.

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