OVER a quarter of a century, the White Ribbon movement has made huge inroads into changing mainstream attitudes toward male violence against women.
Although White Ribbon Day, on November 25, is the natural focus of an annual campaign, the time has come to accept that every day is a white ribbon day, and there are never any excuses for men to resort to physical or psychological violence in their relations with women.
Sadly, when we look around the world, we are forced to realise we’re a long way from the white ribbon dream of women, everywhere, living without the fear or expectation of being hurt or killed by a violent male. Whether it’s an honour killing in Pakistan or a beating from a husband in suburban Australia, the threats remain.
The statistics are disturbing. So far this year, 68 women have died at male hands in Australia, according to Destroy The Joint, a social movement started in 2012 in response to a misogynistic rant from shock jock Alan Jones against Julia Gillard. The World Health Organisation says violence against women – especially “intimate partner violence and sexual violence” – is one of the planet’s major public health problems.
But if violence against women is still pervasive in some corners of Australian society, we should celebrate some substantial attitudinal shifts in recent years.
Not so long ago, many were still arguing that violence inside a relationship – domestic violence, in other words – was a private matter: the state should have no role in regulating what was viewed as unfortunate, but still ultimately acceptable, behaviour.
Not any more. Whether it’s a suburban rugby league team proudly playing its part in the code-wide “Voice Against Violence” campaign, or a primary school ethics class learning the basics of respect from early on, attitudes and beliefs are steadily changing.
Dubbo White Ribbon ambassador Kevin Saul had it right when he said on Friday: “We should be talking about domestic violence all year round but we need to have today to get the conversation going.”
He said the mission was to make all men responsible for violence against women.
“If you walk past it and let it happen then you condone it and it’s just not on. I’m not saying you have to physically stand in between two people...but if it’s a bloke you know, saying ‘mate that’s not on’.”
Make white ribbon’s objectives your own each day from today.