Not Entirely Worthless *don’t run*

Christopher Paustian

Is anyone else bothered by all these events that supposedly raise the awareness of a social issue? Let me clarify. I have no problem addressing matters that are pertinent to society, but this entirely nondescript word “awareness” has to go.
It seems like every week there’s a poster or a notice reminding students that it’s Body Image Awareness Week, or encouraging attendance at a lecture that will raise awareness of some diverse community.
Now don’t get me wrong, these groups are motivated by the most admirable intentions, but the sooner they do away with awareness the better.
The first problem with awareness is simple enough: the word is dreadfully overused. The formula for naming one of these events that seek social betterment seems to be to simply take the politically correct name of the issue at hand or noteworthy community of people, tack the word “awareness” onto the end of it, and then, oh wait, that’s it, you’re done already.
If you want to really go the extra mile, add some slightly relevant clipart in the empty spaces on your posters or put your title of “Various Cause + Awareness” in a really cool font. Don’t feel any pressure though. After all, not everyone’s a go-getter.
Clearly, I am not a go-getter, because as much as I dislike the word, I can’t claim to have done anything about it. During high school I was involved with a student group whose mission was to “improve the social climate of the school.”
We hosted Alcohol Awareness Day right before Prom weekend in a vain attempt to encourage responsible drinking, and watched students throw out the flyers containing fun facts about stress management, which we distributed during the wildly popular Health Fair.
We made a huge difference. That social climate didn’t know what hit it. Throughout my experience with this group, awareness was our go-to phrase for naming events or explaining our intent.
There is another reason besides irksome overuse that I dislike the word awareness. When the word is applied to groups of people, such as Body Image Awareness Day or ethnic group awareness events, it treats people as causes rather than, well, people.
It invites the thought, “Oh, we need to help these poor, poor people because they have a problem and I don’t.” It objectifies people into the recipients of charity or sympathy, and strips away the rest of their identity as individuals.
Even the next Rocky movie is exploring new, innovative options for its title. Instead of the logical title, Rocky VI, the cinematic masterminds at MGM decided to name the latest installment in the saga Rocky Balboa. How about it Lawrence, do you think we can match Sylvester Stallone for creativity?

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