Bob McCoskrie was perhaps a lone voice with his decision not to wear a ribbon on White Ribbon Day on November 25, 2011, the UN sanctioned campaign when men speak out against men’s violence toward women.
White Ribbon Day was one of the most extensive and widely supported campaigns in New Zealand’s community action calendar.
More than 500,000 persons wore a ribbon, hundreds of communities hosted White Ribbon events and dozens of organisations lent the efforts of their staff and volunteers to push the day’s anti-violence messages.
McCoskrie suggested that White Ribbon Day was about “blaming” men for violence, that the campaign’s messages make a gender issue out of a family problem.
“What about women’s violence toward men and children?” he asked.
It was a legitimate question, but one that revealed a lack of understanding of the history, role and impact of the White Ribbon Day Campaign.
White Ribbon Day is not made out family violence as solely a result of men’s behaviour. It is, at its simplest, a men’s response to the issue of family violence.
Started by men in Canada in 1991 after the mass shooting of 14 female students at the University of Montreal, White Ribbon has remained steadfast to its founders’ principles: That if violence is to be prevented, men must lead, and take responsibility for their role in it; and that starts with their attitudes toward violence against women. Rather than blaming men, White Ribbon shows men how they can be part of the solution.
It uses the strength of men to help bring about an end to all violence.
Studies show that men respond more positively to social campaigns when the message they receive is from men, about men, and asking men to stand up and lead. White Ribbon helps achieve that objective.
White Ribbon and its allied campaign “It’s Not OK” have been effective for not only raising awareness of family violence but also for increasing the number of people prepared to do something about it.
Participants in the White Ribbon motorcycle ride, the main White Ribbon event told us repeatedly that these activities open doors for people from all walks of life to talk about family violence, giving them the courage to act.
The ride elicited an incredible grassroots response from communities and individuals throughout New Zealand. When the leather-clad male riders talked, men listened, and so did their sons and wives, fathers and daughters, uncles and aunts and brothers.
Family violence is complex, and difficult. Therefore, it needs a multiple number of approaches to deal with it successfully.
The White Ribbon campaign is one tool in our kit box.
Carl Davidson is Chief Commissioner of the Families Commission based in Wellington. The above article, written before this year’s White Ribbon Day, has been modified to suit the timeframe.
Indianz Global and GOPIO Waikato organised an Awareness Evening at the Celebrating Age Centre in Hamilton on November 25. The programme included a minute’s silence, ironically to symbolise the message of ‘Break the silence, end the violence,’ music by Sherret (Piano), Sharanpal Singh (Tabla), Prabh Saran (Ghazals) and Vinita Sahay and Priya Kaushik (vocal music).