I was driving home from my brother’s home last week when I stopped at a set of lights. I happened to glance to my left at a series of billboards promoting various local musical productions and sporting clubs. One of them wasn’t promoting any sport or musical- it was calling for an end to violence against women in the Maroondah District. Aside from being a very geographically specific slogan, it hit me in the gut as these disgustingly bigoted advertisements always do.
As I waited for the red light to change, I decided I was going to do something about it this time! No writing an article for AVFM or posting a letter to the council demanding an end to this demonization of men. I was going to be a lawbreaker. I began to fantasize about what I was going to do. Did we have permanent markers at home? Would paint be a better option? I would have to do the deed in the wee hours of the morning when barely a soul was awake, let alone driving down Maroondah Highway.
What would I write? How could I ensure my outrage and the absolute injustice of such a billboard was crystal clear to anyone who happened to read my additional text?
I looked at the large board and began to see more issues arising by the second. As I wear a prosthesis, getting into a position where I could write legibly and keep myself balanced and steady was important. The lights changed as I was trying to decide upon the best approach.
The fact that I was still thinking about possible advice I could write on the billboard meant I was serious about this idea. I began thinking of the consequences. Damn the consequences. If, on the very unlikely chance I was arrested by a cop driving by on a slow night, I could use the arrest as a platform for our stance on the terribly bigoted way we approach the issue of family violence. By the time I got home I already believed I was going to be Australia’s version of Rosa Parks.
My dad was right on the money when he used to call me Walter Mitty.
Well, I walked inside and announced my plans to Maggie. She raised an eyebrow and said, “No you’re not.”
She reminded me that I’m a teacher at a Catholic Primary School which had me weighing up the pros and cons if I happened to get caught vandalizing public property.
As my passion for a midnight hit job dissolved, I thought I’d do the next best thing and write an email to the council. I went onto their website and scrolled around for some time. Who do I target? Would they read it? Would I change anything?
Suddenly, I felt tired. I have spent the best part of 25 years writing letters or emails to newspapers, politicians, authors and journalists. I have had some success but more often than not the result has been stonewalling silence or a polite “fuck you.”
I sighed and walked away from the computer.
Today I saw an article which was titled,
The opening paragraphs read as follows:
Adverts showing a housewife looking after the family will be banned from next year in an industry-wide crackdown on “harmful stereotypes” which researchers allege contribute to “real-world gender inequalities”.
The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP), which creates and maintains advertising codes in Britain, on Friday published guidance on depicting gender stereotypes ahead of new rules coming into force in June 2019.
“An ad that depicts a man being adventurous juxtaposed with a woman being delicate or dainty is likely to be unacceptable,” states the guidance, which claims that gender stereotypes can lower viewers’ self-esteem and “limit their aspirations and ability to progress in key aspects of their personal and professional lives with harmful consequences for them and for society as a whole”.
I pondered these words for ten seconds.
I shook my head in absolute bewilderment at the stunning irony of these words.
I followed the link to a pdf which provided more details on this initiative.
On page three I found this excerpt.
Understanding this guidance:
This guidance is intended to help advertisers comply with the requirements of CAP and BCAP rules in the way they depict gender stereotypes in advertisements.
A wide body of evidence, including that summarised in the ASA report, indicates that certain kinds of gender stereotypes can negatively reinforce how people think they should look and behave, and how others think they should look and behave, due to their gender. This can lower their self-esteem and limit their aspirations and ability to progress in key aspects of their personal and professional lives with harmful consequences for them and for society as a whole.
CAP and BCAP consider that, while harmful stereotypes are not endemic in advertising and advertising is not the only factor that reinforces these stereotypes, it is appropriate to restrict ads that include the kinds of stereotypical depictions highlighted in this guidance.
The guidance is intended to support the interpretation of CAP rule 4.9 and BCAP rule 4.14:
[Advertisements] must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence See Advertising Guidance: “Depicting gender stereotypes likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence”
So, ads depicting women as housewives looking after the family will be banned!
My mind naturally leapt to the endless advertising campaigns on Australian television, in our papers or on billboards lining our streets which routinely depict men and boys and only men and boys beating and abusing women and girls. I have no doubt very similar ads are running in Britain as I write these words.
Women depicted as housewives-never! Men depicted as vicious wife bashers-sure thing!
The true insanity of this state of affairs is the fact that countless women are housewives whose primary duty is to look after their family and it is a noble and essential role in our society.
A man who bashes his wife is an absolute rarity in our society in a statistical sense. The few who are exposed as violent thugs see their life and reputation shredded, yet the media and government bombards us with images of men and boys behaving in the most heinous fashion. The fact that all men are deliberately placed under a cloud of suspicion, if not collectively held responsible for this apparent carnage behind closed doors, is just the final kick in the guts.
If Alice thought Wonderland was a curious place, what would she make of modern-day Britain or Australia?
How is it possible that such advertisements can continue given the new standards being introduced by The Committees of Advertising Practice?
These bigoted ads which depict men and boys as naturally violent and aggressive toward females is the worst possible form of stereotyping and does incalculable damage to the self-worth of males, particularly young boys. Surely it is a simple truth to state that young children are incredibly impressionable and a daily barrage of advertising which depicts fathers and sons as vicious brutes, often engaging in the violent assault of females (and enjoying it) will negatively impact males and create an obscene and false stereotype about the male gender.
It seems, Ella Smillie agrees with me.
Ella Smillie, who led CAP’s gender stereotyping review, added: “The evidence we published last year showed that harmful gender stereotypes in ads contribute to how people see themselves and their role in society.
It will also cause girls to develop a fear and distrust of the males in their lives as this stereotype is reinforced at both primary and secondary levels of education. Once these young women enter universities, they are ripe for the final dose of indoctrination and poisoning of their minds with regard to men and “toxic masculinity.”
So, I will watch with interest to see how these new standards are applied to the endless demonization of men in the advertising world. Perhaps the legendary Mike Buchanan or the brave politician, Philip Davies, could look into these new developments and even raise the issue of domestic violence campaigns on our screens and ask how they can escape the gaze of this advertising committee.
I must say, whilst scanning their pdf I found a paragraph which may be their “get out of jail” card should anyone voice concern about the horrific demonization and stereotyping of males as violent, abusive beasts:
Subject to the guiding principles set out in the scenario categories in this guidance, neither the rule nor the guidance is intended to prevent ads from featuring:
*gender stereotypes as a means to challenge their negative effects.
So clever- “domestic violence advertisements are an attempt to challenge the negative effects of male stereotypes.”
We allow the depiction of men and boys beating females as the norm in families because this is what men and boys tend to do ‘stereotypically’, so we must try to destroy this stereotype by constantly showing it on our screens and in our newspapers.
The pdf states:
Explicit labelling of children that contrasts stereotypical characteristics in a way that reinforces perceptions of what children can or cannot be, because of their gender, is more likely to be problematic.
I remember an advertisement on the walls of a British railway station asking:
Are You Beach Body Ready?
It caused an absolute meltdown on social media and in the public arena.
I often wonder how the female population would respond if they were subjected to a tiny dose of what the males of our western culture have endured for nigh on four decades?
What a fascinating social experiment it would be to have our government and media begin a media blitz condemning the cruel manner in which so many mothers abuse and neglect their children. The apoplectic reaction to a poster featuring a bikini clad girl gives us some insight as to what might occur.
It really is a shameful period in our history. The mute indifference of most people to the anti -male propaganda in our society is criminal.
Now, if I could just locate a permanent marker, I may yet become Australia’s Rosa Parks.