Transphobia in advertising

There was a transphobic ad in The Scotsman. I complained.

Update: the ASA refused the 104 complaints. So I sought an independent review.

I white out the transphobia as usual. It calls us sex offenders. Headline: Self-ID gives predators the green light. Text: The new Gender Recognition Bill would allow any man to ‘become’ a woman more quickly, easily, and with no professional oversight. Even a man who has been convicted of sexual offences against women and girls. He won’t have to change his name or shave off his beard. He won’t have to talk to a doctor or a counsellor. He won’t have to take hormones or undergo surgery. That’s enough of that. Once again it posits the “genuine trans people” who agree with the advert’s hate. It announces a demonstration at Holyrood.

Political adverts are exempt from the code (pdf), but that is claims whose principal function is to influence voters in a local, regional, national or international election or referendum, so that does not apply.

The advert breaches the code:

1.1- Marketing communications should be legal, decent, honest and truthful.

1.2- Marketing communications must reflect the spirit, not merely the letter, of the Code.

1.3- Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.

A “consumer” is defined as anyone who is likely to see a given marketing communication, whether in the course of business or not. A “marketing communication” includes an advert in a newspaper, like the phobic one.

3.1- Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. They should not omit material information, that readers need to make informed decisions.

4.1- Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age.

4.2- Marketing communications must not cause fear or distress without justifiable reason; if it can be justified, the fear or distress should not be excessive. Marketers must not use a shocking claim or image merely to attract attention.

4.4- Marketing communications must contain nothing that is likely to condone or encourage violence or anti-social behaviour.

The preface says The system is structured so that it does not… restrict free speech unjustifiably. The introduction, IV.c, says compliance with the Code is assessed according to the marketing communication’s probable impact when taken as a whole and in context. I hope IV.j is not thought relevant- the ASA does not arbitrate between conflicting ideologies.

These are the relevant clauses of the code. How do I complain? I looked at the booklet “Making a Complaint” (pdf here, found here). The stronger you can make your case, the better. The Advertising Standards Authority can seek an assurance of compliance from the advertiser. If there is a serious breach, there may be a formal investigation. They monitor ads to check the changes have been made and the code is being observed.

I made my complaint here.

I see there is a 5000 character limit for a complaint. It should allow 750 words or so, which is quite enough. They ask for your personal details, including your post code. This is what I wrote:

“The advert in the Scotsman and Metro [my complaint was incorrect- see below] today breaches the code. It is untruthful (1.1), prepared without a sense of responsibility (1.3) in that it foments unjustified fear and increases the possibility of violence, it is misleading (3.1), likely to cause offence, including on the grounds of gender (4.1), it causes me fear and distress as a trans woman, and uses shocking claims (4.2), and it may encourage anti-social behaviour (4.4).

“Headline: “Self-id gives predators the green light”. False and offensive. The advert refers to gender recognition reform, and the Bill published here: https://consult.gov.scot/family-law/gender-recognition-reform-scotland-bill/ The Bill does not encourage sexual predators. It permits trans people to declare our gender without the need for medical confirmation. The advert makes me afraid, because I fear people will see me, a trans woman in women’s changing rooms, as a “predator”.

“The advert uses language to inspire fear: “We believe [the law] will be exploited by predatory men who pose a real threat to women and girls”. “This change to the law will harm thousands of women.” There is a false implication: “Why are the rights of women and girls being ignored?” They are not.

“It is false: “it will be legal for them to access any women’s space”. Access to women’s space is governed by the Equality Act 2010 schedule 3. It is unaffected by gender recognition law. Paragraph 28 permits exclusion. “Without consulting”- there is a full consultation.

“The advert makes me afraid because it encourages people to see gender recognition as a threat to women. This may encourage violent men to believe they have a reason to attack me: I have suffered online abuse because of similar claims, including threats of violence.”

Actually the advert pictured was in the Scotsman, not the Metro. The Metro one was toned down: Protect Scottish Women’s Rights…The Scottish Government and many of our MSPs continue to ignore women’s concerns about the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.  Every woman and girl in Scotland will lose vital legal protections if the Government pushes ahead with its proposals.

An additional complaint:

“The advert in the Metro breaches the code. It is untruthful (1.1), prepared without a sense of responsibility (1.3) in that it foments unjustified fear and increases the possibility of violence, it is misleading (3.1), likely to cause offence, including on the grounds of gender (4.1), it causes me fear and distress as a trans woman, and uses shocking claims (4.2), and it may encourage anti-social behaviour (4.4).

“Headline: “Protect Scottish Women’s Rights”. The implication that women’s rights are under threat is false and offensive. The advert refers to gender recognition reform, and the Bill published here: https://consult.gov.scot/family-law/gender-recognition-reform-scotland-bill/ The Bill does not affect women’s rights. It permits trans people to declare our gender without the need for medical confirmation. The advert makes me afraid, because I fear people will see me, a trans woman in women’s changing rooms, as a threat to women’s rights.

“The advert uses language to inspire fear and disseminate falsehood: “Every woman and girl in Scotland will lose vital legal protections if the Government pushes ahead with its proposals.” Access to women’s space is governed by the Equality Act 2010 schedule 3. It is unaffected by gender recognition law. Paragraph 28 permits exclusion. It says the Government “continue to ignore women’s concerns,” but there is a full consultation, linked above.

“The advert makes me afraid because it encourages people to see gender recognition as a threat to women. This may encourage violent men to believe they have a reason to attack me: I have suffered online abuse because of similar claims, including threats of violence.”

The ASA says it aims to reply within three weeks. What might it do after that? It might “write to the advertiser explaining the issues and providing advice and guidance on how to comply with the Codes”. See its Non-Broadcast Complaint handling procedures: you can download the pdf from this link. But there have been complaints about the “LGB Alliance” before, so the ASA may conclude that there is an “obvious pattern of unwillingness or inability of the advertiser to comply with the Code” and launch a formal investigation. Complaints of harm and offence are seen as more serious, and should be dealt with more quickly.

Unfortunately, the “Advice Notice” issued by the ASA concerning the last transphobic advert did not cover all the reasons why it was false and objectionable.

4 thoughts on “Transphobia in advertising

  1. I saw some things from these organisations on Twitter. They set up a suite of fake Twitter accounts supposedly from all the main political parties as if they were affiliated with them, which I think got suspended. It’s a full on campaign – weird to watch in action, and spot the same tactics I’ve seen around here for so many years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This was the first LGB All Liars advert I had seen, but I hear from facebook that there have been complaints about them before. The breach of the rules is so blatant (though the description of the Bad Person as an obvious man may be an attempt to obfuscate that) that they may just be “Moving fast and breaking things”. So when All Liars is finally forbidden to advertise at all they will reform as a completely “new” organisation of decent concerned citizens.

      I can hardly bring myself to type the name they choose for themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Claire – I templated this and complained directly to the ASA. I got my rather predictable reply back from them, siding with the anti-trans activist advert.I’m considering my reaction at the moment, but needless to say it is not a happy one. Thank you again for your hard work and analysis enabling me to do this, though.

    Like

    • Welcome, Louise, and thank you for commenting. I am going to see whether any appeal is possible, and what appeal might be made. Unfortunately, the 104 complaints may have done no more than tell All Liars where the boundary lies, so they can go right up to it when they call us dangerous predators.

      Like

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