Can Changing the Media Change the World?


Aug 30

Can Changing the Media Change the World_

A new media ban on gender stereotypes promises changes—but will progress really be made? 

In December 2018, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) banned the portrayal of harmful gender stereotypes in advertisements, giving advertisers six months to adjust to the new regulations.

That means that the ban went into effect in June of this year—have you noticed a change?

About the ban

The ban comes on the heels of the Advertising Standard Agency’s (ASA) review of gender stereotyping in ads, which “found evidence suggesting that harmful stereotypes can restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults and these stereotypes can be reinforced by some advertising, which plays a part in unequal gender outcomes.”

Similar bans already exist in countries like France, Belgium, Norway and Greece, and while the ban doesn’t cover gender stereotypes altogether, advertisers must be careful not to perpetuate any harmful ideals. lists some of the problematic scenarios as: 

  • 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. 
  • Where an ad features a person with a physique that does not match an ideal stereotypically associated with their gender, the ad should not imply that their physique is a significant reason for them not being successful, for example in their romantic or social lives.
  • 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 aimed at new mums which suggests that looking attractive or keeping a home pristine is a priority over other factors such as their emotional wellbeing.
  • An ad that belittles a man for carrying out stereotypically ‘female’ roles or tasks.


Will it make a difference?

It’s a big question. There’s no doubt that what we see every day influences our thoughts. Unrealistic beauty standards, overblown expectations of success, a preoccupation with how others see us—these are all heavily influenced by the media.

What we don’t know is if bans like this will be enough to make a change. 

One thing is clear: the ASA isn’t messing around. They’ve already banned two ads for violating the guidelines—and more are bound to follow.

Banned Ad

Still from banned ad for Philadelphia cream cheese.

Noam Chomsky said, “He who controls the media controls the minds of the public.”

Let’s hope this ban is a positive step towards representing healthier and less damaging ideals.

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