For the first time, a branch of the YMCA has used the song “Y.M.C.A.” to promote one of its charitable causes:
The YMCA of Australia is hoping the famous gay anthem will bring some attention to its “Why Not?” campaign, which seeks to raise awareness about issues facing young people, including employment, mental illness and the country’s ongoing battle for marriage equality.
They even tapped gay pop icon Boy George to cover it.
“It’s 2017 and some Australians still can’t marry the person they love… Why Not?” the campaign states. “When there are no jobs for a career you’ve spent years studying for… Why Not? No one is screaming that one in four young Australians has a mental health condition… Why Not?”
It’s taken nearly 40 years for any branch of the Y to embrace the song, mostly because of the organization’s Christian roots. Written by Jacques Morali and Victor Willis, the song started out as a tongue-in-cheek reference to hooking up at the gym but has become something of a standard at sporting events. (In 2009, “Y.M.C.A.” was entered into the Guinness World Book of Records when more than 44,000 people danced to it at the 2008 Sun Bowl in El Paso.)
Melinda Crole, CEO of YMCA Australia, admits the Y’s old conservative leanings were leaving young people behind.
“We had a big conversation about how we can be a social movement for young people,” she told the Guardian. “One of the assets we had was the recognizable ’Y.M.C.A.’ song. When you are introduced as working for the YMCA, you always got the arm movements.”
“It was a challenging conversation for us as leaders—the Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers. We have to let go—it wasn’t about what we thought. It was about the young people.”
Crole says the song actually fits with the Y’s mission. “We want to be a social movement for young people and with young people.”