Successful campaign or scary slip-up?
Students passing through the Bloomfield Centre in the past few months will have paid witness to the new Visible @ X advertising strategy: eight foot tall pieces of cardboard plastered with posters about consent. The first round of posters, put out for homecoming weekend, took to re-imagining popular StFX cheers to champion consent, boasting slogans such as “sex is dynamite, but only if there is consent” and “Go X Go, Go Sex Go.”
From the Visible @ X webpage, “Visible @ X means zero tolerance for sexual violence of any kind” and that “consent is not optional.” The goal behind the posters follows that philosophy - to impress the importance of consent on StFX students, and to get students talking about consent by connecting it to relevant events and popular slogans on campus. To achieve this, Visible @ X has designed a series of different posters for different holidays and events on campus. The most recent round of posters features zombies, bats, and a haunted house for Halloween; but are zombies the only scary thing about these posters?
Despite the good intentions behind the campaign, feminist students and faculty are shocked and disappointed at the choice of slogan: “too drunk to consent, or zombie?” Comparing someone who can’t consent to a fictional monster makes light of an extremely important issue, and is particularly ignorant in wake of recent events on campus.
First year student and activist Jenny Li is one of the many students to voice concern, and states that “in their attempts to lighten the subject matter, the posters trivialized sexual violence and did little to advance the education and awareness so vital to its prevention.” Jasmine Cormier, who has spoken up about the campaign on Twitter, agrees, “trying to make light of such a serious issue that students face every day isn’t what’s needed right now... comparing someone who’s heavily intoxicated/possibly drugged to a zombie just sends a message that this problem isn’t real or meaningful.”
Other students, Grace Tompkins among them, don’t feel comfortable being in a space where posters such as this are being displayed. “The language used in them was extremely insensitive, and seeing 20+ of them plastered on a board in the SUB made me feel uneasy,” shares Tompkins.
Perhaps a bright side to this slip-up is that it has succeeded in sparking conversation about the importance of language in talking about sexualized violence and assault, as is evident, for example, on Twitter. Li adds, as well, that “it is heartening to see any effort made, by student or staff, toward the prevention of sexualized violence.” Progress isn’t a flawless process, but what is important is that we learn from our mistakes moving forward, and ensure that they aren’t repeated.