White Ribbon Day coming to Massachusetts on March 2nd
March 2nd is the third annual Massachusetts White Ribbon Day, sponsored by the Men’s Initiative at Jane Doe, Inc. Inspired by the larger international White Ribbon Campaign, started in Canada in 1991 by men two years after the Montreal Massacre, the Massachusetts campaign seeks to provide a public opportunity for men and boys to vocally support respectful and non-violent relationships, and commit to ending violence against women.
The WRD website gives interested men a number of different options to get involved in the campaign: signing the pledge to never commit or condone violence against women, becoming ambassadors and getting other men to sign the pledge, and joining community events, in order to get as wide an appeal to the men of Massachusetts as JDI can.
In the past, I’ve served as an ambassador for the WRD in Massachusetts, and the public events at the State House are always a great opportunity to meet other activists working in the field of violence prevention. In my mind, the true purpose of a campaign like this in Massachusetts, and in the way the JDI puts it together, is to get valuable public airtime and attention focused on issues like domestic violence and rape on a regular basis. Sexual violence is an epidemic in our culture, but it’s so normalized and routine that we don’t see it. Big, public events like the WRD can give everyone the opportunity talk about these issues, and doing it every year means those conversations can start up again each spring. Especially for men, who do not often have an easy way of starting conversations about rape and sexual assault with their peers, male family members, and male friends, the WRD gives a really good entrance point to bring those topics up in the first place.
What the WRD can’t do is actually lower rates of domestic violence and rape. Signing a pledge or reading one publicly does not, unfortunately, have any sort of actual binding effect on behavior. Actually stopping or reducing rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence takes serious policy work to provide options for survivors, serious cultural work to make abusive behavior less normal, and serious internal work, especially from men (who make up the vast majority of abusers and rapists) to redefine masculinity as an identity separate from violence and dominance. So while I’ll be taking the pledge (again) this year, I’m also going to continue doing the other work I know I need to be doing in order to actually put an end to sexual violence and domestic abuse.
If you want to get your sweet anti-domestic and sexual violence action on, here are a couple of ways you can supplement a public commitment during the WRD with long-term action:
- You could join BARCC as a volunteer!
- You can check out the community mapping model of the awesome domestic-violence awareness organization Close to Home. They work in the Fields Corner neighborhood of Dorchester, and use some awesome techniques to start community conversations about DV. Join their network, meet their righteous youth team, and learn some practical skills to talk about preventing violence with your own friends and peers.
- You can get trained to stop violence. Northeastern University’s Mentors in Violence Prevention program offers trainings throughout the year to former athletes who want to speak with young people about stopping sexual and domestic violence. They aren’t the cheapest trainings, but they are really well put together. Likewise, Emerge is another organization that does a lot of training for people who want to learn how to stop violence.
- You can get political, and support legislation (or push legislation) that provides realistic options for survivors of violence, more funding for shelters, and better training for law enforcement working with sexual and domestic violence cases. Jane Doe has a good page of legislative targets for this year, and the Victim’s Rights Law Center can sometimes provide additional insight on bills making their way through the State House.
Do all of these! Do them regularly! Take the WRD pledge, and then back it up with work throughout the year fighting against sexual violence.
While we’re at it, let’s challenge some stupid media tropes, too, about men being emasculated by having to care about their female partners:
Dodge Charger ad parody.