Grexit may now be his best option. Photo: Getty Images
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Failure may now be the least-worst option for Syriza

Abjectly losing the negotiations in Brussels, and being kicked out of the Eurozone, might just be the best outcome that Syriza can hope for, says Michael Chessum in Athens.

Just over a week ago, while most of the world predicted that Greece would vote Yes in its referendum and that the government would fall, almost every campaigner and bypasser we met predicted that No would scrape it. They didn’t predict the massive 61 per cent mandate that Syriza would get for resisting austerity, but the universal response you got from campaigners – especially during and after the gigantic rally in Syntagma Square two days before the poll – was “yes, I think we’ll win.”

This weekend, there is a similar but less pronounced gap, focussed not on the feeling in the streets but on negotiating rooms thousands of miles away where the fate of Greece and of the dreams that Syriza carries with it are being decided upon – or torn up, depending on your perspective. Some – including, apparently, the departed Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis – simply refuse to believe that the Greek deal, no matter how much betrayal it contemplates, will be accepted by Schauble and his allies in the Eurogroup. In both cases, the subconscious predictions made on the Greek left and beyond may well stem at least as much from a desperate sense of hope as they do from a political calculation, let alone ‘game theory’. As with winning the referendum, the rejection of the deal by the Eurozone is in many ways the only way out for the current Syriza administration – a means of saving it from its own capitulation.

Over the weekend, large numbers of young Athenians head to nearby islands to get out of the city, go camping and swim. On a ferry going in the opposite direction from the small island of Agistri this afternoon, I chatted to Nefeli, 23, and Ioanna, 20, both students and, as it turned out, members of Syriza. “We voted for a leftist government,” says Nefeli. “Then we voted, 61% of us voted, for ‘no’. But they still want to destroy us, they still want to destroy the left.” After months and months of fighting the country’s creditors, the tone of many on the Greek left and in the wider population is now understandably one of exasperation.

Many Greeks, though they disagree with the deal and the idea of another memorandum, do not blame Tsipras primarily for the current situation. The emphasis for many is on the behaviour of the Eurozone – as Nefeli puts it, “not the people of the EU but its leaders” – which has pushed Greek society to breaking point, and tested many Greeks’ support for membership of the EU. Tsipras, she says, is “doing his best”. But the credibility of the government is in jeopardy as a result of the proposed new deal, in the context of widespread politicisation and high expectations. “People have started to think more,” says Ioanna. “And I’m afraid that they won’t believe the left anymore.”

A poll for Skai, a right wing local news station, announced in time for the parliamentary vote on Friday, declared that 55.5% of Greeks ‘feel fear’ at the idea of a Grexit. But in the current climate, everything is scary: a unilateral default and a return to the Drachma would bring chaos, at least for the moment, while a continuation of the austerity contained in another memorandum would mean more suicides, more poverty, more desolation. Both outcomes bring a humanitarian crisis; and many of the 55.5 per cent who fear a Grexit will now be concluding that it is inevitable, even desirable.

In many ways, winning the referendum was the real gamble for Tsipras. Falling at that hurdle would have meant, at least in the short term, the return of the old order and the implementation of austerity, while the left resisted cleanly from opposition. Falling from power in a few weeks’ time, having sold out to Brussels in spite of an overwhelming popular mandate, could, after a bit of time and political stagnation, bring much darker forces to the fore: “If the left falls,” says Nefeli, “Golden Dawn is next. That’s what history tells us”. The far-right in Greece has positioned itself cleverly, and has been waiting for exactly this kind of compromise. Abjectly losing the negotiations in Brussels, and being kicked out of the Eurozone, might just be the best outcome that Syriza can hope for. 

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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