If it were between countries, we’d call it a war. If it were a disease, we’d call it an epidemic. If it were an oil spill, we’d call it a disaster. But it is happening to women, and it’s just an everyday affair. It is violence against women. It is rape at home and on dates. It is the beating or the blow that one out of four Canadian women receives in her lifetime. It is sexual harassment at work and sexual abuse of the young. It is murder.
When I wrote these words 20 years ago this week, I didn’t think they would launch a world-wide campaign. After all, at the time it seemed unusual, if not totally bizarre, to imagine that men not only should but could play a key role in ending men’s violence against women.
The White Ribbon Campaign, though, has spread from Canada to more than 60 countries. Millions and millions of men and boys, from Brazil to Pakistan, China to England, Namibia to Russia, Cambodia to the United States, Chile to Japan, Norway to Argentina have worn a white ribbon, put up a poster, signed White Ribbon pledges, taken part in White Ribbon ceremonies, marches, services, and meetings.
There’s no secret enemy pulling the trigger. No unseen virus that leads to death. It is just men. Men from all social backgrounds and of all colours and ages. Men in business suits and men in blue collars. Men who plant the fields and men who sell furniture. Not weirdos. Just regular guys.
Three of us, Jack Layton, Ron Sluser and I, came up with the idea for this campaign but we were quickly joined by several dozen other men in a handful of Canadian cities on time for our late November launch in 1991. Within days it spread across Canada and, within years, around the world.
Men have been defined as part of the problem. But the White Ribbon Campaign believes that men can also be part of the solution. Confronting men’s violence requires nothing less than a commitment to full equality for women and a redefinition of what it means to be men, to discover a meaning to manhood that doesn’t require blood to be spilled.
In some countries the campaign has been a modest local or national effort. In others, such as the amazing efforts in Australia and New Zealand, it is so visible that governments and the media in those countries refer to November 25 (the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) as White Ribbon Day.
It keeps growing. For example, this year on November 25 in Turkey, the multi-year effort of Hurriyet (one of the country’s largest newspapers), the UNFPA, and men working in the police, military, with religious authorities, and elsewhere is culminating with the launch of a new campaign. The first signatory among prominent men is Prime Minister Erdoğan.
Why The WRC Spread Around the World
White Ribbon has spread first of all because of the tremendous impact of the women’s movement around the world. It has spread because most men don’t use violence in our relationships and are finally ending our long silence.
It has spread because from the start, we decided the WRC should be a campaign like no other: A politically non-partisan effort that unites men across the political, religious, and social spectra. An effort that is totally decentralized because we knew that women and men know best how to reach the men and boys in our own communities, workplaces, schools, places of worship, and nations. A campaign that aimed to be totally mainstream and, by working alongside women, to shift the everyday ideas shared by men.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the White Ribbon Campaign, I’ve written a short article about its basic ideas, what was unique about our approach, and how it rewrote the book on how to engage men and boys for change. It also includes the founding Statement of Principles from which I’ve pulled these extracts in this blog. (Please click here if you’d like to read or download it.)
Taking the Pledge
The most important thing, of course, is not the 20th anniversary of the campaign. It is the fact that courageous women around the world continue to speak out and challenge age-old traditions and the power structures that have preserved them. It is the fact these women are finally being joined by men and, together, are making a real difference. We can celebrate that many countries have better laws and, in some cases, are actually implementing those laws. We can celebrate that, in some countries, rates of violence against women, are starting to go down.
But millions of women are physically and sexually abused each day, women are murdered by boyfriends and husbands each week, women and girls are trafficked into prostitution, women are sexually harassed in workplaces and on the street, and too many of our sisters and mothers, daughters, wives, and friends are still living in fear.
Because of that, it is more critical than ever, that all men pledge, that all men promise, that all men swear not to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women.
It has been the longest war, the greatest epidemic, the biggest disaster. With strength and love, we commit ourselves to work alongside women to bring this violence to an end.
Guys Guide to Feminism…The Talk
Yes, you’ve heard the rumors: Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling are teaming up with Steven Spielberg to make the movie version of this year’s indie-hit book. Ah, rumors… Which brings us to the reason for
"Guy’s Guide to Feminism … The Talk" because this is exactly how you’ll get co-author Michael Kaufman to your campus or community for an incomparable night of humor, serious conversation, story-telling, and hard-hitting analysis. Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
MICHAEL’S FACEBOOK PAGE
The Possibility of Dreaming on a Night Without Stars
First published by Viking/Penguin, now out as an eBook for Kindle, Apple iBook, Kobo, Nook, and other tablets. Click here to read reviews, download a free excerpt, or order today
- In Australia on the Path to Greatness
- The Real Republican Strategy: Crazy Like Foxes?
- Do Men Hate Women? (Talking About Misogyny)
- Education after Steubenville: The 4 Rules of Sexual Consent
- International Women’s Day….A Letter of Love From Men
- Thousands Gathering at United Nations With One Message: End Violence Against Women & Girls!
- Feminism: Helping Men Be Free
- Valentine’s Day: Flowers Are Fine, But Here are 6 Keys to Good Relationships!
- Men: Which Side Will You Be On? Sexual Violence in India
- Eight Steps to Presidential Greatness
- Republican Party Rape Advisory Chart
- What is Healthy Masculinity?
- Rape & Women’s Voice
- Saudi Arabia: How About a Segregated City for Men?
- Olympic Dreams, Olympic Myths
- LOCKED-OUT SYNDROME STRIKES WOMEN & MEN!
- My Message in the British Parliament: Women Should No Longer Stand Alone
- International Women’s Day…A Letter of Love From Men
- Men for Women’s Choice
- The Five Reasons Why Men Should Control Women’s Reproduction
- APOLOGIES (To Anyone Who May Be Offended By This Blog)
- Killing in the Name of Honor
- Why Are (Some) Men Still Afraid of Feminism?
- The Astoundingly Simple Truth About Masculinity and Goodness
- Men and the Search for Love
- White Ribbon: 20 Years, 1000s of Campaigns to End Violence Against Women
- White Ribbon Campaign: 20 Years Working to End Violence Against Women
- Occupy Minds, Not Real Estate! (And Set Up a Much-Bigger Tent)
- The 0-0-0 Plan for Ending Sexual Harassment!
- In Norway, Gender Equality DOES Extend to the Bedroom
- Occupy the Future! (The 8 Keys to Being the 99%)
- The Guy’s Guide To Feminism
- Soften Up, Men!
- The Two September 11s
- A Man With The Greatest of Hearts: Jack Layton, 1950-2011
- London Burning, Governments Cutting, Wall Street Plunging
- Terror in Norway: An Extraordinary Letter from Oslo
- Summer Sports: Women Rock, Fathers Weep
- 9 Steps to a REAL Father’s Day
- SlutWalk: Anger, Celebration & the Conversation We Need to Have
- Letter from Scotland
- The Stupification of America . . . and Beyond
- An Open Letter from God to Sarah Palin
- The Top Ten List You Wouldn’t Want to Be On
- Nuclear Manhood
- Signs of Hope in Istanbul
- International Women’s Day…a Letter of Love From Men
- Julian Assange: Hero? Creep? Victim? Victimizer?
- Italian Men, Berlusconi, & the Forward March of Women
- Valentine’s Day: Flowers Are Nice, But Dish Out the Respect!
- Hear the Sound of Freedom!
- Why Protests Keep Spreading
- The End of Men
- People as Political Props: the Real State of the Union
- Amazing White Ribbon Campaigns in Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific … and Antarctica
- December 6, 1989: The Day Canada Changed Forever
- Interview on engaging men to promote gender equality
- Watch Michael on “Men’s Room”
- Letter from Rio de Janeiro
- US Campus Men’s Conference
- The One Thing We Really Should Do This New Year
- Letter from Riga, Latvia
- Letter from Italy
- Letter from Istanbul, Turkey
- Letter from Jerez de la Frontera, Spain
- New Approaches for Ending Sexual Harassment at Work
- Letter from India
- An Act of Collective Love: Why Men Are Working to End Violence Against Women
- Manhood and War
- Letter from China
- Free Book Download: “Cracking the Armour: Power, Pain and the Lives of Men”
- Better Fathering Will Help End Violence
- New Web Site With New Resources
- Building a Movement of Men Working to End Violence Against Women
- The White Ribbon Campaign – Breaking Men’s Silence To End Men’s Violence – Statement of Principles
- The 7 P’s of Men’s Violence
- Better Fathering Will Help End Violence
- Being a man doesn’t have to be a struggle
- Men must abandon notion they are violent by nature
- No public Twitter messages.