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Sick of sexist ads? Here’s how to make a complaint

November 2020

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Download: Reporting sexist advertising: a toolkit for consumers Download: Community responses to gender portrayals in advertising: a research paper

Men are strong and capable, they’re the authorities and experts, while women are domestic goddesses or sex objects.

Many consumers are tired of seeing these kinds of gender stereotypes in advertising but feel powerless to change them.

A toolkit developed by Women’s Health Victoria (WHV) and the City of Melbourne empowers consumers to take action. The Reporting Sexist Advertising toolkit informs consumers about how ads are regulated in Australia, the rules advertisers are supposed to follow, and how to make a complaint.

The resource was developed in response to research that showed that many community members are concerned about the impacts of stereotyped and sexualised advertising.

The 2019 study by Women’s Health Victoria and RMIT University found that while community members are worried about gender portrayals in advertising, they are so common that they have become desensitised to them. Most were unaware of where to take their complaints.

“We can all play a role in change. By supporting consumers to speak up, we can improve the way women and girls are portrayed in advertising and promote their health and wellbeing.”

– Dianne Hill, Women’s Health Victoria CEO

The toolkit covers:

  • How advertising currently portrays men and women
  • How consumers are affected by gender portrayals in advertisements
  • How advertising is regulated
  • What’s not acceptable in advertising
  • How to report sexist advertising
  • What else consumers can do if they want to take action against sexist ads