Health and wellbeing

Advertising equality is good for everyone

The way people are portrayed in advertising impacts the health and wellbeing of everyone in society.

Equal, realistic and respectful portrayals of all genders can improve body image, promote gender equality and, over time, reduce rates of violence against women.

Rejecting gender stereotypes in advertising has a lifetime of positive effects


Children’s understandings of gender, and their interests, behaviours and aspirations, are influenced by the advertising of toys and other products. Girls learn they are expected to be attractive, cooperative and caring, while boys learn they are expected to be strong, active and independent.

By sorting, labelling and advertising children’s products according to theme or function – rather than gender or colour – children are free to play with whatever they enjoy. This helps to reduce the gender differences in development, and teaches children they can aspire to be whatever they want to be.

Young women

Frequent exposure to objectifying images of women in advertising can lead young women to feel dissatisfied with their bodies, contribute to eating disorders, low self-esteem and poor mental health, and reduce their participation in physical activity and exercise.

Seeing more diverse and realistic representations of women in advertising will help move society beyond valuing women for their physical appearance alone, enabling young women to embrace and celebrate themselves and participate more fully and more confidently in the community.

Adult women

Stereotypes and sexist advertisements reinforce the unequal distribution of power between men and women in society – and in relationships. What’s more, objectification of women in advertising can increase their self-consciousness about body image during sex, and it can prompt men and women to objectify their romantic partners, reducing satisfaction with sex and relationships.

On the other hand, diverse and multidimensional portrayals of women in advertising can increase social status and sexual agency for women.


Portrayals of men in advertising often reflect cultural ideals based on strength and power, from the way they’re shown to behave to the ‘idealised’ muscular male bodies that frequent our screens and pages.

Conversely, realistic and diverse depictions of men can help dismantle stereotyped beliefs about masculinity, improve body image, and have positive long-term effects for both men and women.

LGBTI people

Invisibility and negative depictions of LGBTI people in mass media contribute to stigma, prejudice, discrimination and abuse, leading to higher rates of poor mental health in these communities.

Breaking down stereotyped ideas about masculinity and femininity – and representing people with a range of gender identities – benefits people of all genders and sexual orientations, and helps to end stigma and increase support for LGBTI people.

Without a significant shift in the way advertising portrays different genders, the detrimental long-term effects will be felt by us all. 

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This Girl Can

In 2018, VicHealth launched a campaign to encourage more women to exercise by reshaping the way society thinks about women and physical activity. Building on Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, VicHealth challenged stereotypical ‘aspirational’ fitness ads to instead celebrate women of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities, and focus on health and fun rather than appearance.

The premise was simple but phenomenally powerful. And altogether empowering. More than three-quarters of the women who saw the ad said it helped them feel more confident in getting active.

Nothing to lose, everything to gain 

Advertising equality will improve the health, wellbeing and safety of everyone in our community. 

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