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Sometimes it’s easy to ignore things we wish were different in society by telling ourselves, Well, that’s just the way things are.
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We often don’t question why things are a certain way or realize that we are capable of changing them, but just because things are done one way, or have been done that way for a long time, does not mean that they will always have to be done that way or that it’s the correct way, for that matter. Change is possible; we just have to believe that it is, and do what we can to bring about that change. One great example of this is Britain’s recent ban on gender stereotypic advertisements.
Whenever I’ve seen such advertisements in the past, I have often thought to myself, Of course it’s a woman doing the laundry or Yep, there is a man getting his pilot’s license, or something to that degree. But society created these gender roles; they are not inherent to men and women, and it’s about time we started to see that. Fortunately, times are changing, with or without us, and Britain has recently decided to completely ban ALL advertisements that have people assuming gender stereotypes.
Examples include ads that depict little girls dreaming of becoming ballerinas while little boys work toward becoming scientists or engineers; ads where the family has made a mess and the men in the family have no idea how to clean it up and leave it to the mother; and ads that suggest a woman must be beautiful and thin in order to deserve respect or achieve success.
The nice thing about this, we aren’t trying to make a change by singling out one gender and putting down another, instead we’re making a shift at the core.
This is huge. Some might argue that these are just advertisements, that they are not meant to be taken seriously. But, while some adults (not all) have the capacity to see through this programming, children do not. These ads leave an imprint on the subconscious mind of children who see them and this could in fact program them to believe that they have to adopt these stereotypes in order to be successful in life.
As the report states:
- For the purpose of this report, gender stereotypes are said to relate to body image, objectification, sexualization, gender characteristics and roles, and mocking people for not conforming to gender stereotypes.
- Gender stereotypes have the potential to cause harm by inviting assumptions about adults and children that might negatively restrict how they see themselves and how others see them. These assumptions can lead to unequal gender outcomes in public and private aspects of people‘s lives; outcomes, which are increasingly acknowledged to be detrimental to individuals, the economy and society in general.
- To this end, ads that feature gender stereotypes have the potential to cause harm by contributing to unequal gender outcomes, although advertising is understood to be only one of many different factors that contribute, to a greater or lesser extent, to unequal gender outcomes.”
Lead author of the report Ella Smillie said, “Our review shows that specific forms of gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to harm for adults and children such portrayals can limit how people see themselves, how others see them, and limit the life decisions they take.”
Of course, advertising is not the only thing contributing to this issue.
“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,” said Guy Parker, chief executive of the Advertising Standards Authority.
It’s beautiful to see the level of social impact that can occur from awareness and persistence. Hopefully this will serve as an example to the rest of the world, but particularly where this type of thinking may be the most prevalent, the United States.
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