Women cleaning the kitchen, men polishing their cars – two images we often see on our TV screens. But are these realistic and do they just play up (or down) to stereotypes about the role of men and women – and in doing so undermine efforts to achieve equality between the sexes? Swedish MEP Eva-Britt Svensson from the left (GUE/NGL) group certainly believes this to be the case. We caught up with her ahead of Parliament’s debate on Tuesday evening on her own initiative report.
In the report Ms Svensson says that „gender stereotyping in advertising straitjackets women, men, girls and boys by restricting individuals to predetermined and artificial roles that are often degrading, humiliating and dumbed down for both sexes”.
How strong is the effect of advertising and marketing on equality between men and women?
Gender stereotyping in advertising is one of several factors that have a big influence on efforts to make society more gender equal. This influence tends to be bigger because of the fact that many persons are not aware of how we all are influenced by the images that constantly surround us.
Advertising is everywhere: in the home, in public spaces, in newspapers, magazines and on TV. When women and men are portrayed in a stereotypical way the consequence may be that it becomes difficult in other contexts to see women and men’s resources and abilities in areas other than those of the traditional gender roles. In the same way young girls and boys are influenced in their choices of education and career.
What can European Union countries do to improve the situation?
They can be aware of gender stereotyping and take it into consideration. They can also ensure that a body exists to which the public can address complaints about gender stereotypes in marketing and advertising. Research may be undertaken by the future European Gender Institute.
Awareness among consumers and the public about the influence of advertising has great importance. Today, for instance, no advertisement that increases pollution can be used. Advertising for different products must show a responsibility for the environment and prevent climate change. The purpose of my report is to help make it impossible to use gender stereotypes in advertising.
Follow the debate on EP Live Tuesday evening, vote Wednesday.