British Speech Police Ready to Prohibit 'Gender Stereotyping' in Ads, US Not Far Behind

P. Gardner Goldsmith | May 12, 2016
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According to the Business Insider, and a public notice posted at the end of April, the United Kingdom’s (UK) commercial speech police, aka the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), is “investigating” incidents of “gender stereotyping” in ads.

The move stems from an “incident” in the spring of 2015, when the company Protein World posted an ad on billboards featuring a fit woman in a bikini and the question, “Are you beach body ready?”

This clear and horrific assault prompted nearly 400 people to complain to the ASA, and 70,000 of the thickest-skinned English to sign an online petition for the UK government ban the ad. The heroic ASA responded, employing an accusation that the ads were misleading, and forcing the company to remove them.

This year, rather than standing behind the excuse of targeting “misleading” adverts, the ASA is becoming more overt. Its bureaucrats are asking Brits to help them conduct their Quixotic quest to ban commercial speech that offends people, “objectifies”, or employs “gender stereotyping”. This coming from a nation that is infamous for its newspapers featuring topless “Page Three Girls.”

The ASA says:

“The objectification and sexualisation of women in ads, presenting an idealised or unrealistic body image, the mocking of women and men in non-stereotypical roles, the reinforcement of stereotyped views of gender roles, and gender-specific marketing to children are all issues that have gained considerable public interest.”

But this begs a few questions. For example, how does one define objectification? Who defines it? Are those ruling on what is “stereotypical” guilty of engaging in the same activity, lumping what they call “stereotypical” or “objectifying” into categories that might offend other people? One can sense an infinite regression here, logically leading to the ASA prohibiting any human images that are recognizably male, female, young, old, or in between, because, after all, a single image is not representative of the vastly diverse population of humans who are male, female, young, old, and in between.

What happened to that famous British Stiff Upper Lip? How is it possible that people such as John Cleese, who gained fame and fortune on the BBC with ribald comedy productions such as Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Fawlty Towers, now need to protest the thickening pall of oversensitivity that hangs over England like a London fog?

Many of the politically correct set tell us their reason is based on the idea that language is a weapon. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but names… ah, names should be regulated. And if you think this trend is quarantined to the Islands of Great Britain, think again.

Even in the US, comedians are avoiding college campuses like NBC’s Brian Williams avoided the truth.

College students have coined the term “microaggression” and “trigger” to facilitate their dyspeptic inability to handle words they don’t like. And at first blush, this might seem as if it is done out of defensiveness. But, the international attack on speech is a tool used by progressives to control debates by limiting the words that can be used in them.

Billy Corgan, the brilliant writer/musician behind the band Smashing Pumpkins, recently pointed out just how far the progressive left has pushed political correctness in order to control debate, explaining in an interview that he could say “one word” that could destroy his career. He could look at the wrong part of a woman’s body and be castigated as a horrible person.

And, if this politically correct speech funnel is used along with the power of the state, the effect not only becomes socially untenable, it also becomes legally disastrous.

The United States government has claimed the power to shut down speech, be it commercial or non-commercial, at any time, via the Federal Communications Commission. Started in the 1920s as the “Federal Radio Commission” (FRC), the agency bureaucratically delayed broadcast television for years, thus helping radio-business cronies block their competition. Since then, the feds have claimed the power to “own” the radio spectrum and “fine” people for saying the wrong things.

That’s the power to fine people for saying the wrong things.

And the FCC is not alone. he Food and Drug Administration can force business people to change what they say about their products, even the art on the package. One wonders whether leftist novelists like Stephen King and Anne Lamott would accept the federal government telling them how to compose their sentences, under the guise of eliminating “offensive” expression.

This might sound far-fetched, but, given the current sensitivity of some Americans, and the lasso of unconstitutional laws and agencies circling American speech, one can see that the US is not far behind the UK in its race towards neutered speech and expression.

Of course, the term neutered could be a trigger word, and should be outlawed.