Today, the ASA has added another decision to its burgeoning collection of adjudications about the new gender stereotyping rule. And this time, they've accepted that in the right circumstances, humour may prevent an ad from being deemed to give rise to harmful gender stereotypes. But in this case, even if the ad was not sexist, was it racist in its depiction of Australians? And if so, does anyone care?
Three people complained about a radio ad for Foster's beer, which is part of a long running campaign featuring two Australian 'beach bum' radio presenters offering advice to listeners. On this occasion, a listener called Colin phones in and says "My girlfriend wants to move in." One presenter asks "How long you been seeing the lovely lady?" Colin replies, "I don't know, four years?" Then the presenters say, "Whoa, where's the fire, Cozza? Buy yourself some time, mate. Tell her your pad isn't fit for a princess and it needs some renovations. Then every time you see her you need to be wearing a toolbelt. Salsa dancing? Toolbelt. Tenpin bowling? Toolbelt. Art gallery? Toolbelt. The key is to start jobs but never finish them. That should buy you at least six months." Finally, Colin says, "Cheers guys, sorted." and the presenters finish with "Hooroo."
Three people complained that the ad perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes by implying that men wanted to avoid commitment, while women were desperate to settle down.
The ASA acknowledged the existence of a stereotype that men avoid commitment while women are keen to settle down. In this case, however, the implication was that the girlfriend wasn't desperate to settle down, given the four year timescale. Furthermore, as there was only one caller, the ad was specific to him. The ad focussed on the "exaggerated and absurd" advice of the two Aussie larrikins, with whom listeners would be familiar from other ads in the campaign. These include the TV ad where one of the Aussies rubs a cricket ball with a piece of sandpaper in reference to the Aussie ball-tampering scandal.
The ASA's guidance to its gender stereotyping rule states that "The use of humour or banter is unlikely to mitigate against the types of harm or serious or widespread offence identified in this guidance." In this instance, however, the ASA concluded that the ad did not imply that a fear of commitment or an anxiety to settle down are uniquely associated with either men or women respectively. In other words, the humour did not excuse the mischief, the mischief simply did not arise in this context.
But it does raise an important question: is it acceptable to imply that Australians are "foolish beach bums"? Given that no UK listeners complained about this issue to the ASA, we can only conclude that yes, it's absolutely fine to take the mickey out of Australians, including with references to their ball-tampering. And no, it's not racist either. The Great British public clearly has absolutely no problem with this whatsoever.
It is quite funny, too.
Three complainants challenged whether the ad perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes by implying that men wanted to avoid commitment while women were desperate to settle down