NEWS16 March 2020

Women in ads – stereotyping falls but so too does feminism

Media News Trends UK

UK – Female stereotypes in advertising are falling with only a quarter ( 28%) of UK women saying they feel pressure from ads to look and act a certain way, compared to 49% in 2017.

The findings are from a study by media agency UM among 2,000 Brits aged 18 and over, following on from its Women in Ads research in 2017. The improvement could point to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)’s crackdown on adverts that reinforce gender stereotypes, as having caused an effect.

Overall, a quarter of the UK population thinks the perception of women in both society and ads has changed for the better in the past three years. Less than one in three women ( 31%) now say that ads make them feel like they’re not good enough. Although still high, this is down from 44% who felt that way three years ago.

However, when it comes to considering themselves feminists, the research found only a quarter ( 27%) of UK women would now self-define as ‘feminist’, down from 46% three years ago. That includes 30% of women aged 18-34 – down from the 54% of 18-24-year-olds who identified as feminists in 2017.

In addition, according to women the most common female stereotype still seen in popular culture and the media is ‘bimbo’, followed by ‘bitch’. Unsurprisingly, both stereotypes are considered offensive by more than half of UK women ( 55% and 74%, respectively).

Michael Brown, partner, cross-culture and insight at UM, said: “Since the ASA changed its rules, brands have had to be smarter in how they portray both men and women in their advertising. Unrealistic and insulting stereotypes will no longer pass muster.

“The decline in women who consider themselves as feminists is perhaps more concerning. It may be that fewer now feel the need to be feminist in a less stereotyped world, but it may also be that the word is seen to lack sufficient impact.”