July 18, 2017 9:02 pm

U.K. watchdog says ads with gender stereotypes bad for the nation’s health

Britain's advertising watchdog has announced a landmark ban on ads that contain sexist stereotypes, such as commercials that depict women as responsible for cleaning. Critics say the measure represents political-correctness out of control. Jeff Semple reports from London.

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LONDON – Britain’s advertising watchdog says commercials depicting hapless husbands and housework-burdened moms may be bad for the nation’s health.

The Advertising Standards Authority said Tuesday it would impose tighter regulation on what it called harmful gender stereotyping.

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The regulator said a “tougher line” is needed on ads that feature stereotypical gender roles, including those which mock people for not conforming. Such ads restrict “the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults,” it said.

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The watchdog, which has previously banned ads for suggesting it was desirable for young women to be unhealthily thin, said it won’t ban all stereotypes, such as women cleaning or men doing home improvement jobs.

But ads that depict a woman having sole responsibility for cleaning up the family’s mess, or showing “a man trying and failing to undertake simple parental or household tasks,” could be banned.

So could commercials suggesting a specific activity is inappropriate for boys because it is stereotypically associated with girls, or vice versa.

The report cited several ads viewers had complained about, including one for baby formula Aptamil in which a girl was shown growing up to be a ballerina and boys to be engineers and rock climbers.

The standards authority does not have the power to impose fines, but British broadcasters are bound by the terms of their licenses to comply with its rulings.

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Ella Smillie, lead author of a report for the watchdog, said gender stereotypes in advertising “can limit how people see themselves, how others see them, and limit the life decisions they take.”

Last month a group of firms including household-products giant Unilever launched the Unstereotype Alliance, a United Nations-backed campaign to banish gender stereotypes in advertising.

© 2017 The Canadian Press

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