Last week as I happily went through another Valentine’s Day single – and not the I hate the celebration and want to be all anti type of single – I couldn’t help but cringe at the way this holiday has morphed over the years. Yes, it is still about the cards, candy and flowers. But it is also an excuse to be permissive, to drink too much, to hook up with strangers to drown out the pervasive loneliness. It’s overwhelming and disheartening at times.
The Love and Fidelity Network took a different approach to Valentine’s Day. Rather than focus on the single crazy day, the organization decided for a more long-lasting and positive message. From February 11-15, students at 25 universities, including Harvard, Georgetown, Stanford, and Holy Cross hung thousands of posters around campus, published ads in their school’s papers, and used social media to share a simple but profound campaign: Words That Still Matter.
According to the press release on the event… The 8 posters, which resemble vintage protest ads, each prominently feature a different aspirational word – integrity, dignity, strength, and romance – age-old virtues that matter no less today than they did centuries ago. Then follows the internal monologue a young man or woman might have regarding that word and how it applies to their sexual habits and their personal aspirations. By juxtaposing these positive words with raw personal reflections, the campaign seeks to show the discrepancy between what young men and women aspire to on the one hand, and where the hookup culture leads them on the other, demonstrating that these words do still matter. The website features animated versions of the posters as well as extended versions of each monologue that delve deeper into the young man or woman’s experience.
The campaign sends the message that the hook-up culture forces students to settle for less than who they are and less than what they want in their sexual lives and relationships. Director of Programs Caitlin Seery said, “Many students have very real questions about the hook-up culture – ‘Is this really all there is?’ ‘Why do I want more?’ ‘Is this what it means to be a man?’ ‘Is there something wrong with me that this doesn’t make me happy?’ – but because the consequence-free sexual culture is so pervasive, they are often afraid to ask, thinking that there is something wrong with them rather than something wrong with the culture of cheap sex.
“The goal of our campaign is to spark deep conversations in which students critically engage questions about our hyper-sexualized culture. We aim for students to realize they are better than what the hook-up culture offers by highlighting the dissonance between the positive character traits that students aspire to cultivate and the reality of the consequences that the hook-up culture produces,” Seery added.
You can see more of the posters, read the stories of others and share your own at WordsThatStillMatter.com. I wish I was near one of these campuses last week to see how it all materialized.