old advertisement with woman
© Pixabay / ArtsyBee
The UK has officially banned "harmful gender stereotypes" in advertising over concerns it could contribute to societal inequality. But is this political correctness run amok, or long-overdue reform?

The UK Advertising Standards Authority has banned "harmful gender stereotypes" likely to cause "serious or widespread offense" from all ads in a ruling that takes effect Friday. The rule springs from a 2017 review that found absorbing gender stereotypes through advertising could limit people's potential and play a part in "unequal gender outcomes."

Comment: These terms are so vague as to be essentially meaningless, in particular with regards to the law, where things need to be clearly and precisely defined so people can understand them and, thus, both obey and enforce the law. What is a 'harmful gender stereotype', exactly? Is there a way to measure how 'serious' or 'widespread' the offense would have to be for the advertisement to be against the law?

Complaints will be dealt with on a case-by case basis, examining the "content and context" to assess whether the rule had been broken, as using non-offensive gender stereotypes - such as women shopping, or men doing work around the house - is still OK under the new rules, as is using stereotypes to subvert expectations.

Comment: Who's going to be examining these ads, exactly, and how are they going to determine if the 'rule' has been broken? Will it be a jury, or an un-elected committee? If it's a committee, who will be on it, what will their biases and agendas be, and who will be selecting the members of the committee?

Scenarios like a man failing at changing diapers or a woman unable to park a car, however, would run afoul of the new rules. The advertising authority also called out stereotypes in children's behavior, warning that ads depicting girls as "caring" and boys as "daring" would come under scrutiny. Violators will be referred to Ofcom or the Trading Standards board for sanctions if the ASA is unable to reach an agreement with the offending company, and their ads may be withheld from broadcast.

"This is just the advertising industry bowing down to radical feminism," Justice for Men and Boys leader Mike Buchanan told RT, pointing out that while "only 9 percent of British women self-identify as feminists," their influence is wildly disproportionate.
'This is all about trying to make women more like men, and that requires men to become more like women.'

Comment: Which ultimately results in dissatisfaction, confusion, and dysfunction for both men and women.

The new regulations actually have "nothing to do with feminism," argued feminist campaigner Linda Bellos. "It's got to do with the law," which "has said since the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act that women should be treated no less favorably than men."
'We don't want to see stereotyped versions and visions of us cleaning up after chaps.'
But women don't "want to become more like men," Buchanan insisted. "They cherish things like family life, and there's a big difference in the work ethics of men and women and that isn't changing."

"I can't see what a uterus has got to do with picking up your own clothes, putting in the washing machine, washing the dishes, cooking food for yourself," Bellos retorted. "I want my son and grandson to be able to clean up after themselves, not just to think that it's a women's job. You might think it's radical, but this is the 21st century."

Comment: Apparently Bellos has decided that boys and men being able to clean up after themselves is a problem that's reached such an epidemic level that it's sufficient to warrant legislation. Does she have any data whatsoever to back up such a claim? And does such a problem, if it even exists, warrant the kind of overarching, draconian power that this law provides?