Women know the power of friendship. When we get together with a girlfriend or sister, we share insights into our lives we’d never tell another soul. We also know the power of that friend telling us what we’re thinking or doing is wrong. Women are the champions of the raw, honest friendship, and when we see something happening in our girlfriends’ lives we don’t like, we tell them.
Men, however, not so much.
That’s why today – White Ribbon Day – is such an important day for the men of Australia. It’s the day we encourage all the men in our lives to take a pledge to be honest with each other, and to always, always speak up when someone around them makes even a reference to domestic violence or abuse against women.
How I wish some of the mates around my girlfriends’ partner had done this. Maybe that might have changed things.
White Ribbon Day isn’t just another one of those charity ribbon days where you put a bit of material on your shirt for a couple of hours and feel good about yourself. This is the UN sanctioned day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and the White Ribbon campaign is about accepting that violence against women is the responsibility of us all, and its up to us to do something about it.
That includes promising to always speak up whenever anyone makes a derogatory, sexist or violent comment about women.
Earlier this week, Dr Michael Flood from the University of Wollongong and a White Ribbon Ambassador released a toolkit called ‘What Men Can Do To Stop Violence Against Women’ to help Australian men take action within their own lives to breakdown the culture of silence around domestic violence.
He says that research shows that the vast majority of men do not condone violence against women in any way, shape or form, but are reluctant to speak up if a mate makes a ‘dodgy’ rape joke, or laughs about being violent.
‘Research shows us that violent men believe their behaviour is more accepted than it actually is. They over-estimate how much their mates agree with what they do and say. So when everyone stays silent after someone makes a rape or violence-related joke, or says a woman deserves the treatment she received, that is only supporting that man’s assumption that his behaviour is OK.’
We know most men are good blokes. The majority of men in Australia abhor violence against women, and if they saw a man on the street attack a woman, they would step in. And that’s fantastic. But it’s the action of another kind that we need them to take if we are to really reduce violence and abuse of women.
“It’s time for the silent majority to speak up. We know that when a man questions another’s joke about rape or comment about violence, he takes away that mate’s false assumption that everyone else agrees with him. He also makes it easier for others to speak up too, increasing the pressure.’