‘Sexist’ Ad Banned for Having the Word ‘Girl’ in It

A woman in a knit dress with flared sleeves works at an early model desktop computer made
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A freelancers website was forced to apologise and retrained its advertising staff on using sensitive language after publishing an advertisement with the word “girl” in it.

Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) came down on PeoplePerHour, a website that connects freelance workers with businesses, for a London underground ad last year that featured a woman with the phrase: “You do the girl boss thing, we’ll do the SEO thing.”

The ASA banned the ad on grounds that the phrase “girl boss” was sexist. Upholding the total of 19 complaints about the ad, the ASA said it “perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes” by presenting a “patronising” depiction of women who run businesses, according to the Evening Standard.

Initially, PeoplePerHour defended the ad, saying that the phrase “girl boss” was popularised by American businesswoman Sophia Amoruso, who used the term as the title of her New York Times best-seller list book and in her other multimedia ventures and appearances.

However, the freelancer platform later said the wording “might unintentionally come across as sexist and demeaning to women”, removed the word “girl” from the advertisement, and issued a public apology on its website. The ASA said that the company has also undertaken training of its advertising team on being mindful of their language.

In a separate ruling by the ASA, computer firm PC Specialist was reprimanded for having only men in its television commercial, which the advertising standards body said implied that only men were interested in gaming or coding.

PC Specialist maintained that the ad accurately targetted its audience, with its customer base being 87.5 per cent males aged 15 to 35. They added that nowhere in the ad were women compared unfavourably, or as less interested or with less aptitude than men in computing or technology

The ASA rejected this logic, saying: “Although the guidance did not prohibit ads from featuring only one gender, we considered that because the ad strongly implied only men could excel in the specialisms and roles depicted we concluded the ad presented gender stereotypes in a way that was likely to cause harm and therefore breached the code.”

The ASA had acted to investigate and ban the ad after just eight viewers had complained.

In June, the ASA enforced a ban on so-called gender stereotyping in advertisements, on grounds that they could “cause harm or serious or widespread offence” and could ultimately “play a part in limiting people’s potential”.

One of the first ads to be culled included a Volkswagen TV commercial that featured male astronauts and a woman with a baby in a pram because it showed men being adventurous while the woman was portrayed as “passive or engaged in a stereotypical care-giving role”. Three people had complained about it.

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