Ban on harmful gender stereotypes in advertisements

The Committee of Advertising Practice’s (CAP) new rule banning harmful gender stereotypes in ads has come into force. It to broadcast and non-broadcast media (including online and social media), and states “[Advertisements] must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.”

The new rule does not seek to ban gender stereotypes outright, but to identify specific harms that should be prevented.

The following examples have been provided of scenarios in ads that are likely to be problematic under the new rule:

  • An ad that depicts a man with his feet up and family members creating mess around a home while a woman is solely responsible for cleaning up the mess.
  • An ad that depicts a man or a woman failing to achieve a task specifically because of their gender e.g. a man’s inability to change nappies; a woman’s inability to park a car. 
  • An ad that seeks to emphasise the contrast between a boy’s stereotypical personality (e.g. daring) with a girl’s stereotypical personality (e.g. caring) needs to be handled with care. 
  • An ad that belittles a man for carrying out stereotypically ‘female’ roles or tasks. 

CAP states that the rule (and its supporting guidance) does not stop ads from featuring:

  • A woman doing the shopping or a man doing DIY.
  • Glamorous, attractive, successful, aspirational or healthy people or lifestyles.
  • One gender only, including in ads for products developed for and aimed at one gender.
  • Gender stereotypes as a means to challenge their negative effects.

The Advertising Standards Authority will deal with any complaints it receives on a case-by-case basis and will assess each ad by looking at the content and context to determine if the new rule has been broken.

A reviewed will be carried out in 12 months’ time to make sure it’s fit for purpose.