If I have learned anything over the weekend, it is that “awareness!!!” campaigns are really, really important to some people. I’m not entirely sure why because, for the most part, awareness campaigns are just icky.
There are a lot of problems with the way awareness is raised. Most often, they focus on the pathology paradigm. They raise awareness by highlighting “deficits”, they stereotype entire groups of people, and in that way, they can never lead to acceptance. Awareness campaigners often claim that awareness precedes acceptance, but it just doesn’t. Highlighting ways that people are different from the majority effectively others those people, and othering leads to prejudice, which is probably the antithesis of acceptance.
Many, many, many people have already highlighted massive flaws in awareness campaigns. Here are a few which cover a variety of different awareness gimmicks:
That list could go on infinitely. It really could. But, awareness raising still seems super important, so I tried to find a step-by-step instruction guide, and I came up with this one and this one. Neither of those two actually cover what really must be the first step in planning any awareness campaign, so I created this handy little flow chart for the next time you want to plan an awareness event:
Title: How to plan an awareness campaign
Step 1: Ask the actual people* impacted by your awareness idea whether they want awareness.
*Note: This means lots of real people – not parents or friends
Flowchart with options for yes or no.
Yes: Plan your awareness campaign together with the people impacted by the campaign to ensure that they will be fully able to participate in the campaign.
No: Thank everyone for their time and just stop with awareness. Ask whether you can help in another way.
For the record, that image contains the words “real people – not just parents or friends”. That doesn’t mean that parents or friends aren’t real people – because, obviously, *everyone* is a real person. But, parents and friends often aren’t the real people impacted by awareness campaigns, and often the types of campaigns that they think are great ideas are actually harmful to the people who are the subject of awareness (the fact that awareness campaigns have subjects that are actually people is incredibly problematic, but I’ve probably typed enough today about the problems of awareness).
So, now you know the crucial first step in the process. Do not forget that step because it is probably the most important one. But, please also try and remember that awareness generally only benefits the abled majority who get all the good feels from participating in awareness, before going on to do precisely nothing else.