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    Are You Beach Body Ready? Sexist Ad Fuels Witch Hunt on Gender Stereotyping

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    British advertising standards agency ASA has launched an investigation into gender stereotyping of women in adverts, after receiving thousands of complaints over controversial promo campaigns.

    The ASA received more than 37,000 complaints and banned or forced changes to almost 3,500 adverts last year, feminists groups believe more can still be done to address the issues.

    The advertisement watchdog has been forced into action after the controversial 'Are you Beach Body ready' campaign went live last year across the UK.

    The ad featured a black and white, svelte-yet-curvy, fair-haired and fair-skinned woman in a bright yellow bikini. Her hair is long and lush, her lips full, and her waist is tiny. Next to her is the simple question — 'Are you Beach Body ready?'.

    It was eventually banned  and voted the worst advert of 2015 due to the number of concerned members of the public who not only voiced their opinions on bikini clad model, but some even vandalized the posters they saw on public transport.

    Many concerned citizens also discussed their outrage on social media, calling the advert "offensive" and "unnecessary".

    The ASA has recognized that adverts such as this as well as others do have the ability to cause gender stereotyping and as a result are investigating the issue.

    A spokesperson for the ASA said: "The objectification and sexualization of women in ads, presenting an idealized or unrealistic body image, the mocking of women and men in non-stereotypical roles, the reinforcement of stereotyped views of gender roles, and gender-specific marketing to children are all issues that have gained considerable public interest. Anyone who wishes to submit evidence or comments on the issue is invited to email gender@asa.org.uk."

    The ASA is not the only concerned group, feminist organization Beauty vs Women is very involved in campaigning to raise awareness of the harms of adverts such as Protein World "Beach Body Ready" last year. The feminist organization responded directly to the company and submitted a compliant to ASA.

    Samantha Pay is a Domestic Violence & Abuse Counselor and Founder of The Beauty vs Women Project, a project highlighting and campaigning against the discriminatory use of and sexist depictions of female beauty and violence against women. Pay is also the Co-Leader of The Women’s Equality Party VAWG policy group. 

    In an interview with Sputnik news she said: "The evidence is very clear that idealized media images have a negative effect on a significant majority of adolescent girls and women, and this starts from an early age. A recent WHO report stated that suicide is now the biggest killer of teenage girls worldwide and professionals are linking this to 'beauty and sexual pressure young girls are struggling to cope with'. Further to this the Home Office Review stated 'Adolescent girls exposed to adverts featuring idealized women have significantly higher state depression and low self-esteem." 

    Beauty vs Women have welcomed the ASA inquiry into the prevalence of negative gender stereotyping in ads and will be contributing to their work to find out more about these issues. However, they do believe that more can be done.

    "We can begin to pay attention to the cultural landscape around us that presents us with sexism and media that is degrading to women and girls. We can encourage young people to feel heard about their experiences of sexism and get involved with local initiatives, especially within schools to raise awareness about sexist stereotyping and its links with harmful and abusive relationships," Pay said.

    "We can ask local shops to rethink their adverts and presentations that denote sexist presentations of women and girls, such as gendered pink and blue aisles and items marked for 'girls' and for 'boys'."

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