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Spotting a sexist ad

March 2021

Advertising won’t change unless we call it out.

We’re so used to seeing sexist ads that sometimes we don’t even notice them. It’s time to take note of how pervasive sexist advertising is. That’s why we’ve started the #snap sexism challenge.

To encourage us to be aware of sexist ads, we’re asking you to take a screenshot or picture of a sexist ad and call it out online. Tag us @shequal_aus and #snapsexism to rally others and show advertisers that we’re paying attention.

It’s not always easy to say definitively whether something is discriminatory, sexist or exploitative.

There will always be differing views on where exactly the line is. But here are some things to look out for;


Sexualisation and objectification:

In sexualised and objectifying ads:

  • Women are reduced to just their body parts, particularly their breasts or buttocks
  • Women are shown in seductive poses, with their legs spread, lying on a bed, or simulating sex acts
  • Women are shown wearing less clothing than men

Gender stereotypes:

In stereotyped ads:

  • Girls and women are shown at home or in retail settings while men and boys are shown outdoors or in work roles

  • Women are depicted only as carers for children or others.
  • Portrayals of boys and men focus on power, leadership and action
  • Men are depicted as funnier, more intelligent or powerful than women
  • Women are shown as annoying or interfering with men’s ability to enjoy leisure time

Idealised body image:

Ads that hold women to unrealistic beauty standards:

  • Focus on women’s bodies and appearance
  • Suggest that women should aspire to idealised beauty standards (for example, slim, large-busted, unblemished and hairless)


In ads where the diversity of women is under-represented:

  • Only people who are white, able-bodied and heterosexual are depicted
  • When underrepresented groups are featured, they are stereotyped
  • Older women are rarely seen, and aging is portrayed as negative

Ads that depict or condone violence against women:

Ads where violence against women is depicted or condoned such as showing someone being harmed, being held down or coerced into doing something or unable to give consent.


Don’t stop at snapping sexism, make a complaint directly with the advertiser or with Ad Standards. For more information and resources on making a complaint, check out our Reporting Toolkit here.