The UK’s advertising standards agency is planning on cracking down on ads that are deemed to objectify, sexualise, body shame, mock or perpetuate sexist stereotypes.
These are all just proposals, outlined in a report aimed at addressing the portrayal of women, in particular, in advertising
This is an interesting one, I reckon, because we’ve long blamed the problems we have with body image and the objectification of women on the power of the media.
It actually follows an earlier crackdown on airbrushing which has seen major beauty ads banned – and I reckon hooray for that. What use is an ad that doesn’t show the actual effect of a product but rather the skills of a guy who happens to be very good with a mouse but who won't actually make you look any better before you leave the house.
Anyway, the group that wrote this report found that specific forms of gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to harm for both adults and children.
They say ads will still be able to feature a woman doing the cleaning and a man doing DIY, but might ban say the family creating a mess and the woman cleaning it up alone, or a man trying and failing to execute simple household tasks.
While it’s tempting to shout ‘that’s PC gone mad’, you have to admit, always showing the woman as the cleaner or the sex object eating a big greasy burger that in reality would never pass her lips because she must also be size 6, 6 ft tall with double Ds, repeated often enough creates the impression that’s all she’s good for. Always showing the man as a monosyllabic beer drinking oaf doesn’t exactly reflect the modern man, either. Then there’s the likes of the Gap ads entitled ‘your future starts here’ that had the boy labelled the ‘little scholar’ and the girl as ‘the social butterfly’ which, like we talked about earlier with jobs, creates a gendered expectation.
In principle – I’d love to see the end of that tripe.
But in reality, I’m just not sure some onerous nitpicking watchdog is going to be capable of keeping a lid on such things in the current media environment.
Because advertising is now all pervasive. Every Facebooker and Instagrammer is plugging facials or furniture or free stuff, and many of them have more followers than TV shows have viewers, some of them more followers than New Zealand has citizens. You can hardly regulate whether or not they Photoshop or filter or whatever. You can’t stop the ‘influencers’ from bodyshaming mums who don’t lose the baby weight in a heartbeat, or who objectify women, or themselves. The messages are more subliminal than ever.
The best bet to stop this kind of advertising would be if we could resist being sucked in to buying the stuff. Then perhaps the creatives would get a bit more creative than resorting to the tired old stereotypes, and credit us all with actually having a brain.