This week's NS: The London issue

Summer double edition: essays, fiction, art and photography inspired by the capital.

Special double edition with contributions from Vivienne Westwood, Matthew Hollis, Maurice Glasman, Will Hutton, Ruth Padel and Evgeny Lebedev, an essay by Will Self, a new short story by Joe Dunthorne, an interview with David Bailey and a specially commissioned 12-page  photo essay on the world's greatest city

This week’s New Statesman is a 92-page special issue on London. The double issue of the magazine features a series of capsule essays, “Tales of a city”, in which artists, authors and public figures reflect on their relationship with the capital. The pieces include:

 

  • Vivienne Westwood on a life spent in art galleries

  • Bim Adewunmi on Hackney’s inevitable gentrification

  • Alex Preston urges bankers to look up at the buildings they built

  • Ruth Padel argues the case for London Zoo

  • David Lammy questions whether London can be a place for everyone

  • Matthew Hollis travels on a boat down the Thames

  • Stuart Maconie offers a northerner’s take on the capital

  • Dorian Lynskey celebrates the Rough Trade record shop

  • Sarah Sands insists that no other city can compete with London

  • Maurice Glasman recalls gloomy childhood Sundays in Palmers Green

  • Evgeny Lebedev is grateful to a city that welcomed him

 

Will Self: Streets of love and anarchy

For a special essay, Will Self takes a stroll through south London with his son. They encounter pirate DVD sellers, 1970s tower blocks and Battersea Power Station – and Self remembers how much he loves, and hates, the protean city. Ralph Steadman has created an original illustration for the New Statesman to accompany this London essay.

 

Reporter at Large: Edward Platt

Last summer, Edward Platt set out in the footsteps of J B Priestley, tracking Britain’s post-industrial decline and revival. In the last of his “English journeys”, he visits the Isle of Dogs and Southwark, and discovers that urban poverty coexists uneasily with high finance. With photographs of Canary Wharf and the Shard by Stephen McLaren and Mimi Mollica.

 

Also in the London issue

  • An extensive photo essay, specially commissioned by the New Statesman, opens with a reflection on foreign depictions of the city by Sukhdev Sandhu, the author of London Calling and Night Haunts: a Journey Through the London Night. Across six spreads of the magazine, vintage photographs from Tate Britain's exhibition “Another London” (opens on 27 July) sit next to reinterpretations in images by the contemporary photographers Daido Moriyama, Alex Webb, Aaron Schuman, Jan Stradtmann, Noemie Goudal, Gueorgui Pinkhassov, Mishka Henner and Richard Mosse.

  • David Bailey, whose iconic fashion and celebrity photos of the Sixties captured the essence of Swinging London, talks to Rebecca McClelland in the NS Interview.

  • We run a new short story by Joe Dunthorne, “The Cold War”, set in an east London park and with an illustration by Barry Falls.

 

Elsewhere in this week's NS

  • Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, reflects on what can be done about Britain’s gloomy outlook in the Economics Column.

  • In the Politics Column, Rafael Behr reports that Boris Johnson “has told aides he intends to perform his mayoral duties on an unofficial part-time basis after the Olympics”. With seven deputy mayors left to run the capital, Johnson will be afforded “three years of idleness” – which for Downing Street “means endless scope for political devilry”.

  • In the Critics section, Richard Mabey writes the third in his series of “seasonal diaries” for the NS on the “floral phantasmagoriahe" we have our unusually wet summer to thank for.

  • Leo Hollis examines attempts to transform London from a Victorian capital to a futuristic metropolis using the latest digital technology.

  • The former editor of the Observer, Will Hutton, writes examines three books by leading economists who dissent from the “austerian” consensus on the best solution to the economic crisis, both domestically and globally. 

  • Also in The Critics, the NS's pick of the top ten London novels, films and songs.

 

This week's double issue of the New Statesman, cover dated 30 July - 12 August 2012, is on newsstands and available for purchase here

 

Alice Gribbin is a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She was formerly the editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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Harmful gender stereotypes in ads have real impact – so we're challenging them

The ASA must make sure future generations don't recoil at our commercials.

July’s been quite the month for gender in the news. From Jodie Whittaker’s casting in Doctor Who, to trains “so simple even women can drive them”, to how much the Beeb pays its female talent, gender issues have dominated. 

You might think it was an appropriate time for the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to launch our own contribution to the debate, Depictions, Perceptions and Harm: a report on gender stereotypes in advertising, the result of more than a year’s careful scrutiny of the evidence base.

Our report makes the case that, while most ads (and the businesses behind them) are getting it right when it comes to avoiding damaging gender stereotypes, the evidence suggests that some could do with reigning it in a little. Specifically, it argues that some ads can contribute to real world harms in the way they portray gender roles and characteristics.

We’re not talking here about ads that show a woman doing the cleaning or a man the DIY. It would be most odd if advertisers couldn’t depict a woman doing the family shop or a man mowing the lawn. Ads cannot be divorced from reality.

What we’re talking about is ads that go significantly further by, for example, suggesting through their content and context that it’s a mum’s sole duty to tidy up after her family, who’ve just trashed the house. Or that an activity or career is inappropriate for a girl because it’s the preserve of men. Or that boys are not “proper” boys if they’re not strong and stoical. Or that men are hopeless at simple parental or household tasks because they’re, well...men.

Advertising is only a small contributor to gender stereotyping, but a contributor it is. And there’s ever greater recognition of the harms that can result from gender stereotyping. Put simply, gender stereotypes can lead us to have a narrower sense of ourselves – how we can behave, who we can be, the opportunities we can take, the decisions we can make. And they can lead other people to have a narrower sense of us too. 

That can affect individuals, whatever their gender. It can affect the economy: we have a shortage of engineers in this country, in part, says the UK’s National Academy of Engineering, because many women don’t see it as a career for them. And it can affect our society as a whole.

Many businesses get this already. A few weeks ago, UN Women and Unilever announced the global launch of Unstereotype Alliance, with some of the world’s biggest companies, including Proctor & Gamble, Mars, Diageo, Facebook and Google signing up. Advertising agencies like JWT and UM have very recently published their own research, further shining the spotlight on gender stereotyping in advertising. 

At the ASA, we see our UK work as a complement to an increasingly global response to the issue. And we’re doing it with broad support from the UK advertising industry: the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) – the industry bodies which author the UK Advertising Codes that we administer – have been very closely involved in our work and will now flesh out the standards we need to help advertisers stay on the right side of the line.

Needless to say, our report has attracted a fair amount of comment. And commentators have made some interesting and important arguments. Take my “ads cannot be divorced from reality” point above. Clearly we – the UK advertising regulator - must take into account the way things are, but what should we do if, for example, an ad is reflecting a part of society as it is now, but that part is not fair and equal? 

The ad might simply be mirroring the way things are, but at a time when many people in our society, including through public policy and equality laws, are trying to mould it into something different. If we reign in the more extreme examples, are we being social engineers? Or are we simply taking a small step in redressing the imbalance in a society where the drip, drip, drip of gender stereotyping over many years has, itself, been social engineering. And social engineering which, ironically, has left us with too few engineers.

Read more: Why new rules on gender stereotyping in ads benefit men, too

The report gave news outlets a chance to run plenty of well-known ads from yesteryear. Fairy Liquid, Shake 'n' Vac and some real “even a woman can open it”-type horrors from decades ago. For some, that was an opportunity to make the point that ads really were sexist back then, but everything’s fine on the gender stereotyping front today. That argument shows a real lack of imagination. 

History has not stopped. If we’re looking back at ads of 50 years ago and marvelling at how we thought they were OK back then, despite knowing they were products of their time, won’t our children and grandchildren be doing exactly the same thing in 50 years’ time? What “norms” now will seem antiquated and unpleasant in the future? We think the evidence points to some portrayals of gender roles and characteristics being precisely such norms, excused by some today on the basis that that’s just the way it is.

Our report signals that change is coming. CAP will now work on the standards so we can pin down the rules and official guidance. We don’t want to catch advertisers out, so we and CAP will work hard to provide as much advice and training as we can, so they can get their ads right in the first place. And from next year, we at the ASA will make sure those standards are followed, taking care that our regulation is balanced and wholly respectful of the public’s desire to continue to see creative ads that are relevant, entertaining and informative. 

You won’t see a sea-change in the ads that appear, but we hope to smooth some of the rougher edges. This is a small but important step in making sure modern society is better represented in ads.

Guy Parker is CEO of the ASA