US power tool maker Black & Decker has received a hammering from a Swedish advertising censor for an advert described as degrading to women.
The Swedish business sector's Ethical Council against Gender Discriminatory Advertising
(ERK) slammed an advert that promised beauty treatments for the wives of men who bought its products.
The Black & Decker ad earlier this year promised customers a pleased wife guarantee, offering beauty treatments worth 350 kronor ($43
dollars) to the wives of men who bought spent more than 1,500 kronor on its tools.
Through this text, the council finds that (the company) conveyed an outdated view of gender roles in which women are expected to be placated with beauty
treatments while men buy tools, ERK said in its ruling: This is degrading for both women and men. The ad is thereby gender discriminatory.
ERK, which is made up of representatives of Sweden's main advertising companies, has no power to
impose sanctions on companies it finds guilty of discrimination.
US-based toy retailer Toys 'R' Us has been reprimanded for gender discrimination following a complaint filed by a group of Swedish sixth graders about the store's 2008 Christmas catalogue.
Last winter, a sixth grade class at Gustavslund school in
south central Sweden reported Toys 'R' Us to the Reklamombudsmannen (Ro), a self-regulatory agency which polices marketing and advertising communications in Sweden to ensure they are in line with guidelines set out by the International Chamber of
According to the youngsters, the Toys 'R' Us Christmas catalogue featured outdated gender roles because boys and girls were shown playing with different types of toys, whereby the boys were portrayed as active and the girls as passive
, according to a statement from Ro.
13-year-old Hannes Psajd explained that he and his twin sister had always shared the same toys and that he was concerned about the message sent by the Toys 'R' Us publication: Small girls in princess
stuff…and here are boys dressed as super heroes. It's obvious that you get affected by this .
Upon reviewing the case, the Reklamombudsmannen agreed with the sixth-graders complaint, and have issued a public reprimand of the toy retailer.
According to the Ro's advisory committee the Toys 'R' Us catalogue discriminates based on gender and counteracts positive social behaviour, lifestyles, and attitudes . Specifically, the committee found that the catalogue feature boys playing
in action filled environments while girls are shown sitting or standing in passive poses .
Taken together, the catalogue portrays children's games and choice of toys in a narrow-minded way, and this exclusion of boys and girls from
different types of toys is, in itself, degrading to both genders, Ro said in a statement.
The public reprimand has no accompanying sanctions for Toys 'R' Us.
Sweden's advertising ombudsman upheld a complaint against the advertisement, promoting a television operator called Boxer, in which a photo shop character called Robert stretches out on a sheepskin rug wearing only a pair of straining, white boxer
Even if the intention was to present a humorous link between the man and product, the man is presented, through his posture and lack of clothing, as a mere sex object in a way that could be deemed offensive to men in general, the
ombudsman's office claimed in a statement.
It added that Robert's legs, chest, arms and abdomen are very muscular, and the outline of his genitalia is visible through his underpants .
A complainer argued that the focus on the
organ and its size had nothing to do with the product, and even if that was the case, it is no way to portray either a man or a woman . It was also claimed that Robert's physical shape could place pressure on impressionable men who aspire to have the
The advertisement sparked lively debate on internet comments sites, with many men stating they found it harmless and inoffensive, and that the ombudsman should get a life .
An editorial in Aftonbladet, a leading
Swedish newspaper, said that the ombudsman had to act on equality grounds because it would have upheld a complaint if Boxer had used a female image.
Stockholm council is set to ban sexy outdoor advertising. Daniel Hellden, one of Stockholm's deputy mayors and a long-serving Green Party activist with a political and personal mission to:
Make sure women aren't made
to feel uncomfortable by explicit or gender stereotyped advertising in public spaces. I know my daughters, they don't like it. They feel bad. We should not as a city be part of this sort of advertising. I have a responsibility to the citizens of
Stockholm to ban this.
Hellden notes that record immigration to the Swedish capital has fuelled a wider awareness of stereotyping and a need to avoid racist undertones in public spaces.
His efforts to stamp out
discriminatory billboards, digital displays or information boards will come to a head later this month, when the City Council is expected to approve a ban on racist and sexist advertisements.
The censorship rules about what constitutes a sexist or
racist advertisements will follow those set out by the country's very politically correct nationwide advertising censor, Reklamombudsmannen (RO). But whereas RO cannot issue sanctions to companies in breach of the guidelines, Stockholm's council will be
able to order them to take down offensive billboards within 24 hours.
Inevitably the move has supporters and critics. The Swedish Women's Lobby recently labelled Sweden the worst in the Nordics when it comes to gender images, due to being the only
country in the region lacking legislation against sexism and stereotyping in advertising.
But Stockholm's plans to try and step up efforts against discrimination have come under fire from The Association of Swedish Advertisers, which represents
agencies and marketing professionals. Its chief executive, Anders Ericson, argues that despite complaints from what he describes as a really strong group of feminists, Sweden is already doing a really terrific job in self-regulation. He fears a ban will
increase red tape and curb freedom of expression.