Stockholm wants to ban racist and sexist ads

The deputy mayor plans to crack down on ads that are degrading and promote harmful stereotypes

Stockholm is taking steps to ban sexist and racist advertisements in public spaces. Billboards that are deemed explicit or promote harmful stereotypes have come under fire recently as long-serving Green Party activist Daniel Hellden, the deputy mayor of the Swedish capital, has spoken about the damage these ads could have on his young daughters.

“I know my daughters, they don't like it. They feel bad,” he told the BBC. “We should not as a city be part of this sort of advertising. I have a responsibility to the citizens of Stockholm to ban this.”

The city has also seen a recent rise in immigration fuelled by the refugee crisis and Sweden’s burgeoning tech scene. Hellden is keen to raise awareness about the danger of racial stereotyping and prohibit ads with “racist undertones”. It’s expected the council will approve the ban later this month.

This landmark decision follows recent backlash against H&M, one of Sweden’s largest high street stores. The company sparked fury online when they used a black child to model a hoodie that read “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle”.

It fits into a recent European trend of major cities opting to restrict advertising – and of dads in politics pushing for progressive policies on the basis of their female children. Last year, London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan moved to ban body shaming ads from London transport after a spate of controversial campaigns, namely a Protein World ad that read: “Are you beach body ready?” 

He cited his teenagers as the inspiration behind his decision. In a statement, Khan said: “As the father of two teenage girls, I am extremely concerned about this kind of advertising which can demean people, particularly women, and make them ashamed of their bodies. It is high time it came to an end.”

Paris city council also voted to clamp down on “degrading” advertisements after Yves Saint Laurent stiletto skates ad campaign. Stickers reading “sexiste” (that’s french for sexist) were plastered over the images that were on billboards all over the city.

France’s advertising watchdog, the Autorite de Regulation Professionnelle de la Publicite (ARPP), received more than 50 complaints about the campaign saying that the images were “degrading to women” and even “incitement to rape”.

Although admirable, there’s still no indication of how governments plan to grade stereotypical advertisements or classify what makes an image harmful – especially as these things vary wildly across cultures.