The hapless dad will be a stereotype of the past — at least it will be in British advertisements. The ASA, or Advertising Standards Authority, recently ruled that ads enforcing gender stereotypes are to be banned in Britain. One of the problematic depictions? Ads that feature men “trying and failing” to conduct “simple parental or household tasks.”
The ASA is meant to “regulate the content of advertisements, sales promotions, and direct marketing in the UK” by investigating “complaints made about ads, sales promotions or direct marketing.” In this case, that refers to decades of stereotype-reinforcement of traditional gender roles in ads.
An ASA study showed that such ads have on the young and old. “Overall, young children appear to be in particular need of protection from harmful stereotypes as they are more likely to internalise the messages they see,” it read. “However, there’s also significant evidence of potential harm for adults in reinforcing already internalised messages about how they should behave and look on account of their gender.”
Categories for identifying stereotypes, as outlined by the study, cover six areas that depict restrictive or inhibiting interpretations of how men and women ought to act and be. The new rules are rooted in existing legislation that prohibits over-sexualization of females and the portrayal of unrealistic body standards, but focus instead on the “roles” and “characteristics” categories of gender stereotypes in ads rather than “sexualization” and “body image.”
“We heard a lot about the cumulative effect of ads that in isolation aren’t necessarily a problem, but build up a strong message over time about how children and adults should look or behave because of their gender,” the study explained.
Research indicates that the repetition of portrayals like men being bad at chores and women constantly cleaning up after their children creates false notions for children and adults about what “normal” gender behavior looks like.
Stateside, ads have a long history of depicting men — especially fathers — failing to complete simple or mundane tasks, such as eating healthy or dressing themselves. Advertisers and companies are certainly disregarding the idea of the bumbling father, instead pivoting to promote a more well-rounded and aspirational image of fathers. Let’s hope the trend continues.