Celebrities use status to promote societal justice

During an election year, a time where many are talking about social justice issues, celebrities are using their social status to bring awareness to topics about which they are passionate.

Pop singer Lady Gaga was nominated for an Oscar this year for her song “Till it Happens to You,” which brought awareness to sexual abuse survivors. The song was featured in Kirby Dick’s documentary film “The Hunting Ground” about sexual assault on college campuses. Celebrities’ status allows them to reach a wider audience when discussing topics such as these social issues.

Gaga’s music video for the song premiered Sept. 17, 2015, on Youtube and now has 29 million views. A portion of the proceeds made from the song will be donated to organizations helping survivors of sexual assault, according to the video’s description.

Gaga performed the song at The 88th Academy Awards ceremony in February while accompanied on stage by 52 male and female sexual assault survivors. Vice President Joe Biden, who was promoting his “It’s On Us” campaign against campus rape, introduced Gaga and asked Americans to take a pledge to intervene when consent has not or cannot be given.

“Let’s change the culture,” Biden said in his introduction. “We must change the culture so that no abused woman or man like the survivors you will see tonight ever feel they have to ask themselves, ‘What did I do?’ They did nothing wrong.”

Some students are concerned that celebrities’ influential power could be dangerous.

“I don’t think it is right,” said Diara Aguilar, freshman Spanish major. “A lot of their fans base their opinions on what (celebrities) say and they don’t formulate their own responses.”

Gaga is following in the footsteps of other celebrity activists, such as actress Angelina Jolie, who has worked in more than 20 countries to help survivors of conflict and natural disasters and formed the Jolie-Pitt Foundation, which works to eradicate extreme rural poverty. Talk show host Oprah Winfrey has worked to further education in Africa with the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

“It is OK if celebrities use their status to grow and raise awareness for specific issues,” said Sarah Hom, freshman undeclared major. “I don’t think political issues should be advertised through that as much as social issues. Social issues are more of a concern than politics because they can be life threatening where politics are not life or death.”

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