sexist ad york

Controversy erupts over ad in women's washroom at York U

There's controversy brewing at York University this week over an ad campaign placed in women's washrooms around campus.

Statistics show that up to 25 per cent of women in college and university will be sexually assaulted at some point during the course of their education.

We know that this is a problem on all Canadian campuses, we know that the first eight weeks of the school year are particularly dangerous, and we know that alcohol is the most common substance involved in drug-facilitated sexual assaults.

It makes sense, then, that public health and safety groups would want to raise awareness right now as students head back to class.

What doesn't make sense is how anyone involved in that kind of work would think this ad could fly.

A poster version of the graphic above, produced by York Region, has been blasted to shreds on Twitter and Facebook after surfacing last week in a women's washroom at York University.

"Don't try to keep up with the guys" it reads, showing a young woman looking at her phone in horror. Some overlayed Instagram screenshots show the progression of her night, from "making friends" to ending up half-conscious in the bed of some guy who brags "my kind of party."

One of the Instagram posts is captioned with "#bingedrinking," putting the entire ad even further out of touch with its demographic.

Nobody uses the hashtag #bingedrinking unironically, especially when they're binge drinking.

The ads critics say that it's sexist, irresponsible, awful, ridiculous, offensive, victim-blaming, and that it shames young women to the point that some might actually be prevented from reporting their assaults.

In light of the backlash, York Region says it has suspended the campaign.

"Our intent is never to offend," reads a statement issued by the organization on Twitter last week. "Instead, the intent of this campaign was to raise awareness about the dangers associated with excessive alcohol consumption and binge drinking."

Despite this, chatter about the ad continues online today as a CBC Toronto story about its existence circulates.

Many are still calling out the ad as problematic, but others say the reaction is overblown.

"Sad, if drunkenness is a measure of gender equity," wrote one person on Twitter in response to the article.

"It's not sexist to tell people to be responsible," wrote another. "It's sexist to say that telling them to be responsible is sexist just cause they're women."

Lead photo by

Mira Elhussein

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