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Monday, February 22, 2010

White Ribbon Campaign 2010

White Ribbon Day coming to Massachusetts on March 2nd

March 2nd is the third annual Massachusetts White Ribbon Day, sponsored by the Men’s Initiative at Jane Doe, Inc.  Inspired by the larger international White Ribbon Campaign, started in Canada in 1991 by men two years after the Montreal Massacre, the Massachusetts campaign seeks to provide a public opportunity for men and boys to vocally support respectful and non-violent relationships, and commit to ending violence against women.

The WRD website gives interested men a number of different options to get involved in the campaign: signing the pledge to never commit or condone violence against women, becoming ambassadors and getting other men to sign the pledge, and joining community events, in order to get as wide an appeal to the men of Massachusetts as JDI can.

In the past, I’ve served as an ambassador for the WRD in Massachusetts, and the public events at the State House are always a great opportunity to meet other activists working in the field of violence prevention.  In my mind, the true purpose of a campaign like this in Massachusetts, and in the way the JDI puts it together, is to get valuable public airtime and attention focused on issues like domestic violence and rape on a regular basis.  Sexual violence is an epidemic in our culture, but it’s so normalized and routine that we don’t see it.  Big, public events like the WRD can give everyone the opportunity talk about these issues, and doing it every year means those conversations can start up again each spring.  Especially for men, who do not often have an easy way of starting conversations about rape and sexual assault with their peers, male family members, and male friends, the WRD gives a really good entrance point to bring those topics up in the first place.

What the WRD can’t do is actually lower rates of domestic violence and rape.  Signing a pledge or reading one publicly does not, unfortunately, have any sort of actual binding effect on behavior.  Actually stopping or reducing rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence takes serious policy work to provide options for survivors, serious cultural work to make abusive behavior less normal, and serious internal work, especially from men (who make up the vast majority of abusers and rapists) to redefine masculinity as an identity separate from violence and dominance.  So while I’ll be taking the pledge (again) this year, I’m also going to continue doing the other work I know I need to be doing in order to actually put an end to sexual violence and domestic abuse.

If you want to get your sweet anti-domestic and sexual violence action on, here are a couple of ways you can supplement a public commitment during the WRD with long-term action:

  • You could join BARCC as a volunteer!
  • You can check out the community mapping model of the awesome domestic-violence awareness organization Close to Home.  They work in the Fields Corner neighborhood of Dorchester, and use some awesome techniques to start community conversations about DV.  Join their network, meet their righteous youth team, and learn some practical skills to talk about preventing violence with your own friends and peers.
  • You can get trained to stop violence.  Northeastern University’s Mentors in Violence Prevention program offers trainings throughout the year to former athletes who want to speak with young people about stopping sexual and domestic violence.  They aren’t the cheapest trainings, but they are really well put together.  Likewise, Emerge is another organization that does a lot of training for people who want to learn how to stop violence. 
  • You can get political, and support legislation (or push legislation) that provides realistic options for survivors of violence, more funding for shelters, and better training for law enforcement working with sexual and domestic violence cases.  Jane Doe has a good page of legislative targets for this year, and the Victim’s Rights Law Center can sometimes provide additional insight on bills making their way through the State House.

Do all of these!  Do them regularly!  Take the WRD pledge, and then back it up with work throughout the year fighting against sexual violence.

While we’re at it, let’s challenge some stupid media tropes, too, about men being emasculated by having to care about their female partners:

Dodge Charger ad parody.

Posted by Dave on 02/22 at 10:06 AM

Comments

While I appreciated the video satire, I'm afraid that page's comments section shows that we still have a _long_ way to go.
Posted by Mark Amidon  on  02/22  at  12:30 PM
I try never to look at comment sections after youtube videos. I'm pretty sure there's a series of trolls (not internet trolls - real ones, like the kinds that live under bridges and turn to stone in the sunlight) who write those comments.
Posted by Dave  on  02/22  at  03:25 PM
One challenge that WRD continually brings up for me is: to what extent should the issue of sexual (or domestic) violence be framed as "men's violence against women."

All of the available data suggests that the majority of sexual and domestic violence is committed by male-identified perpetrators against female-identified victims. However, I don't know if the men's violence against women frame necessarily deals as effectively with males who perpetrate against males, and it certainly doesn't deal effectively with female perpetrators. To say nothing of how locked in to the gender binary that all is.

I think Dave makes an excellent, and crucial, point that WRD can be an entrance point for men into the anti-SA and DV movement.

At the same time, I think as a movement, we're still struggling with exactly whether and how we're comfortable with men's involvement. We argue that sexual and domestic violence is a communtiy and pan-gender issue that everyone should care about and encourage men's involvement. At the same time, some of my concern with WRD is that underlying it is the implication that men should be come involved to "take care of" their female loved ones in a paternalistic sense, which is a frame that feminists have long rejected.

At the same time, it's a frame that resonates with folks who might not otherwise become engaged with the movement, and I'm on board with that.
Posted by Meg  on  02/22  at  04:28 PM

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