Last week I alluded to the fact that I “have some feelings” about the NO MORE anti-domestic violence campaign. Since writing those words, I read some things about the campaign that only increased my negative feelings, making it clear that I’m not the only one with concerns. So this week I figured I should expound on my feelings and share some of what I learned.
Let start by reiterating that I’m always happy to see anti-domestic violence messages promoted, particularly in a public space as large as the one provided by the Superbowl (and its accompanying advertising blitz). In the twenty years I’ve done anti-sexual assault and domestic violence work, never have I seen this issue garner so much positive attention. Yes, the attention is exciting and heartwarming, but is the NO MORE campaign the discussion leader we need now? Hell NO. Why? Because the NO MORE campaign’s message is essentially useless and at its core the campaign is nothing more than a (relatively) cheap PR response to the NFL’s recent domestic violence issues.
My belief that NO MORE’s message is useless started long before I learned about the campaign’s true nature, so let’s start there. Why do I call it useless? Because there isn’t much behind the “talk about domestic violence” message they’re promoting… How should we talk about it? What should we say? How are you going to help us talk about it? Tell us NO MORE, tell us!
To NO MORE’s credit, there is a pledge on their website that includes some stats and links to more info, but first you have to be inspired to visit the site, since the ads say nothing about the issue. Once you’re on their site, you’ll quickly learn the campaign’s real goal… simply to promote
the issue itself. Don’t believe me? Here’s how NO MORE describes its own purpose:
[NO MORE is] The first unifying symbol to express support for ending domestic violence and sexual assault, NO MORE is available to anyone who wants to engage in normalizing the conversation around these issues and help end domestic violence and sexual assault.
- NO MORE will be everywhere – on websites, t-shirts, billboards and other public spaces.
- Organizations and corporations, large and small, will embrace this symbol as part of their own communications.
- When domestic violence or sexual assault makes media headlines, NO MORE will be tweeted, discussed on Facebook, shared on Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and posted on billboards and in classrooms, offices and grocery stores across the country.
NO MORE will help end the stigma, shame and silence of domestic violence and sexual assault, while helping to increase funding for prevention efforts. Like the red ribbon did for HIV/AIDS, NO MORE will directly challenge the mindset and behaviors that lead to this violence.
I have nothing against the concept of creating a unifying symbol for a cause, but anybody can slap on a teal wristband or throw on a t-shirt, particularly if it was free.
Let’s not fool ourselves, wearing a logo does not make the wearer care, or even know, more about the logo’s intent. Wearing a logo does nothing to “directly challenge the mindset and behaviors that lead to [domestic] violence. For example… I’ve worn one of the teal NO MORE rubber bracelets for years, since before the NFL picked up the campaign, yet I had no idea what NO MORE was actually about (until recently). Again, I do this work! I knew the color teal had been adopted by the anti-sexual assault movement (purple is for anti-domestic violence by the way), but beyond that I was wearing it only because someone in the field gave it to me after my last teal rubber bracelet broke (which I got while doing bystander intervention trainings with the US Air Force). My last teal rubber bracelet meant something to me, the NO MORE bracelet happened to be the right color to replace something meaningful, end of story.
Of course, any campaign that increases donations to anti-domestic violence and sexual assault organizations is not completely useless. But again, lets not lie to ourselves. People can easily give money without every really caring what the money is for, or educating themselves about an issue. This criticism is nothing new as it has been directed at previous symbols like the AIDS awareness red ribbons, the yellow Livestrong bracelets and breast cancer’s “Pinktober” many times before.
The issues of sexual assault and domestic violence won’t be solved by just throwing money at them. They’re cultural issues, not diseases that scientists with enough funding and time may be able to cure. For these issues to end we need wholesale culture change. Culture change is a much more complex issue. It involves all of us and it doesn’t happen unless people gain empathy, knowledge, tools and tactics. People need to care, they need to know how to identify domestic violence and sexual assault, they need to know what aspects of our culture contribute to their occurrence and they need to learn how to overcome the fear of intervening when they see it… otherwise nothing changes. NO MORE’s ads, while attention grabbing, do none of this.
If you want to say I’m just being cynical and harsh on the campaign that’s cool. I can accept this as a possible truth. But my cynicism doesn’t change the biggest issue with the campaign: The fact that it has become nothing more than a PR tool for the NFL.
As I mentioned before, NO MORE existed before the NFL picked it up, but at this point it has become known solely for it’s association with the NFL. Deadspin recently dug a bit deeper into the relationship between the NFL and NO MORE and according to them, NO MORE is a sham. To reach this conclusion Deadspin cites many of the same issues I just did, but most damning of all are two facts; 1. the campaign was “co-founded by one of [the NFL’s recently hired] crisis-management consultants” and 2. The highly touted anti-DV measures the NFL promised to undertake have amounted to little more than hype at this point (at least according to Deadspin).
I’m not in any position to second or even deny much of what Deadpan reported, but I can say this much… I’ve been told by people I know, who’ve either witnessed or sat through the NFL’s internal, hour-long anti-DV presentation, that it is ineffective crap. Having conducted presentations with the NFL before, I know that it’s hard to get those guys in a room for anything not football related. When they do manage to get something scheduled, staff and/or players usually have to come in during an off-day or even worse, right after practice. So now as a presenter you’re facing a room of 50+ players and/or coaches (at minimum) who are tired and resentful they have to be there in the first place. In such a setting, if you’re not doing something high-quality and engaging you’re not only wasting everyone’s time but you’re only causing more resentment and resistance to discussing these issues.
Based on that little bit of information, I’m not surprised to read that the NFL’s partnership with NO MORE’s branding and PR machine amounts to little more than looking good while doing next to nothing internally. My only hope is that the negative attention and public awareness forces them to actually DO MORE (but sadly, I doubt it).
There you have it, that’s why I’m no fan of the campaign. Readers I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue… what do you think of the campaign and the NFL’s connection to it? Do you think it’s effective? What sorts of conversations had it led you to have (if any)?