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An advertisement comparing male astronauts with a woman sitting by a pram is among the first casualties of a British ban on gender stereotypes in advertising.

(Voice of Europe)

The ad, for Volkswagen, was investigated by the UK Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) after viewers complained it 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 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 pram.

It prompted three complaints from viewers, and the ASA found it showed a woman “engaged in a stereotypical care-giving role”.

“We acknowledged that becoming a parent was a life-changing experience that required significant adaptation, but taking care of children was a role that was stereotypically associated with women”, ASA added in its ruling.


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The ad can’t appear in its current form following the ruling.

The new rules follow a review by the ASA, published in 2017, which found that harmful stereotypes reinforced by advertising “can restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults”.

A public furor over a 2015 poster on the walls of London’s subway system, showing a woman in a bikini with the words “Are you beach body ready?”, prompted the regulator to look into all gender portrayals in advertising.

The ad – for a weight-loss product – was not initially banned by the ASA, as it did not explicitly break any rules, but the regulator eventually took action due to its health claims.

“Our evidence shows how harmful gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to inequality in society, with costs for all of us”, Guy Parker, chief executive of the ASA, said in a statement in June.

Geraldine Ingham, head of marketing for Volkswagen UK, said: “As both a leader within this business and as a mother, I do not believe that the roles of the women in this advertisement are in any way portrayed negatively.”

“Just like the men, they are shown taking part in challenging situations, such as in a tent perched on a mountainside and in a spacecraft, while another is shown to be embarking on what is surely life’s greatest and most valuable role – raising another human being.”


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