Sexism in adverts

The Advertising Standards Agency recently announced that it would be clamping down on sexist advertising – it says that gender stereotypes in adverts have: “costs for individuals, the economy and society.” It’s great to see that action is finally being taken on this issue – but just why is it so important?

Traditional gender stereotypes see women relegated to homemakers and homemakers alone. A valid lifestyle choice as long as it is one. However, one which many women were forced into without any other options in years gone by.

Now women are free to choose their profession you can no longer make assumptions about what jobs they do. Yet women and young girls are still bombarded with sexist messages from the media every day. With advertising contributing to that.

How often have you seen a man in a washing powder or cleaning product advert? It’s almost exclusively the preserve of female actors, harking back to less feminist times. Meanwhile, beer adverts are dominated by men. Despite the growing trend for female beer drinkers.

SexiOne of the most important groups of people on which advertising has an effect is the young. Stereotypes such as job roles and behaviours can be reinforced by seeing them repeated in multiple adverts on TV, on billboards and in magazines.

It is now several years since advertising junk food to children was banned. However, the harmful effects of sexism can be just as damaging to young children – and not just girls.

While girls might be less likely to aspire to jobs seen as masculine and make assumptions about their own abilities, boys may be expected to meet outdated expectations of gendered behaviour like not talking about problems, which can lead to mental health problems. A recent study found that so-called ‘masculine’ behaviours were associated with higher levels of depression and substance abuse.

The step taken by the Advertising Standards Agency is a huge one in the right direction. Which should see not only less sexist but more creative advertising appearing on our screens and in our magazines.

At Skylark Media Group we make short video content and advertising materials for clients in Bristol and the South West. If you’re looking for creative and forward thinking content, get in touch today to see how we can help.

Jo Aug 1st, 2017

About Jo Haywood

Jo is the Managing Director at Skylark Media. Before starting Skylark in 2005, Jo ran the BBC Lifestyle website and prior to that directed science documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4. To switch off she can be found on the tennis court, at yoga, or planting trees in the forest garden.