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    UK Watchdog to Outlaw 'Harmful Gender Stereotypes' in Advertisements

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    The move will likely be a divisive one in British society, with some arguing that it is long overdue, while others will say that it is indicative of an increasingly paternalistic and invasive apparatus interested in restricting freedom of speech for the sake of advancing the cause of political correctness.

    The UK's advertising watchdog has announced that it will officially ban what it describes as advertisements that promote "gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence."

    To justify the move, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has elaborated that stereotypes in ads risk contributing to "how people see themselves and their role in society," and as a consequence can prevent people from social advancement.

    Despite the inherent subjectivity in what some people may find "offensive" the ban will cover all television and public advertisements that depict things such as men struggling with household chores like cleaning or changing a baby's nappy, or females performing less academically than males, according to the regulator. In other words, it will apply to ads where a person is depicted as struggling to fulfil a task because of their gender. 

    The move, which some will undoubtedly see as inseparable from the wider encroachment of ‘political correctness,' comes on the heels of a year-long inquiry by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) into what it ambiguously deems "potentially harmful" adverts that reinforce gendered roles, which may in turn restrict people's choices and opportunities in life. According to the Telegraph, other examples of this new media taboo will include advertisements that appear to place expectations upon the ideal male physique. 

    The ASA vaguely defines gender stereotypes as relating "to body image, objectifaction, sexualisation, gender characteristics and roles, and mocking people for not conforming to gender stereotypes." In their July 2017 report, the ASA used 157 people from across the UK for a range of interviews on the issue. But by their own admission, another report "did not able researchers to identify causality," however they say that it found a correlation between "high media exposure" and an "acceptance to the traditional belief that woman are sexual objects whilst men are sexually driven."

    Ella Smillie, who is the ‘gender stereotyping project lead' at CAP has been widely quoted as saying that the organisation's "review of the evidence strongly indicates that particular forms of gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to harm for adults and children by limiting how people see themselves and how others see them and the life decisions they take."

    CAP has however said that evidence from the aforementioned reviews did not show that gender stereotyping in ads is always an issue, or that the use of, to use that phrase again, "potentially harmful" stereotypes in advertising is a widespread phenomenon.

    Shahriar Coupal, the direct at CAP, has been cited as saying that: "Harmful gender stereotypes have no place in UK advertisements. Nearly all advertisers know this, but for those that don't, our new rule calls time on stereotypes that hold back people and society."

    The new rule will come into place on June 19 2019 and shall reportedly be subject to a 12-month review thereafter.     

    gender, gender discrimination, United Kingdom, London
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