05/01/2018 17:54 EDT | Updated 05/01/2018 17:56 EDT

YWCA Metro Vancouver Launches Reporting Tool For Sexualized Ads

It's an easy way to take action against content that can be really damaging.

Irritated by that ad on the bus that portrays a woman as a passive, sexual object? You can complain about it in a way that actually makes a difference.

YWCA Metro Vancouver has set up a simple tool that allows the public to report overly sexualized ads to Advertising Standards Canada.

The organization targets ads that sexualize women or children, promote harmful gender stereotypes and or promote hypermasculinity.

These types of ads are not new, but the YWCA cites research that says they contribute to mental health issues, eating disorders and even violence against women.

"It really devalues women, and it places their sexuality, physical appearance and desirability as their main source of value, at the cost of other characteristics, like intellectual capacity and capacity for independent decision making and action," Chantelle Krish, YWCA Metro Vancouver's Director of Communications and Advocacy told HuffPost Canada.

"When we look at the issue of masculinity, we're seeing an increasing glorification of hypermasculinity, which... relates to ideas around dominance, power, aggression and control as being the key tenets of value for men."

Krish said the YWCA has been advocating against sexualized advertising and media for several years, but it recently launched a new project called Culture Shift that aims to create more systemic change by raising awareness in areas like the business community and government. The new ad complaint tool is part of that push.

Five complaints have been sent in via the tool since it launched on Thursday, the YWCA said.

You can already report ads to Advertising Standards Canada if they've appeared within the last three months in Canadian media and you think their content violates the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards.

But the YWCA doesn't think most Canadians know that.

If a complaint can't be resolved between the advertiser and the complainant and an ad is found to have violated the code, the advertiser is asked to change or withdraw it.

According to Janet Feasby, vice president, standards with Advertising Standards Canada, many companies are keen to co-operate.

More from HuffPost Canada:

In a decision from last year, a standards council convened by the ASC agreed with complainants that images posted on the Facebook page and website of Quebec men's clothing company Bruffo inappropriately exploited women's sexuality.

One featured a woman from behind wearing only underwear that read "Bruffo," and the other showed a man in a jacket and shirt, with a woman beside him in just a bra.

The council said in its decision that "there was no connection between a woman's sexuality and a men's clothing store."

"In Council's opinion, both images demeaned women and displayed obvious indifference, without merit, to conduct or attitude that offend standards of decency," the decision read.

YWCA's Chantelle Krish said she thinks that Canadians are being exposed to more sexualized media than ever, but added that they think more critically about the media they consume.

"We hope this tool just gives them an additional tool for action against this type of thing."

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