Mad Men, Sorry, People.
The UK’s advertising watchdog has introduced a ban on advertisements that portray ‘harmful gender stereotypes’, triggering the age old discussion of what came first, the gender or the stereotype?
The reason for this Orwellian decision is not that this will solve all issues of sexism and wage gaps, but that these stereotypes are causing “serious or widespread offence” and they “limit people’s potential”. So, if up until now your only source of inspiration have been TV adverts, your life is about to be a whole lot more balanced.
The ban doesn’t mean women wearing lipstick on TV is illegal or that a man needs to feature in every tampon commercial, but stereotypes limiting each gender will no longer be tolerated. Think a man being unable to change a diaper, a damsel in distress at the side of the road waiting for a man to come rescue her, or this:
By doing so, the ad-watch people will now be legislating what society should look like. From now on, a man’s place is in the kitchen and he shouldn’t worry his pretty little head about any of that politics stuff going on. As for women, don’t even think about expressing a meaningful emotion, and doing any housework at all makes you a total wuss. There, much better.
As for “limiting people’s potential” because ads restrict choices and aspirations. That’s why you’ll never see someone who doesn’t look like George Clooney buy a Nespresso machine, a fat man hoist himself into a Cristiano Ronaldo t-shirt or drunk women falling over in front of McDonalds at 3AM. Thought so. Plenty of men are completely useless around the house, and end up paying a $100/hour plumber to switch off a tap. And no, not all women go roller blading with a poodle when they’re on their period. Besides, if you want to make a product for raging sexists, why shouldn’t you be able to?
Having said that, there is some method to the madness. Picture your average 1960s vacuum cleaner advertisement – a man waiting impatiently for a cold beer to be brought to him after a long day at work, the wife slaving away with the Hoover. But now, the quieter more powerful Hoover saves the day, by getting the beer in the working man’s hand quicker so he can sit back and watch his politics. Laughable, old fashioned and sexist? Yes. But before pulling out the “political correctness gone mad + snowflakes” box of tricks, think about this: what if this was about ads showing black men exclusively shining shoes and waiting tables? That would probably be a bit too 1920s for everyone.
But, the chances of this bringing about Martin Luther King-esque changes to society’s gender issues are slim. People who really think ‘women in kitchens’ is the way forward will continue to feel that way and those who don’t will likely not buy the goods. As for the children, they are much more likely to be held back by mummy, daddy and their local religious institution when it comes to views on gender than by a Pepsi ad featuring 20 women in a bikini.