Ads that rely on gender stereotypes are common, and they’re dangerous
The advertising industry relies on stereotypes to get ideas across quickly and clearly – but what many people don’t realise is that stereotypical ads are detrimental to creating an equal world.
The representations we see in advertising influence our beliefs, aspirations and behaviour. The more children and adults are exposed to gender stereotypes in mass media, the more likely they are to believe in narrow ideas about what it means to be a man or woman.
Times have changed since the 1950s, but so have the gender stereotypes. We no longer see overtly sexist ads but the values behind those stereotypes still exist, just in new and sometimes subtler ways.
Gender stereotypes about women can be harmful because they come with value-based judgements. Stereotypes about men, being strong, analytical, level-headed, are often seen as more valuable than stereotypes about women being caring, emotional and family-oriented.
In ads, adult women are overwhelmingly portrayed as two-dimensional, valued only for domestic work, looks or to tick a box of diversity and inclusion.
However, men are still predominantly given roles in ads that show them as funny, strong, authoritative and the fun parent.
These stereotyped ideas of masculinity and femininity craft a narrow narrative of what men and women should be valued for in society, and this disparity in values fosters an environment where women are disrespected in society and at greater risk of violence.
This is why it’s important to call out stereotypes when we see them. However, knowing what kind of stereotype we are seeing can help us not just identify, but have a conversation around why they are limiting and harmful.
So we put names to them and created the Female Stereotypes in Advertising Guide.
By naming stereotypes specific to ads we can start to challenge them and reshape the reality that ads set for society.