Crappy Anti-Drinking Campaign Says Booze Will Make You A Slut

A campaign at the University of Minnesota aims to get students to drink less by telling them how embarrassed they'll be in the morning. But, you know, it really is possible to teach safe drinking without drunk-shaming. Crazy, I know.

What do I mean by drunk-shaming? Well, here's "The Other Hangover" campaign's "message strategy": "Over-consumption leads to regrettable behavior that puts your reputation at risk." And here's one of their many posters:

Crappy Anti-Drinking Campaign Says Booze Will Make You A Slut

As is so often the case, "reputation" here is code for "don't be a slut." Specifically, don't show your dirty pillows to dudes (who, from the weird lighting, look like they are enjoying a beer at about 10 a.m.), or they will never respect you again. Also, don't make out with them:

Crappy Anti-Drinking Campaign Says Booze Will Make You A Slut

These folks look like they're having a good time, and from my point of view, their biggest sin is putting drinks on the pool table. But the bar's other patrons — extremely well-behaved and temperate twenty-one-and-a-half-year-olds — are giving them serious stink-eye. The message: if you get drunk and make out with someone, all your friends will judge you. As they should. This ad doesn't explicitly focus on the woman, but since women are usually the ones who get slut-shamed for drunken hookups, its target audience is pretty clear.

The Other Hangover also has more male-centric ads, like this one:

Crappy Anti-Drinking Campaign Says Booze Will Make You A Slut

Sure, some people get handsy when they get drunk, but alcohol is no excuse for unwanted touching. If this guy's "the creep" when he gets wasted, I doubt he's that awesome sober either. Drinking isn't really the issue here.

Even irrespective of its upsetting gender politics, the campaign takes a fucked-up approach to curtailing drinking: don't get too drunk, it's saying, or you'll do something stupid, and everyone will hate you. Newsflash: if you are a young person, you will probably do plenty of stupid things even without drinking. Luckily, people probably won't hate you (unless you repeatedly harass their friends, in which case maybe they should). The idea that "preserving your reputation" is a good reason not to drink is just restrictive and cruel, and basically encourages people to be judgmental assholes.

The Other Hangover's rationale seems to be that shaming is the only way to get students to drink responsibly. They write,

Despite significant efforts to reduce the problem, including various public health campaigns, many students dismiss the risks and continue to make binge drinking a major aspect of their college experience. In 2009, students participating in NSAC [National Student Advertising Competition] were charged with developing an anti-binge drinking campaign that would finally alter beliefs about alcohol overconsumption.

But the idea that The Other Hangover has finally stepped in where everything else has failed is bogus. Yes, students in America still binge drink. But there are supportive and sane ways to teach them how to be safe. When I was a freshman, an alcohol educator came to our dorm to teach us about "the social zone" (zomg! he acknowledged that drinking could be fun) and "the danger zone" (he also reminded us that it could land us in the hospital). We joked about the presentation, obviously — eighteen-year-olds are going to joke about any presentation — but later we'd ask each other "are you in the danger zone," a light-hearted but surprisingly effective way of looking out for our friends. Our dorm staff also had a policy of never turning in a student for underage drinking, meaning you could always go to your RA if you had a problem.

Result: we still drank, sometimes we got drunk, and sometimes we made out with people. But we learned how to pace ourselves, how to take care of each other, and how to be safe. I recently learned that my alma mater has never had an alcohol-poisoning death. Obviously alcohol abuse is a problem — but there are ways to curb it without guilt and shame. To do so, we need to encourage students to actually help their friends — not judge them.

The Other Hangover [Official Site]