CAP announces ban on ads that depict harmful gender stereotypes

The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) has announced that ads will no longer be able to depict harmful gender stereotypes. The new rule in the Advertising Codes states:

[Advertisements] must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.

This will apply to broadcast and non-broadcast media from 14 June 2019.

The announcement follows a public consultation, to which the Council responded in August. The consultation highlights themes that were raised in our 2017 report, Cosmetic procedures: ethical issues, particularly around pressure to conform to appearance ideals.

We particularly welcome CAP’s inclusion of the following scenarios that feature pressure to conform to an idealised gender-stereotypical body shape or physical features, which are now likely to be unacceptable in ads:

  1. “An ad that depicts a person who was unhappy with multiple aspects of their  life, then implies that all their problems were solved by changing their body  shape alone to conform to gender-stereotypical norms, without addressing  other aspects of their life. This does not prevent responsible ads for weight  loss products or services.
  2. 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.”

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