Rebecca Bernard
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Leadfoot Ladies: Should the US Ban Sexist Advertising?

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A determined girl in Audi’s Super Bowl commercial promoting equal pay

America might be the land of the free and the home of the brave, but what we see in advertising is fairly controlled. For example, in the US advertisers cannot show the people in ads actually drinking the alcohol they may be advertising, and promoting cigarettes or any tobacco products is prohibited on TV. But what about sexist commercials?


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It is quite timely to talk about sexism in commercials for two reasons: The UK is working on new regulations to curtail ads that enforce gender stereotypes, and Audi just released a new commercial that relies on a joke that can be seen as either hilarious or insulting. The commercial from Audi was set to be used in China, and featured the mother of the groom stopping a wedding to appraise the bride as one might do when buying a used car or an animal. The ad was used to promote the certified pre-owned program in China and it caused quite an uproar from people that think it unfairly suggests that women are pieces of property to be inspected before purchase (or marriage).* Others just thought the commercial was funny.

Besides the shock that an ad like this would come from Audi, which has recently been working hard to promote gender equality in Europe and the US, this commercial also raises the question of whether ads like this should be allowed on airwaves where children could see them.  This ad would not have passed muster in the UK now, but it most certainly could have made it on air in the US. According to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University, most commercials shown in the US relegate women to stereotypical homemaker roles while men show up in professional situations or at sporting events. This might not seem like a big deal, but when you consider that they have an effect on children that watch them it becomes something that needs to be addressed. We might tell girls in school and at home that they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up, but if all they see are images of women cleaning up after kids and husbands how can they believe what they hear?


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The automotive industry is known for its pretty terrible treatment of women, from the recent Audi commercial to the Toyota commercial that suggested women can’t own a Toyota 86 because, you know, they can’t appreciate a performance car. If an industry where women majorly contribute to 85% of purchases cannot get its act together to portray women as equals to men, perhaps it is time to guide them with a bit of regulation. If it is working in the UK, it might be worth giving it a shot in the US.

*Full disclosure: I am one of those people.

News Source: CBS News

  • Rebecca BernardEditor

    A Dayton native, Rebecca got her start blogging at the curiously named Harlac's Tongue while studying abroad in the UK. She loves tooling around town with her Ford Focus named Jerome to the song they're playing on the radio. On any given weekend, you can find her with her camera at area festivals, concerts, and car shows, shopping at flea markets, or taking an adventure on the open road. See more articles by Rebecca.