Gender stereotypes are widespread in advertising directed at children, with boys appearing as
dominant, active and aggressive and girls as shy, giggly and passive
. When the Advertising
Standards Bureau made a decision to take a Hyundai campaign off air
, it was due to complaints the
advertisement was dangerous as it might encourage children to get behind the wheel of a car. Another
complaint directed at the ad might have been about its gender stereotyping of the children: while the
boy drives and surfs, the girl gets picked up hitchhiking and watches him surf. Even toddlers, it appears,
are not exempt from stereotyped gender roles.
The often mixed messages in the mass media make it difficult for girls to negotiate the transition to
adulthood: should they be empowered and strong, or servile and vulnerable? A Canadian study found
that, while the number of boys who say they “have confidence in themselves” remains relatively stable
through adolescence, the number of girls drops steadily (Media Awareness Network 2007).
Although advertising moderation councils might sometimes dismiss gender stereotyping in
advertisements under the guise of humour, it is a serious issue which requires attention, particularly
with regard to selling these attitudes to such a young audience.