What White Ribbon can learn from #NoMore 

2 Feb

It’s Super Bowl Sunday here in Wisconsin and while the guacamole congeals I thought I’d take a moment to talk about football, violence against women and those smug pricks at White Ribbon Australia.

For the first time the biggest television event in the world will lend its airwaves to an anti-violence PSA. I can say, without a hint of sarcasm, that it’s wonderfully done. The people behind the NFL-supported #NoMore campaign did an amazing job and when I see it tonight with a corn chip in my hand I am sure to cry big tears.

The #NoMore campaign launched with the 2014-15 football season in the USA. It features players, celebrities and the President saying straight up to the camera that violence against women must stop.

At first I was dubious. It was another campaign that highlighted men as saviors rather than perpetrators and made no effort to reveal the suffering and self-advocacy of victims. But the Super Bowl ad won me over.

Across the Pacific another football-related anti-violence campaign, White Ribbon Australia is a different beast altogether. In 2014 the non-profit announced a partnership with Sydney rugby club the Canterbury Bulldogs. This, my local team, is almost synonymous with rape. In 2004, six members of the team were accused of raping a 20 year old woman. And that was just one incident out of a string that would make any woman hear “Bulldog” and make run for it.

As Jacqueline Magnay wrote at the time “Rugby league, with its macho advertising and scantily dressed cheerleaders, has long cultivated an image of masculine bravado. But a picture is also surfacing of a murkier code in which players share women for sex as part of the team “bonding” process.”

A decade later, I can see why the Bulldogs would leap at the chance for some good PR. While there’s a chance that the team’s endorsement of White Ribbon might result in a change to its culture, the fact that White Ribbon is willing to endorse an organization with an (alleged) history of rape is disturbing in the least.

White Ribbon, you see, talks very little about violence. Very rarely do they draw attention to victim’s stories. Their all-male ambassadors include some mighty shifty characters. As I’ve said before on this blog, “All I ever see of this organization or its ambassadors is Good Blokes patting each other on the back. Rarely, if ever, have I seen White Ribbon tell a story of female victimhood. The key message seems to be: there’s good guys, and there’s those who can become good guys.” Basically, White Ribbon gives out more cookies than the Girl Scouts.

Looking at the #NoMore Super Bowl ad makes me long for an Australian organization that could gets its messaging right. In the ad, the woman is the protagonist. It tells the audience to listen to her, even though it’s hard. It isn’t about what makes a good man, it’s about what it’s like to be a woman under the threat of male violence.

The NFL may be no friend to women, but with this they score some points.

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