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Sexualised and stereotyped: why Australian advertising is stuck in a sexist past

November 2020

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Read the original article in The Conversation Download: Community responses to gender portrayals in advertising: a research paper

Research published by Women’s Health Victoria and RMIT University shows that the advertising industry’s standards for judging sexism are stuck in the past.

The research team showed ads to ordinary men and women who agreed they traded in outdated and undesirable sexism and gender stereotypes. Yet many of those ads were cleared by industry watchdog Ad Standards as conforming to the industry’s ethical code – the Australian Association of National Advertisers’ (AANA) Code of Ethics.

“In the 1960s advertisers were blissfully unaware of the impacts of casual sexism and stereotypes. We now have ample evidence it’s not just harmless fun. It’s time for the industry to show it’s not living in the past.”

– Dr Lauren Gurrieri, Mandy McKenzie and Megan Bugden, authors of Community responses to gender portrayals in advertising: a research paper

The research highlights that people want more responsible advertising. The AANA has recently updated its Code of Ethics, and has included stronger guidelines around use of gender stereotypes and sexualised imagery. That’s a start. But without any way to enforce compliance with the Code, it’s still up to advertisers to decide whether they want to follow these guidelines. The UK shows us the value of a co-regulatory system that doesn’t leave the industry to set and enforce its own rules.