Men Who Oppose Violence Against Women Are Also Vital – White Ribbon Campaign has Global Reach for Father’s Day

LYS ANZIA – WNN Features

Michael Kaufman of the White Ribbon Campagin
Michael Kaufman, co-founder White Ribbon Campaign, UN General Assembly Special Session – Beijing +5, June 2000

As constant reports of violence against women continue, men from many locations that span the globe, from Brazil to Namibia, have been mobilizing to help make a difference in the world. The White Ribbon Campaign “the largest effort in the world of men working to end men’s violence against women” is picking up its campaign for Father’s Day. Today 73 countries celebrate Father’s Day on varying dates throughout the year. White Ribbon Campaign International is using Father’s Day along with other special dates and opportunities for greater outreach.

Starting in 1991 by a handful of men in Canada and operating in 47 nations, the WRC – the White Ribbon Campaign – is now an international world organization dedicated to helping men around the globe speak out strongly against violence against women.

UNIFEM Austrialia and UNDFW – UN Development Fund for Women – work today with the White Ribbon Campaign to help guide men to change their attitudes about violence against women. Each year on Nov. 25 the WRC joins UNIFEM on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Wearing a white ribbon that day is a personal pledge to support the commitment to work toward a true equal treatment of all men and women and to help in the progress to eliminate violence against women.

Men of all ages, from all places and all backgrounds are part of the White Ribbon Campaign today.

At the International Women’s Day Seminar, European Parliament, Brussels – 8 March 2001, author on masculinity in society and Professor of Sociology, Michael Kimmel, said, “I believe that we must see men’s violence as the result of a breakdown of patriarchy, of entitlement thwarted. Again and again, what the research on rape, on domestic violence finds is that men initiate violence when they feel a loss of power to which they felt entitled.”

Kimmel continued to explain, “This question of entitlement lies at the heart of current controversies over sex trafficking all over the world. As we have tried to confront this international problem, we have focused on “supply” – especially the international cartels who often kidnap and imprison young girls and women – and, of course, extended our compassion for the “product,” the women themselves. But few, if any, policies have targeted the “demand” side of the equation, policies that might be aimed at the men who are the consumers of these purloined and oppressed products., Why? Because we somehow understand that men feel entitled to consume women’s bodies, however they might be supplied.”

In numerous programs throughout the year, the White Ribbon Campaign asks all men to join them by wearing a white ribbon as a “a personal pledge never to commit, condone nor remain silent about violence against women.” UNIFEM Australia as part of a strategy to promote White Ribbon Day, known also as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, promotes awareness about violence against women on 25 November each year. White Ribbon Day was originally launched in Australia by a strong adovocate for women’s human rights, Amnesty International, on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – 2000. Chaya Seattle USA, a member of the South Asian Domestic Violence Organization, has also worked with the White Ribbon Campaign to get the word out to men internationally to stop all violence against women.

“Not a minute more!” says UNIFEM in an online website banner that covers the issues of violence against women. Women’s organizations worldwide have taken the lead today in speaking strongly on the topic of women and violence. According to UNIFEM this manifests in “providing services, drafting and lobbying for legislation, raising awareness through advocacy, education and training, and building national, regional and international end-violence networks.” In cooperation with this cause the White Ribbon Campaign International hopes to help raise global awareness on the conditions for violence against women worldwide.

“At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime — with the abuser usually someone known to her. Violence against women and girls is a universal problem of epidemic proportions. Perhaps the most pervasive human rights violation that we know today, it devastates lives, fractures communities, and stalls development,” UNIFEM adds.

When the men of the WRC educate men and boys on the importance of non-violence, in addition to the outreach on women and violence from Women’s communities worldwide, the possibilities of a better world move ever closer. The hope is that the world can become more safe for women and children. “The path starts with listening. Who knows better about violence against women than women who experience it?,” says the White Ribbon Campaign platform.

The WRC is teaching men and boys how to maintain respect for all women, for every child and every human being.

A UNIFEM report on domestic violence has found that no area of the world is exempt from the problems of violence against women. “Domestic violence is a worldwide epidemic. Studies show that between one quarter and one half of all women in the world have been abused by intimate partners. Worldwide, 40-70% of all female murder victims are killed by an intimate partner.”

White Ribbon from the White Ribbon Campaign
A white ribbon is a symbol of male solidarity to stop violence against women through global efforts with the White Ribbon Campaign. Image: Seamesse/Flickr

“We don’t think that men are naturally violent and we don’t think that men are bad,” says White Ribbon Campaign Executive Director and spokesperson Todd Minerson. “The majority of men are not violent. Researchers have discovered many past cultures with little or no violence.” But Minerson quickly adds, “At the same time we do think that many men have learned to express their anger or insecurity through violence. Many men have come to believe that violence against a woman, child or another man is an acceptable way to control another person.”

There is strong evidence that violence is a learned trait.

“Today, in the United States, despite remarkable advances in technology, social justice, and education, violence continues to be a permeating and pervasive element of American society. We are bathed in violent images. Violence fascinates and repulses us.” says the Child Trauma Academy of Houston, TX.

“If children are ignored, poorly educated and not protected from violence they will grow into adults that create a reactive, non-creative and violent society,” the Academy continues. “Parents, caregivers, professionals, public officials and policy makers do have the capacity to make decisions that will increase or decrease violence in our children’s lives.”

It’s clear, to stop violence against women, men must be taught from an early stage as boys to reach toward kindness and cooperation in any situation of conflict.

The problem does not stop though only with physical violence. “There are forms of emotional violence–from sexist joking, to sexual harassment at work, to other domineering forms of behavior,” said the White Ribbon Campaign. “By remaining silent about these things, we allow other men to poison our working and learning environments.”

“If we all think about the concept of the White Ribbon in our lives daily – the commitment to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women – we will be on our way to truly making a difference,” said WRC director, Todd Minerson, in a recent WRC – White Ribbon Campaign newsletter.

“The feminist transformation of society is a revolution-in-progress. For nearly two centuries, we men have met insecurity by frantically shoring up our privilege or by running away. These strategies have never brought us the security and the peace we have sought. Perhaps now, as men, we can stand with women and embrace the rest of this revolution – embrace it because of our sense of justice and fairness, embrace it for our children, our wives, our partners, and ourselves,” said male behavior expert, Michael Kimmel.

A short PSA by South Asian Domestic Violence Organization – Chaya Seattle demonstrates how men need to take a stand against violence against women.

For more information on violence against women or the White Ribbon Campaign go to:

United Nations – Women’s Rights on Women and Violence
Council of Europe Recommendations on Women and Violence 2002
White Ribbon Day Foundation – Australia
The official White Ribbon Campaign International webpage.
2006 Report on Women and Violence worldwide by UN Special Rapporteur, Dr. Yakin Erturk
Actor Patrick Stewart shares his childhood experiences of Domestic Violence

Sources for this article include White Ribbon Campaign International, UNICEF, the Child Trauma Academy, UN Dept. of Public Information, Profemistimiehet, UNIFEM and Oxfam International.

©2007 WNN – Women News Network