Why "awareness" isn't enough

    Warning: This article contains explicit language unbecoming of a young lady.

    A screenshot of the author’s Gmail account.

    Being sick and being friendly are mutually exclusive in my book. Being nice and being accusatory, crass and technologically-inclined? Now that I have down.

    No, we’re not going to talk about my 463 unread messages or the rest of my dazzlingly frazzled methods for living life. We’re going to talk about awareness.

    This week is both Religious Awareness Week and Sex Week — two topics usually only reconciled by Catholic schoolgirl uniforms in pornos — and I’m confused. Hosted by the Northwestern University Council of Religions (NUCOR), Religious Awareness Week (or the ironic acronym, RAW) kicked off Monday with four events featuring Stephen Prothero, author of Religious Literacy, and Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith Youth Core.

    The child of the College Feminists, Sex Week likewise kicked off with the Sexual Health & Assault Resource Fair. To quote our preview article of Sex Week, founder Stella Fayman thinks “attention needs to be called to the fact that discomfort with discussing sex leaves too many people with too little information about one of the fundamental experiences of life.”

    Okay, so we’re supposed to be aware of religion. We’re supposed to be aware of sex. No arguments here. Stupidity is forgivable but ignorance is inexcusable, yada yada yada, clichĂ© quote here.

    But at 11:30 a.m., when I could’ve been treated to a free catered lunch and a speech by Patel at the first event of RAW, I was in class. In fact, I was in my second class during the 4 p.m. forum that featured both Patel and Prothero. At the 7:30 Prothero speech, I’m going to be watching Greek; and by the time the 9 p.m. event rolls around I will probably be doing my homework, pregaming or … YouTubing scenes from Greek.

    It’s hard to be “aware” of something beyond the most superficial meaning of the word if you can’t attend the events intended to increase your awareness. Sex Week can be applauded for holding more engaging activities at night, when students usually have free time, but even then they’re competing with the typical nightlife, be it a bar, Guitar Hero, a Greek date party or a Greek date party.

    Yes, I don’t have to watch guilty pleasure TV, but I’m going to. Odds are, no one’s going to change their schedule to accommodate Friday afternoon’s “Wonderfully Made Women’s Bible Study” or sprint out of American Cultural History to hit Wednesday’s “What Supplies Your Demand: The Economics of Sexuality.” Don’t get me wrong — these events definitely sound interesting and people will show up. But they will be people who are already aware of and invested in these issues.

    These awareness groups function under the presumption that we are all sitting around, twiddling our thumbs and wishing someone, oh someone, would bring an author or lecturer or someone else we’ve never heard of to rescue us from the perils of ignorance. But if you weren’t taking the time to invest yourself in these issues before, then awareness weeks will likely do little for you. NUCOR and College Fems should realize they need to create the audiences they think they’re already targeting.

    You see, we’re all aware of religion and sex. They’re kicked and dragged across our favorite sitcoms, and when I say that everyone and their mom took Human Sex last quarter, I literally mean that your mom was e-mailing me, asking to compare notes. I almost think that they’re easy-outs for awareness week subjects, because both religion and sex are already so inherently interesting and personal. They’re things people want to be aware about. Try having a Microorganism Awareness Week. See how the turn-out for that is.

    But I guess my biggest issue with these awareness weeks is that they’re unambitious. “Awareness” is unambitious. Change is a whole different story. You can’t have change without awareness, and I wholeheartedly agree with that. But just by living in our culture, we’re all already equipped with awareness of both sex and religion. We know the typical issues that surround both. We know that tolerance is important, and we know that we’re supposed to use protection when we have sex (and if you don’t, you should). Give us some credit here. No one is going to become more sexually liberated by attending a Sex Week event, because only sexually liberated people will attend a Sex Week event. You can’t snare a frat guy with a flashy flier that says “ORGASM” because he knows there’s a catch — he’ll be attending a school-sponsored, organized event giving already socially promoted answers (Be liberated! Understand others’ faiths! Use protection! Respect women!).

    This is where interception from groups like College Fems and NUCOR should take place: Instead of asking people to broadly attend a bunch of events one week, they need to take their message out into the world. Example: Last year, when I was taking Life & Style assignments, I wrote an article on a Sex Week event at Nevin’s. It was a “Pleasure Party,” hosted by the CEO of a sex toy company. It was advertised as such (I do believe there was a snapshot of the cast of Sex & the City on the fliers), and — shock among shocks — girls interested in sex toys who watched Sex & the City showed up. It wasn’t that it wasn’t fun, but did anyone there get anything out of it?

    He says it’s a “different cold”… whatever.

    Now, imagine if College Fems had gotten the go-ahead from Nevin’s or another bar to host the sex toys party there … and then hadn’t advertised it, or had advertised it as “Something sexy will happen at The Keg” or something similarly vague. The night would roll around, tons of people would flood the bars like they always do, and I imagine they’d be surprised to see a blonde chick waving a dildo and shouting about “feeling dry.” But there would at least be a more varied audience of people who had something to learn about sex toys, not just a pigeonholed group of chicks who are already comfortable with the idea of lube. I could totally see your typical bro — the kind who would never voluntarily show up to the event — calling his friend and telling him to get his ass over there, ’cause there’s a blonde chick waving a dildo and shouting about “feeling dry,” dude. But even if the invitation was in jest, they’d probably both learn a thing or two about sex. They’d be more than “aware” of it.

    My friends are now aware that I have a cold. They’re very aware, in fact. But it doesn’t change the fact that I can’t breathe and I sneezed 728 times in Research Methods today. So what am I going to do about it? I am going to finish my bottle of Immune C gummy bears, and I’m going vigilante on my friends until one of them lets loose even the faintest of sniffles. Then I’m going to cut a bitch, because I just can’t be sick and friendly at the same time.


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