Commercials or controversy?

Gender stereotypes and body standards in commercials have an adverse effect

Suad Mohamed, Editorials Edior

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Television, radio stations, social media, and websites– commercials are everywhere. While viewing advertisements for things like shampoo and cologne, it seems like companies are advertising hyper masculinity, misogyny, and unrealistic standards rather than their products.

In commercials, men are seen as shallow, dumb, and incapable off completing simple tasks. Often times, phrases like “manly” are used to get people to buy products, especially deodorants. They are all very obsessed with sports, and those who don’t really care for them are seen as unattractive. This is because men are also portrayed as the breadwinner of the family.

Women in commercials are routinely portrayed as housekeepers, and are usually the ones who clean up everyone’s messes. One will hardly see an advertisement for household products like dish soap, that foes not feature a woman. Most of the time, actresses in commercials use the products to make themselves more desirable to men. Women in advertisements also tend to nag incessantly, and they are over emotional.

Gender based stereotypes are also inherent in advertisements aimed for children. Toys like dolls, house sets, and animals are geared towards girls. Meanwhile, video games, action figures, and toy care are believed to be meant for young boys.

But gender based stereotypes are not the only issue in commercials. A lot of the times, advertisements lure potential customers in by depicting unreachable bodies. The men are muscular and the women are slim. Everyone has perfect hair and skin.

Obviously, the purpose of these tactics is to get people to buy their products, but they are just harmful. It is usually children who are placed in front of televisions and watching these advertisements.

When they view them, kids are told that there is a certain way to behave: boys have to act tough, while girls are to be delicate. This is damaging and later makes it difficult for them to accept effeminacy, masculinity in women, and androgyny. It also creates a lack of self esteem in those who don’t conform to traditional gender roles.

The toxic body standards often found in adverts can be dangerous, too. No one really looks like the people seen in commercials, but a fair amount of children and teens might believe that the bodies seen on their screens are the right way to look, and try to attain that look. They can end up hurting themselves in the process, and end up having to deal with issues like eating disorders, lack of self confidence, depression, and more.

Recently, the U.K. recognized the negative effects of these problems. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), an NGO that regulates advertisements, put a ban on advertisements that feature any type of gender stereotypes, specifically calling out ones that feature a man failing to do household chores and a women being forced to complete them.

This ruling came as a result of many controversies surrounding advertisements, most infamously a Protein World poster located in a London subway station. The banner featured a very slim model and asked viewers if they were beach body ready. Hundreds of people found it offensive to women, including London’s mayor Sadiq Khan. The ASA received 400 complaints.

A significant amount of Americans agree that similar actions should be taken here in the U.S., too. In fact, research shows that people are unlikely to buy products if the advertisements features stereotypes, as they are geared for a specific subset of people. The problem? The First Amendment heavily limits the government’s ability to regulate the content of commercials. If a company were to be confronted about the messages in their advertisements, they could easily argue free speech.

Although nothing can be done legally, that doesn’t mean that we should just accept commercials that are repugnant. There is an option to report ads that are online and on social media right on the page where they appeared. You can also report ads that you find to be misleading, or that inappropriately air during children’s shows by writing to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).