Gender Portrayal Guidelines

The social and professional roles of men and women in society have changed and continue to change. Women and men participate at every level of society and communication is changing to reflect this reality. However, sexual and sex-role stereotyping, demeaning references or images and words that exclude women are still found in everyday dialogue and in the media. Such portrayals are incompatible with the goal of gender equality.


The following Guidelines (1) have been developed for implementation by all Government departments, statutory authorities, and Government agencies. The Guidelines are a useful mechanism for developing portrayals of women and men that are positive, are suitable for general viewing and seek to contribute to the elimination of systemic discrimination based on gender.

The Guidelines acknowledge that both women and men are at risk of being portrayed in an inappropriate or potentially harmful way. However, whilst the Guidelines are applicable to the portrayal of both women and men, some issues are particularly relevant to the portrayal of women.

Interpretation Guide

1. The Guidelines are not a "how to" guide, nor do they cover all situations which require care in gender portrayal. They are designed to assist creators of advertising develop positive and responsible portrayals of men and women.

2. Caution should be taken to ensure that the overall impression of any communication does not violate the spirit of gender equality even though the elements may not violate any particular guideline.

3. Techniques such as the use of humour, works of art and historical settings should not serve as an excuse to stereotype women or men or to portray behaviour which is not acceptable today.


  • Outdoor advertising is a public medium, and advertisers should be sensitive to the location in which outdoor advertising is displayed and viewed.
    Outdoor advertising is in the public domain and has a broad audience. The messages and images presented in this medium therefore need to be developed with a general audience in mind.

  • Advertising should avoid using inappropriate and exploitative sexual imagery of both women and men.
    Sexual images that depict the gratuitous or tasteless use of nudity and that have little or no relevance to the subject of the advertising, or that objectify women's and men's bodies are inappropriate and should not be used.

  • Advertising should portray women and men as equally competent in a wide range of activities both inside and outside the home, including the workplace.
    Advertising should avoid the stereotyped representation of gender roles including a narrow or unrepresentative view of women's roles, occupations, professional status, power in the community and level of intelligence.

  • Advertising should portray both women and men in the full spectrum of diversity, including age, appearance, and background.
    Women and men in Victoria are diverse in many ways. This should be reflected in advertising by increasing, where appropriate, the diversity of the images of women and men. Care should be taken to not portray people in a way which discriminates against or vilifies a person or a section of the community.

  • Violent images should be avoided in advertising other than as an integral part of community education campaigns designed to reduce the incidence of violent behaviour.
    Advertising must not advocate violent behaviour towards women thereby compromising women's public and private safety.

  • Advertising should seek to use language that is non-offensive and inclusive of both women and men.
    Advertising should aim to use gender-neutral language. Language that is likely to insult or offend should be avoided, unless it is used as part of a community education campaign.


(1) The Guidelines are adapted from the Gender Portrayal Guidelines administered by Advertising Standards Canada since 1981

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Last updated on Friday, 31 August 2012