A version of this post originally appeared in The Telegraph (London, UK) on January 30, 2014

It’s been many years since I’ve heard anyone utter the words, “Act ladylike.” But it’s hard to go more than a few hours without hearing some version of “be a man”.

I couldn’t even escape it this week while seeing a production of Shakespeare’s Richard II when a hanger-on tries to cheer up the embattled king by making fun of his enemies as “boys with women’s voices [who] strive to speak big.” It’s been a long, long time since simply being a male was enough to make you a real man.

That’s because we give “real men” real rewards.

There’s a cottage industry of women and men who now bewail there are no real men left, that men have become feminised, and that men are the real losers in the feminist revolution.

I’ve spent the past 35 years saying all this is nonsense. After all, we still live in a world where men earn more money and pull most of the political, religious, economic and cultural levers. And when it comes to the exercise of violence, whether against women or other men, men still have the franchise, if not the total monopoly.

The rewards for being “real men” are admiration in the world of men, freedom of movement, a voice of authority, respect, and tangible privileges at work and at play. In fact, we’ve had a de facto affirmative action programme for men that stretches back about 8,000 years — the programme known, simply, as patriarchy.

But the astounding thing is that the very ways that men have constructed societies of men’s power also bring enormous cost to men ourselves. Men die younger than women, are less likely to ask for help when in physical or emotional need, are more likely to be addicted to alcohol and other drugs, be killed in workplace accidents, and commit suicide. Men live in enormous fear of being exposed as weak. As not being real men.

All this is because our very notions of masculinity are made up, ephemeral. From an early age we bathe boys in notions about a masculinity that requires the suppression of a range of feelings and human possibilities. At a certain age, we require that boys set up emotional boundaries from their friends. Almost from the start, we say that the tasks of nurturing and caregiving are not for them.

Boys and men strive to live up to these impossible ideals. But the more we do, the more we must create an emotional distance from women, from children, and, in a strange way (since the world is dominated by elaborate men’s clubs) from other men. It is a recipe for enormous isolation.

That is why I have long felt that we men have a two-fold task.

One is that, if we want to truly get to the roots of what ails us, we need to embrace and actively support gender equality. We must actively challenge all forms of men’s power, whether in the workplace, our places of worship, the sports field, the kitchen, nursery or our bedrooms. It’s not only the right thing to do. Simply put, women’s emancipation is also key to our own happiness because the ways that we men have collectively constructed and individually internalised men’s power is not only devastating to the women we love but, in a different and paradoxical way, is devastating to men ourselves.

And so we must fight for gender equality and against all forms of abuse and violence against women. This has been an area of my own volunteer work in co-founding White Ribbon, a campaign to engage men and boys to work to end violence against women that has spread to seventy or eighty countries.

At the same time we need to transform what it means to be a man. To embrace the diverse possibilities of manhood…of humanness. To raise our sons to not be afraid of emotions or of being outed as not real men.

Perhaps there is no more important place to start than the transformation of fatherhood. I don’t want fathers helping out. I want fathers doing an equal share of parenting. And so, I’m putting time into a new international network, MenCare, which has the goal – dramatic but, I believe, realisable – of men doing fifty percent of the care work on the planet.

All this was why I was in London last week to speak at the Southbank Centre’s “Being a Man” festival.

Simply to say, yes, let’s talk about our experiences of being men. But, actually, let’s stop forcing destructive and self-destructive versions of manhood on each other. Women, men, children, and the planet will be much better for it.

To watch my talk “Men and Feminism” at the Being a Man Festival, click here!
For my talk on men’s violence, click here!

If you liked this, please share it! And hope you'll follow on Twitter @GenderEQ

The fifth of a series with White Ribbon stories & links from around the world. Scroll down or click for: 1: Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, Part 2: The Americas,  Part 3: Europe, Part 4: Asia, Middle East & Caucusas.

And check out The Guardian article I co-wrote with Gary Barker: “We Must Enlist Men and Boys in the Fight to End Violence Against Women

Because White Ribbon is a decentralized network with thousands of different organizations and institutions involved, it’s impossible to track down most WR activities in the world. What is below is only a small sample. I hope you’ll add your own stories by sending me an email or adding links in the comments section.


White Ribbon’s messages:

  • Although most men don’t use violence in our relationships, all men have a responsibility to helping make it end. Why? Because our silence becomes a form of tacit consent. White Ribbon works to end men’s silence.
  • We know that the violence stems from social inequality between women and men. The violence won’t end until women enjoy full equality in the law, within our religions, in our workplaces, and in our families.
  • We also know that men’s violence stems from the ways we raise boys to be men and the impossible expectations of manhood. If we want to raise boys to be good men who won’t ever use violence, then a model of caring, non-violent masculinity must start in the home. We must stop raising our sons to fear showing feelings, to fear vulnerability, to feel they must always be in control.
  • We recognize the need to go beyond awareness-raising campaigns. We push for better laws, police training, new policies in workplaces, courses for new parents, and school-based programs.

White Ribbon works like this:

  • It is a decentralized campaign. We believe that people know best in their own countries and communities how to reach the men and boys around them.
  • It’s international. Over the years, it’s spread to 70 or 80 countries.
  • In some countries there is an actual WR organization. In most, it’s a campaign run by other organizations or a government office or simply a group of volunteers in a school, workplace, community, or place of worship.
  • It works in partnership with women’s organizations and urges men to listen to women’s voices and concerns.
  • It focuses on positive messages. This is not about collective guilt. This is about working for healthy and loving relationships, and positive models of parenting.

 

Cape Verde: As it many countries, Laco Branco (White Ribbon) has many different activities and initiatives. One, to get public attention for the issue, was a mountain climb to the Pico d’Antonia with over 150 participants.

Kenya: Coexist is one of the organizations that uses the White Ribbon symbol in its work through Kenya.  Its work has focused on ending sexual violence, child marriage and FGM, promoting safe dating and doing media training. One of our brother organizations, Men for Gender Equality Now (MEGEN) holds a ‘Travelling Man’ conference every year as part of 16 Days of Action to educate men on preventing violence against women,

Nambia White Ribbon Campaign has an ongoing organization since 2000, starting off with a national training conference and rally in front of parliament to support a proposed law that for the first time made it illegal for a man to rape his wife.  It carries out ongoing training sessions for boys and men. It has Facebook pages here and here.

Nigeria: There has only been sporadic use of the white ribbon over the years, but a large, multi-organization initiative will be starting up over the next year.

Rwanda: Our brother organizations Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre, Rwanda MenEngage Network, and Promundo are doing terrific work to end the cycle of violence–including working to heal the ongoing legacy of the genocide.  They do education work, training, run support services, and research, including this excellent study of Masculinity and Gender Based violence in Rwanda. They also carry out work in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

South Africa: The white ribbon has been used for many years as a symbol (for men and women) during the 16 Days of Activism when white ribbons are visible on politicians, media figures, and citizens in South Africa. Years ago, Nelson Mandela led a white ribbon march. This year, the Government of the Western Cape has asked citizens to wear white ribbons for the entirety of the 16 Days. My friends and colleagues at our brother organization, Sonke Gender Justice, have an extremely wide range of activities and initiatives focused on ending men’s violence against women.  Here is short and terrific TV interview with Dean Peacock, the Executive Director of Sonke.

 

Tunisia: The only news I received was of the lovely white ribbon stamp commemorating the fight to end violence against women.

Morocco & Mozambique: There has been use of the white ribbon symbol, but I have no up-to-date information.

Prepared by Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite & Michael Kaufman

If you liked this, please share it! And hope you'll follow on Twitter @GenderEQ
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Nepalese man dons a white ribbon

The fourth of a week-long series with White Ribbon stories & links from around the world. Scroll down or click for: 1: Australia, New Zealand and the south Pacific , Part 2: The Americas. or Part 3: Europe.

And check out The Guardian article by Gary Barker and me, “We Must Enlist Men and Boys in the Fight to End Violence Against Women

Because White Ribbon is a decentralized network, it’s impossible to track down most WR activities in the world. What is below is only a small sample. I hope you’ll add your own stories by sending me an email or adding links in the comments section.

Bangladesh: Organizations affiliated with the MenEngage Alliance have done White Ribbon work over the years in Bangladesh.

Burma: In Rangoon, women’s groups called for men and women to participate in a “white campaign”, wearing white shirts and ribbons during the 16 Days of Activism from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, until 10 December, International Human Rights Day.

White Ribbon Day for Women & Men in Burma

Cambodia: The 16-Day White Ribbon Campaign has been organized for many years by the Cambodia Men’s Network (CMN) and Gender and Development for Cambodia, and now includes a number of other organizations. Events are held in Phnom Penh and throughout the country and include public forums and rallies, door-to-door campaigns, White Ribbon marches, TV talk shows, radio call-in shows, and a mobile concert along the national road #5.

In the countryside with White Ribbon in Cambodia


China: The White Ribbon Network of Volunteers organizes counseling services through the trail-breaking national White Ribbon hotline, as well as legal services and other advocacy work for both men and women.  In November, 200 volunteers from the network met in Beijing for a public forum and a training workshop, attended by representatives from various global organizations. … The All China Women’s Federation wrote on its website: “The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women has also become known around the world as White Ribbon Day. To mark the event, men and boys are urged to wear white ribbons as a visible pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women.”

White Ribbon China helpline

Japan: No news for the past few years.

India: Various organizations, including Men’s Action for Stopping Violence Against Women, have used the White Ribbon symbol in some of their work. MASVAW for example, works in schools and universities across Utrar Pradesh to educate and campaign for gender equality and against men’s violence, and also carries out activities in communities and workplaces (including in the many brickworks which are treacherous places for women to work.)

Korea: An ongoing website and  Facebook page, but I don’t have any recent news.

Malaysia: In December, 3000 people are taking part in the All Women’s Action Society’s White Ribbon Run & Walk as just one aspect of their public outreach. A couple of years ago, Malaysian White Ribbon activists released this video encouraging men to speak out.

Mongolia: No recent news, but here is a terrific short video they put out a couple of years ago.

Nepal. Save the Children and the National Women’s Commission are two of the sponsors of White Ribbon in Nepal and it’s become a widely-used symbol: There’s a pubic campaign, education efforts, and meetings with high-profile officials.

Nepalese man dons a white ribbon

Pakistan has had various dynamic White Ribbon Campaigns over the years.  Currently White Ribbon Pakistan has a big range of activities. It has an ongoing youth leadership program. It is working with religious leaders, including some who are identified as quite conservative, who are now speaking out against violence against women.  Because of appalling coverage of violence against women in the media, it has conducted trainings for journalists in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, and Peshawar and now gives out annual White Ribbon Media Awards to celebrate work in media that presents fairer gender representations and perspectives.

Pakistan White Ribbon Wrestling Match - "Strong Men Are Gentle Men"

 

Pakistan White Ribbon - Youth Leadership Program

Papua New Guinea saw various organizations including the Coalition for Change (which circulated a petition signed by thousands of women and men demanding serious government action on violence against women) to the Chamber of Mines. Here are links to TV coverage, one a meeting, the other a march by airline employes.

Singapore: AWARE is the main sponsor of White Ribbon in Singapore. They’ve held public events and do work in schools. Like many campaigns  they focus on positive messages.

Sri Lanka: Oxfam and the Legal Aid Commission are two of the organizations that have encouraged the pubic to “wear a white ribbon” during the 16 Days of Activism (Nov. 25-Dec. 10). Oxfam’s district offices conducted activities in workplaces, met with government officials, organized men’s and boys groups, organized performances of street theatre. In Colombo, white ribbons are being distributed free to the public with information on the issue at Cargills outlets and some Laufgs supermarkets.

Taiwan:charity run took place in Taipei to raise awareness and funds for women’s services.

Vietnam: I haven’t received any recent reports

Middle East, Caucasus & Russia

Armenia. The campaign has included public theater performances, forums, and tree planting ceremonies and is tied in with 16 Days of Activism.

Azerbaijan. The campaign has been going on for six years. In Baquio and Sitel, ribbons were given out and thousands of men and women signed a pledge not to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women. An organization, Save Our Women has payed a key role with support from the local Zonta Club, and various organizations.

Georgia. The ribbon has been worn by government officials, students, and soldiers and staff in the European Union Monitoring Mission.

Iraq: Last year, Women for Peace held an event (supported by Oxfam) that focused on ending early marriage. They also did many interviews on radio and TV, met with members of parliament, academics, religious leaders, tribal sheikhs, and writers; they carried out public activities both in Baghdad and outlying areas.

Israel: I heard a report about White Ribbon starting up in a college, but no details. There was a campaign inspired by WR a number of years ago, but seems it didn’t continue.

Jordan: No updates for the past few years, but here’s a link from a five years ago.

Kurdistan: White Ribbon holds public events, sets up booths in shopping areas to speak to people, maintains a facebook page, and works with human rights organizations.

Pinning on a white ribbon in Kurdistan

Kurdistan. Solider wearing a White Ribbon

And here is video from Kurdistan:

Lebanon: Our colleagues at Abaad have been running an annual white ribbon campaign and other activities through the year –using football as a setting to reach boys and young men.

And a video from Lebanon here and a powerful TV ad (and maybe below)

Russia: There’s been a campaign in Siberia that has done workshops and public gatherings.

Braving the cold in Siberia to get the message out.

Saudi Arabia: A courageous man and woman, an economist named Abdullah Alami and journalist Samar Fatany (the Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting company), have joined forces to create a White Ribbon Campaign. See Abdullah’s November 24 blog here and an article from the Saudi Gazette.   They’ve stated that “our religion calls for humanity, love, equality, justice and peace, and does not accept the infringement of women in any form.” But it didn’t take long for an influential sheikh to attack them in a twenty-four minute-long video where he criticizes them and White Ribbon because “they want to extract women from their subordination.” Abdullah Alami on twitter. I’m not able to read it myself, but if you read Arabic, here is a four part series by Islamic scholar Shualia Zain Al Abideen on why the UN’s campaign to end violence against women is not anti-Islamic.

Turkey has seen ongoing, but scattered, use of the white ribbon in different parts of the country, including events in universities, involvement by police and local governments, including involving football players in commercials and during halftime events.

 

Prepared by Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite & Michael Kaufman

White Ribbon’s messages:

  • Although most men don’t use violence in our relationships, all men have a responsibility to helping make it end. Why? Because our silence becomes a form of tacit consent. White Ribbon works to end men’s silence.
  • We know that the violence stems from social inequality between women and men. The violence won’t end until women enjoy full equality in the law, within our religions, in our workplaces, and in our families.
  • We also know that men’s violence stems from the ways we raise boys to be men and the impossible expectations of manhood. If we want to raise boys to be good men who won’t ever use violence, then a model of caring, non-violent masculinity must start in the home. We must stop raising our sons to fear showing feelings, to fear vulnerability, to feel they must always be in control.
  • We recognize the need to go beyond awareness-raising campaigns. We push for better laws, police training, new policies in workplaces, courses for new parents, and school-based programs.

White Ribbon works like this:

  • It is a decentralized campaign. We believe that people know best in their own countries and communities how to reach the men and boys around them.
  • It’s international. Over the years, it’s spread to 70 or 80 countries.
  • In some countries there is an actual WR organization. In most, it’s a campaign run by other organizations or a government office or simply a group of volunteers in a school, workplace, community, or place of worship.
  • It works in partnership with women’s organizations and urges men to listen to women’s voices and concerns.
  • It focuses on positive messages. This is not about collective guilt. This is about working for healthy and loving relationships, and positive models of parenting.
If you liked this, please share it! And hope you'll follow on Twitter @GenderEQ

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White Ribbon Campaign

White Ribbon Campaign

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the White Ribbon Campaign, men working to end violence against women.  What started as an idea three of us discussed around a kitchen table has now spread to 60 countries.  Visit www.whiteribbon.com or campaign sites around the world.
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