RDN on BBC Scotland on ads’ gender stereotyping
I had a lively outing on BBC Radio Scotland’s morning phone-in on the ASA/CAP’s crackdown on gender stereotyping. Without much thinking about the Quangos’ specific motives and proposals (I will maybe devote time to that exercise) I said quite boldly that whatever stereotypes advertisers promoted, I had never seen any that were more harmful than the culture-crimping, the dreary campaignitis – and, yes the PC Gone Mad element – of the Bossy Liberals who want to censor them.
The ASA is on safe ground when it campaigns against factual inaccuracy in ads. But it is surely on dodgy ground when it mandates for what portrayals of society should appear in them. Worrying that boys are too often portrayed with muddy boots and girls with pink tutus is almost OK. But obsessing about this stuff at a tick-box level would surely lead to a boys-in-tights and a girls-in-hi-viz quota.
Why on earth would not freedom-lovers, or lovers of liveliness or of cultural diversity, resist this censorship? Surely one ought to counter the habit of thought – now common amongst Bossy Liberals – that we must self-censor, and if we won’t, that we must accept censorship as liberating. The point is that censorship is never liberating, and therefore should be reserved for only the most hateful or dangerous speech.
I argued that the advertisers like to reflect society (and its dreams). Fine, and not often problematic. If we have a beef with ads, it is often a beef with society, and needs to be addressed there – in families, and schools, say, where propaganda has a place. But ads are for selling, not for propagandising. It would be a very different scene if we mandated and required advertisers to address the ills Bossy Liberals perceive. I trust neither firms nor Bossy Liberals to know what society needs, and I certainly don’t want them empowered and indeed required to promote specific social aims, even good ones.
In a little more detail…
For some reason, women seem to cheer-on those ads which portray them as leering at hunky men. So be it: I imagine one day women will realise that the ghastliness of the Male Gaze is not redeemed by their matching it.
For some reason, some feminists don’t like an oven-cleaner ad which says that the product is so simple even a man can use it. Surely, that was a liberationist message which said that men really ought to be into oven-cleaning (which I happen to adore because I love blasting things with chemicals)? Besides, that ad pandered to the ghastly modern riff what women are free to sneer at men. But, hey, I suppose liberated women will grow out of that too.
Finally, I wonder if the female audience doesn’t rather relish the ad which portrays a mother being hassled by her rude adolescent son about the absence of hot water, and interruptiong her dash to work to phone a payday loan firm to get the boiler repair paid for. Of course, I take the message to be one about how fathers don’t sufficinetly back up mothers as teenagers chronically and rudely under-appreciate how a modern woman will often have all her old motherly feelings and obligations, and a raft of new ones too.
I wouldn’t have any of these ads censored: partly on principle, and backed-up by the thought that they all contribute to how we see – and address – society.