Hoo boy. The UK "gender stereotype" rules are up and running

Following complaints from the public over the past couple of years, the UK Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has implemented new rules for television and print advertising. The purpose of these regulations is to eliminate “harmful gender stereotyping” in ads. If that phrase leaves you scratching your head, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

In any event, the first two “harmful” ads have been banned from the airwaves. They were from Volkswagen and Philadelphia cream cheese. So what were they depicting? Child abuse? Violence against women? Racism? Nope. One was a shot of a woman sitting in the park next to a baby stroller and the other showed two dads acting dumb in a restaurant. (CNN)

An advertisement juxtaposing male astronauts with a woman sitting by a stroller, and another depicting two hapless dads, are the first casualties of a British ban on gender stereotypes in advertising.

The ads, for Volkswagen and Philadelphia cream cheese, were investigated by the UK Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) after viewers complained they perpetuated gender stereotypes.
New rules that came into force in June prohibit depictions of gender that “are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offense.”

The Volkswagen commercial shows a number of primarily male people taking part in adventurous activities — two male astronauts in space, and a male athlete with a prosthetic leg doing the long jump — before cutting to a mother sitting on a park bench next to a stroller. It prompted three complaints from viewers, and the ASA found it showed a woman “engaged in a stereotypical care-giving role.”

I couldn’t even find a video of the full Volkswagen advertisement online, but the description is probably enough. Men are pictured in “adventurous” occupations and activities while a woman is shown sitting on a park bench next to a stroller. This apparently prompted complaints. From three people. And just like that, the ad was pulled.

Here’s the Philadelphia cream cheese commercial. I’ll go ahead and risk incurring the wrath of the ASA by embedding it here.

That was far from the funniest commercial they’ve ever run, but it certainly isn’t offensive and was still kind of humorous. But it apparently depicts fathers as being clueless and inattentive (presumably as compared to their more competent wives) so it had to go.

While this may seem like a silly and relatively humorous story, it’s also yet another example of how intrusive the British government is in all aspects of society and the limits placed on the free speech and expression of the citizens. If the government can lay out these sorts of preposterous rules and impose them with no chance of appeal, what else will they ban? I notice that all of the couples depicted are assumed to be heterosexual. Perhaps they could ban them for not including gay parents. I mean, that’s a stereotype, right? And what’s with all the cisgender white people? (I know, I know… I shouldn’t be giving them ideas.)

The UK is a great ally of ours and there is much to be said for their nation. But we should also keep in mind that they lack the constitutional rights most of us simply take for granted in the United States. They have effectively banned all firearms across the land and are now in the process of banning knives. You can be fined or imprisoned for offensive speech. Today they are further mandating “the right sort of thinking” by clamping down on harmless images in advertisements. Be grateful for the freedoms you enjoy as Americans and protect them at all costs. Once you start granting the government the power of acting as the thought police, there is no telling how far down that dark road they will take you.