A good advert for equal parenting?

This week I was pleased to hear that the TV advert for Philadelphia cheese, showing two dads forgetfully leaving their babies on a sushi conveyor belt while being distracted by food, has finally been axed.

Every time I see this ad I find myself becoming more and more irritated by it, and it seems that I’m clearly not alone. Some 128 people complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about the advert, which adheres to the stereotype of dads being incapable of safely looking after their children simply because they are men.

While I’m sure the new UK gender stereotyping rules for advertising have been met with an eye roll in some quarters, I’m personally pleased that we no longer have to watch, amongst other things, this myth of the ‘hapless father’ perpetuated.

It’s not just that this trope is offensive to many dads, who, like my own dad and my husband, are incredibly loving, attentive and proficient fathers, but also that it carries forward the idea that childcare should be the preserve of women, an idea which is grossly outdated. It also implies that fathers have a less serious role in the upbringing of their children and that their care is token and novelty: not a helpful suggestion at a time when we are trying to improve gender equality in the workplace and bridge the gender pay gap.

The ban, which came into force in June this year, is on all adverts featuring ‘harmful gender stereotypes’ or those which are likely to cause ‘serious or widespread offence’. The ASA also notes how some of these gendered portrayals could play a part in ‘limiting people’s potential’. In an interview for the BBC, Jess Tye, investigations manager at the ASA, noted that ‘ads that specifically contrast male and female stereotypes need to be handled with care […] It’s about thinking about what the cumulative effect of those gender stereotypes might be.’

Other adverts under the spotlight include the ad for the Volkswagen eGolf car, which shows men engaged in adventurous activities in contrast to women in passive and care-giving roles, suggesting, according to the ASA, that ‘stereotypical male and female roles were exclusively associated with one gender’.

I’m looking forward to seeing less lazy advertising going forward and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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