Gender Stereotypes In The Media 


I’m Inika and I am a 17 year-old student living in London. I am studying mathematics, biology and economics at A level and am interested in studying economics at university. I read about the ASA’s (Advertsing Standards Authority) recent report on gender stereotypes in advertising and the media and, as a passionate feminist, was immediately drawn in. After reading the report I have formed some of my own opinions on the issues raised and discuss them in this post. 

Gender stereotyping has always existed but has seemingly become an increasingly important issue in today’s society. It is causing greater outrage and receiving more attention than ever before. This has been recognised by the ASA and they have investigated the problem and its effects on our society. Here’s a summary of the investigation and, of course, what I think on the matter… 

For years, little girls have been expected to play with pink toys and princesses whilst boys played with cars and lego (normal lego, because of course there is special and simpler pink lego just for girls). Recently, this has caused some controversy. Consumers have begun to question why exactly the products that they buy had to be determined by their gender. 

It has now started to become less shocking to see young boys wearing princess dresses and attending ballet classes and girls playing football. The advertising industry is now expected to shift accordingly. 

The ASA recently released reports with details of their investigation into gender stereotyping in advertising and the media. This report was triggered after protest, including a petition of 70,000 signatures, against Protein World’s campaign. The campaign depicted a bikini-clad woman next to the slogan “Are you beach body ready?”. The ad was accused of sexualising women and suggesting that if a woman did not look like the model in the ad then perhaps she was not “beach body ready” and had to lose weight. For this reason, it was also labelled by many as body-shaming. 

But where do we stop? Can an advert aimed at girls contain pink without being slammed? Can a man no longer hold a hammer on a billboard without huge public outcry? No, this is not the case according to the ASA’s suggestions. Women can still be shown to be cleaning, but an advert that “depicts family members creating a mess while a woman has sole responsibility for cleaning it up” would be banned. So, some rules have been made and they seem pretty fair, to me at least. 

Some critics of the report and the idea that gender stereotyping should be monitored in adverts believe that people are all making a big to-do about nothing. Many say that it is political correctness gone too far. I do agree to this to some extent… it does seem particularly difficult not to offend anyone in 2017. 

Others may question the real impact of advertising on gender equality. Can showing a man doing a DIY task and a woman cooking really affect society all that much? Guy Parker, Chief Executive of the ASA, stated: “Portrayals which reinforce outdated and stereotypical views on gender roles in society can play their part in driving unfair outcomes for people. While advertising is only one of many factors that contribute to unequal gender outcomes, tougher advertising standards can play an important role in tackling inequalities and improving outcomes for individuals, the economy and society as a whole.” 

Many people are fed up with the feminism ‘hype’ and so called ‘feminazis’. These are feminists who have a strong devotion to their beliefs, and in my view, there is nothing wrong with that. However, it is causing more and more people to shy away from calling themselves feminists. This does not mean that fewer people actually want gender equality (i.e. feminism-a confused definition). It does mean, however, that they are less likely to be vocal about it. This could be a reason why some companies avoid being too politically correct for fear of associating themselves with ‘feminazis’ and thus driving away certain consumers. 

I believe that advertising can have a huge social impact and that these new standards are vital. What we believe as individuals is so strongly influenced by our environment. Belief is not genetic. If a girl constantly sees advertisements showing a man coming home from a hard day at work to a hot meal cooked by his dutiful wife then they may begin to think that is the norm. They could adjust their aspirations accordingly, affecting both them as individuals and possibly the economy. This idea can be related to many other, different, circumstances. Although extreme political correctness can irritate me slightly (especially when something was not said with the intention to offend or insult) I do hope that advertising changes and that stereotypes alter and disappear with it. Fingers crossed!