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Swearing to aspire to...

by PeakCare on 22nd November 2011

Home -> Articles -> 2011 -> November -> Swearing to aspire to...

“Be the change you want to see in the world." - Gandhi

What do Jimmy Barnes, Keith Urban, Hamish and Andy, Will Anderson and Hazem el Masri have in common?

They’re all swearing and they are encouraging other men to do so too:

  • Jimmy Barnes says all working men should swear
  • Keith Urban says all country boys should swear
  • Hamish and Andy say all teams should swear
  • Will Anderson says all comedians should swear
  • Hazem el Masri says all real mean should swear

Whilst it is no great surprise to hear of Jimmy Barnes swearing, why are so many of our noted celebrities also swearing and encouraging the same of their peers? Why is it that in Parliament on November 16th our Community Services’ Minister Karen Struthers also called on Queensland men to swear?

Perhaps because they are not swearing to ‘explete’ – they are swearing to ‘delete’. Delete male violence against women. They, alongside almost sixteen and a half thousand Australians have made a pledge for White Ribbon Day never to tolerate violence against women. They have sworn to never commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.

The White Ribbon campaigners aptly name male violence against women as a human rights abuse. They hold the perpetrators to account, offer support and insight and invite other men to step up and end this violence by challenging their family members and peers not to abuse and to stand tall against those who do. They also work to dispel many myths such as: she ‘deserves it, likes it, invites it or accepts it’ to state that no abuse of women is acceptable or condonable.

In 1999, the U.N. General Assembly declared 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, with a white ribbon as its iconic symbol.

Someone once told me upon my selection of red and white as thematic colours for a significant occasion that I should rethink my choice as red represented blood and white represented tears. Whilst I feel sure that white represents so much more than tears on this occasion it is perhaps fitting. Men’s violence against women leads to blood and way too many tears, not just for their victims but for their children, family members and many others associated with them.

Standing up to perpetrators requires a multi systemic response. Having men on side to assist in this process goes a long way in alleviating the barriers to safety for women and children. Let these men who have signed the White Ribbon oath for this campaign be family members, friends, police officers, teachers, principals, counsellors, housing workers, work colleagues, judges, lawyers, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and all the associated professions required to assist women and children in attaining safety from violent and abusive men. Let them also understand the complexities of perpetration and violence or ‘power over’ and/or have read the entire White Ribbon campaign and the associated resource sheets before they are so inclined to make any common presuppositions about male violence that are potentially based on bias.

It is befitting of this campaign that it originated in Canada given that PeakCare’s International keynote speaker at our ‘Challenging Silence Conference 2010’ was domestic violence intervention expert, Canadian academic Dr Allan Wade. Dr Wade has much to offer with regard to Domestic Violence, the language and processes he denounces that we so often use to inadvertently support perpetrators whilst also incidentally an accidentally re-traumatising victims. His mode of therapy offers many alternatives as to how to more appropriately support women and children who have experienced abuse whilst insisting perpetrators be held to account and take responsibility for their behaviours. He asserts that perpetrators will continue to perpetrate if they are not held to account, just because they have the power and they can. He also argues that perpetrators pre-empt their victim’s resistance and in doing so are streets ahead of the police, child protection workers and therapists who often see the victim as ‘passive’ and the perpetrator as ‘just angry’.

Changing perpetrating men’s violent behaviour against women requires that men get on board and be a key part of the change. The White Ribbon campaign quotes and upholds Gandhi’s famous quote: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

The White Ribbon Campaign calls on men globally to support their fellow men to not perpetrate or to cease to perpetrate violence against women in order to ensure a world free from violence against women. White Ribbon day is a global campaign to end the horror of women and children being beaten, violated and abused at the hands of men:

The campaigners clearly articulate that whilst both men and women experience violence, men are most commonly assaulted by strangers whilst the abuse women and children endure is most commonly perpetrated by family members including spouses, parents and loved ones. They also state that violence against women is relevant to men:

“Violence against women is a deeply personal issue for women, but it is also very much a men’s issue because it is their wives, mothers, sisters, daughters and friends whose lives are being harmed by violence and abuse. It is a men’s issue because, as community leaders and decision-makers, men can play a key role in helping to stop violence against women. It is a men’s issue because men can speak out and step in when male friends and relatives insult or attack women. And it is a men’s issue because a minority of men treat women and girls with contempt and violence, and it is up to the majority of men to create a culture in which this is unacceptable.”

Men’s violence against women is most definitely a ‘men’s issue’. It is heartening that this well researched and widely recognised male led campaign acknowledges this and is prepared to act. It is long over due for men’s violence against women to cease being a ‘women’s issue’.

Lorraine Dupree

Policy and Research Manager, PeakCare Queensland

To take the White Ribbon oath click here:

For further resources on the White Ribbon Campaign click here: