Why Stereotyped Images of Minorities Should Be Banned in Advertisements

Picture of By Nouhaila Morjani

By Nouhaila Morjani

Advertisements can’t be ignored in our daily lives. While watching TV or even scrolling through Instagram or YouTube, ads are always a part of these activities. They are everywhere and are becoming more and more intertwined with our daily lives. A great example of this is Instagram’s new feature which allows you to shop online all the while hiding its true nature of being an ad catalogue. This shows that the platforms we use for entertainment are also being used for persuasive purposes. Social media is increasingly used because ads must convey a certain message in a few seconds. The problem with this is that it’s often achieved by employing a simplified representation requiring stereotyping. A stereotype is a fixed image of something or someone that does not correspond with reality. Stereotypes, therefore, help with the categorization of individual people into stereotyped groups and ensure that people can quickly assess a situation, often desirable for an advertisement.

Contributing to Racism and Stereotypes

People are speaking up because they are fed up. Look at the black lives matter movement or the Stop Asian Hate protests, people are trying to break with these negative stereotypes.

However, advertising stereotypes can also contribute to racism and inequality. This is because stereotypes are often used to further marginalise socially disadvantaged groups. Disadvantaged groups are groups that are socially, culturally, or financially disadvantaged compared to the majority of society. For example, women are often only depicted as a housewife or a mother. This is outdated and can be experienced as hurtful. Not only women but also many minority groups have experienced a lot of discrimination and racism. In fact, this is something that is still going on today and the discussion is fiercer than ever. People are speaking up because they are fed up. Look at the black lives matter movement or the stop Asian hate protests, people are trying to break with these negative stereotypes. Advertisements are regularly under fire because there is a tendency to use stereotypes to keep the message simple or because it seems as a larger group can be reached in this way. However, the use of stereotypes is often counterproductive and in some cases causes controversy. To avoid this, stereotyped images of minorities or socially disadvantaged groups should be banned in advertisements.

One of the main reasons these stereotypes should be banned is that they can influence an individual’s decision-making. The stereotype threat phenomenon can arise through the use of stereotype images. This implies that an individual is fearful of behaving in a way that could confirm the negative stereotype of that group. Research that was done by Carr & Steele (2010) suggests that possible poor academic performance and safe decision-making may be a result of stereotypes. This is problematic because any decision that could involve risk or loss can be influenced by concerns that these negative stereotypes will be confirmed. For example, when making a decision, individuals will choose less what they really want, but what is less desirable or expected for them to choose. By banning stereotype images in advertisements, stereotype threat can be reduced. Simply by reducing stereotyping, the pressure can be reduced.

Creating Wedges Between Communities 

Another reason why using stereotypes in arguments should be banned is because a study done by  Åkestam (2007) shows that repeated exposure to those kinds of advertisements can lead to consumers actually believing that the simplified versions of reality are true. This is reinforced if there is little contact between the disadvantaged group and the other social group. This allows the stereotype to replace the real people that belong to the disadvantaged groups. Because stereotypes are often simple representations of reality and are usually presented in a negative sense, this can lead to racism and negative bias in some disadvantaged groups. It, therefore, appears that advertisements that do not use stereotyping often have positive effects on the mental state of consumers. This suggests that the use of stereotypes has significant implications for racial relationships. For example, the replacement of real identities with stereotyped ones can result in stereotypes that negatively influence the way socially disadvantaged groups are viewed and treated by the dominant majority. This means that it could contribute to hostility or discrimination. Possible examples of this are that certain promotions in the workplace can be obstructed or that certain groups are more likely to be stopped by the police.

Not Ethnic Groups, but Individuals

In conclusion, stereotypes should indeed be banned because it creates gaps between different ethnicities. People can surely understand the message without a simplified version of a community. Stereotypes don’t only create gaps between different communities but also affect individuals. It can therefore be concluded that stereotyping in advertisements carries more burdens than benefits. By prohibiting this, it can be ensured that socially disadvantaged groups can be seen again as individuals, which can reduce racism, and in this everyone can play the roles they want in society regardless of where they come from or where they belong to.



Cover: little plant on Unsplash

Edited by: Pritha Ray

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