Changing the Story for Men in Australia & New Zealand

Trends / Realness
Jessie Casson
Kate Rourke
Dec 17, 2021
We know the harm gender stereotypes have on progressing gender diversity, equity, and inclusion, and we know the power that media and advertising have in being able to dispel these stereotypes and influence our beliefs and attitudes.
Despite men in Australia and New Zealand not feeling the same pressure as women to conform to what society expects, there is a need to address the visual representation of men showing outdated ideals of masculinity. A report1 by the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation found widespread agreement that traditional gender stereotypes are limiting and harmful for boys and men: 3 out of 5 people agreed that “expecting men to be 'masculine' traps them in boxes and stops them from living full and happy lives.” Our own ongoing Visual GPS research in the region found that 64% of men do not feel represented in media and advertising, compared to 52% of men globally. The issue is stronger here and even more so with the younger generations who are more progressive and committed to ensuring that the world becomes a better place for others.
Our Visual GPS research in Australia and New Zealand also discovered some familiar visual stereotypes despite more awareness across consumers and marketers alike. The most popular visual story for men in content across Getty Images and iStock shows men hard at work. In particular, Millennials and Gen X are much more likely seen working than they are spending time with family, friends, by themselves or even having a hobby. Less than 2% of visuals show men of larger body types. Slimmer, toned and muscular men are seen more, despite the fact that 3 in 42 Australian men and 65%3 of New Zealand men are considered overweight or obese.

When we look at advertising, challenging stereotypes for men is seemingly less straightforward. The Gillette advert that launched in 2019 called, “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be” was trying to tackle “toxic masculinity” by covering topics of bullying, sexism and sexual harassment after the height of the “#metoo” movement. It caused significant backlash. Many cited it as a negative portrayal of men and boys rather than trying to encourage or aspire a different way to be.
 Nearly half of men in Australia and New Zealand agreed that businesses need to be more outspoken on diversity and inclusion issues
Our Visual GPS research shows that nearly half of men in Australia and New Zealand agreed that businesses need to be more outspoken on diversity and inclusion issues, with the same number agreeing that if a company includes accurate and authentic representations of a wide range of people, lifestyles or cultures in its advertising and communications, it too shows the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Reassuringly, despite slow progress, we are witnessing a shift in what our customers across all industries in Australia and New Zealand are using visually when it comes to depicting men more authentically. We’re seeing a shift from mainly seeing the “playful dad” to a father who is more hands‑on, caring and thoughtful with his children. Working men, particularly white collar office workers, are still very popular, but we also seeing the rise of the small business owner who is young and taking agency over his life. Boomer men are still seen leading active healthy lifestyles with their partners (who are primarily women), but we are starting to see him more contented on his own. However, when we layer in other lenses of identity into those scenarios, we see a big decrease in representation and either a continuation of the stereotyping we are trying to avoid or completely missing key people out. For example, when it comes to fatherhood, over 90% of the dads pictured are white, and less than 1% are LGBTQ+.
There is a greater opportunity to be truly inclusive when representing men and boys.
We have produced visual guidebooks to provide brands and businesses, and our contributors, with practical advice and inspiration on how to move beyond tokenistic and stereotypical content. And to be more intersectional, inclusive, and thoughtful when making visual selections.

When choosing visuals of men in ANZ, ask yourself:
  • Are you showing roles equally attributable to all genders?
  • Are you showing multi‑faceted men and boys of different races and ethnicities?
  • Are you stereotyping men in certain businesses and within a certain age range?
  • Are you showing a multidimensional experience of what it means to be an older man?
  • Are you depicting diverse gender expressions and presentations in terms of dress, grooming choices, etc.?
  • Are you representing men's race/ethnicity alongside other intersections of their identity? (E.g., disabilities, gender identity or expression, age, etc.)
  • Are you reflecting the cultural nuances and traditions of different races/ethnicities such as First Nations people, Maori, Asian, Pacific peoples?
  • Are you representing men with larger bodies? Shorter bodies? Are you selecting imagery that features them living full lives? That is not focused on losing weight or trying to be active?
Real People = Real Bodies