Tag Archives: White Ribbon Day

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.

Who holds back the electric car? White Ribbon does.

26 Jul

It was 7am in Wisconsin when I spotted it. Andrew O’Keefe, Australian comedic talent and All Round Good Guy, had written a piece about what questions men need to ask themselves about violence against women.

It is exactly the kind of thing that needs to be read widely but for me, there was just one small problem. Daily Life defines itself as a women’s publication. Even if the piece made its way under the nose of a member of the woman beating public, it doesn’t make up for the fact that the piece was, by nature of its publisher, targeted at women.

It was another in a long line of pieces written by Good Blokes about violence against women aimed at women. (See also: Charlie Pickering in Mamamia.)

Women don’t need to be told the questions men need to ask themselves about violence. We don’t need to be told how many of us are being killed by our partners or exes. We don’t need to be told because either the reality of it, or the potential of it is part of the female experience.

Both O’Keefe and Pickering wrote their pieces as part of their role as White Ribbon Australia ambassadors. This is an exclusive boy’s club. I can only imagine they have poker nights to which no women are invited. In the lead up to White Ribbon Day in November each year, these men are trotted out, promising to start a dialogue between men about the culture that permits violence against women. This is a good thing.

However…

All I ever see of this organisation 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.

And that just makes the mansplaining of violence against women in Daily Life and Mamamia so infuriating. Not only does White Ribbon fail to show men the reality of their violence against us, their PR puts the onus back on to women to recruit men to the good side. The only time I can think of a White Ribbon ambassador getting featured in the gender-neutral press is Sam de Brito’s expressions of sympathy for men who kill their families.

Looking at White Ribbon’s content strategy, you see women who must be catalysts for their own salvation and men who must be forgiven if we fail.

Here’s to November.

 

Please note: The title would have been super clever had I been able to embed a picture of the Stonecutters from The Simpsons. WordPress is broken so can you please just picture it in your heads? Thanks.