Well, here’s a difficult one. Lots of potential to be misunderstood here...But this is about an email that arrived a while back…It’s says that the “25th November is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women”. Blimey! That’s the first thing that struck me – an ‘International day to eliminate violence against women’. Well, if that could be done then I’m all in favour. But it’d be a hell of a big day wouldn’t it? Like eliminating poverty or greed or hunger or something. In a day. But let’s assume that the grandiose title really means ‘saying some stuff about an issue and getting a bit more publicity by calling it an ‘international day’. Fair enough I suppose.
The message goes on to explain that “The White Ribbon Campaign involves men in opposing violence against women. Please help us and encourage as many men as possible to come along on Friday 25th to show their support for this initiative or come along yourself!”
So, OK, there’s a campaign to involve men. So far so not so bad. They want men to come along. OK, I’ll consider it, tell me more – for a start what’s this white ribbon stuff? The poster attached to the email explains...“Men, Take the Pledge and Wrap a Tree!” What? Women are being beaten up and much worse all over the world and you want men to pledge and wrap trees? Mm, well OK, it’s a good cause, I’m still listening, tell me more...
The poster carries on to explain: “Men involved in the campaign are asked to pledge that they will not commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women. We were the first city in England to achieve White Ribbon City status in November 2010. To celebrate our first year, we want everyone in Leeds to know that we are a White Ribbon City and what that means”.
So let me get this straight...Presumably you don’t think that the average wife beater will read this poster and decide to take the pledge? Presumably the flier isn’t pinned behind the bar at the betting shop or the Dog and Racist either? (or the golf club come to that) – so I guess this campaign is aimed at the likes of me is it? You want me to pledge not to be violent against women? For what reason exactly? Should I take a pledge not to mug little old ladies or drown kittens? Or to not do any other thing that I wasn’t actually inclined to do anyway? I suppose there’s the condoning and staying silent bit...so I guess I should try to stop anyone else mugging old ladies and drowning kittens too. OK...but why exactly am I pledging this? And who benefits from this pledge?
So I’m afraid I started to get a bit worried at this point – is this about making nice liberal men feel good about themselves by signing a pledge that says ‘what a good boy am I’?
Moving on...the flier further explains – “Meet at the Reginald Centre, Chapeltown for refreshments and the start of a gentle walk to wrap a tree with white ribbon and encourage men to take the pledge. ALL MEN PARTICULARLY WELCOME!”
Oh blimey, where do you start? I’m fine with a meeting point and refreshments. But a ‘gentle’ walk. Presumably the sort of men who are against male violence walk gently do they? Maybe I’m reading too much into this (because of the ribbons coming up possibly...) but is this for pale weak men who can only walk gently after refreshments have been served?
But then we’re going to wrap a tree with white ribbon are we? Well, no actually, we are not, I’m not turning up! If my wrapping a tree with white ribbon would stop a single man from doing a single bad thing to a woman then I’d do it, but it won’t, it’ll just make me look like some sort of fey new age namby pamby weirdo who wants to draw right-on attention to himself. Then we’ll all take the pledge...We can burn some incense and pray to Gaia and the Wiccan Goddesses while we’re at it. We could issue an apology to all our sisters on behalf of the men of the world. Mm...
Then we move on to the line ‘All men particularly welcome’ - in block capitals. Presumably Barry from C wing who nearly killed his pregnant girlfriend because she ‘wound him up’ would not be quite as welcome as some others? Maybe a bunch of scaffolders willing to build a platform round said tree and measure out how much ribbon would be needed for a 2 inch deep wrap would be more welcome, but let’s let that pass. But if this thing is about men gently walking and pledging (that reminds me, just look at the dust in ‘ere) and wrapping trees, then why say that men would be particularly welcome? Almost as if men are unlikely to attend? I wonder why? Maybe because they’re just utter bastards who hit women. Or maybe they’re mostly just people who don’t want to wrap ribbons round trees to no useful purpose. Unfortunately there’s nothing in this event to actually attract men, at least not most men or even large numbers of men.
There’s never been a ‘men’s movement’ (leaving aside various slightly questionable types I guess) because blokes just can’t be arsed and don’t like doing that sort of stuff. That’s not so say they condone or excuse violence against women but men generally need a target, a challenge, something specific to do.
So to summarise this particular man’s reaction - If you put on an event to wrap trees in ribbon then you’re likely attract the sort of people that will tie ribbons round trees. So I didn’t go. Sorry.
But let’s not be negative...Let’s look for a positive...
I guess the ‘international day’ might persuade the odd lazy journalist to report it and so it might help raise the issue.
And to finish on a high - I noticed that the white ribbon campaign also organised a ‘High Heels Walk’ (for men) – Now that’s more like it! It was in Hebden Bridge – oh bollocks! Not Rotherham then? But leaving that aside, why is this loads better? – Well I think it’s because men do like to muck about. So maybe this is a way to show that men do care about the issue without turning them into New Age hippies. This kind of lark might actually get blokes involved. Let’s er, skirt over the issue of cross-dressing. So here’s part of the report from the local paper:
“THEY tottered and they towered over shoppers - the men of Hebden Bridge have once more pulled on their heels to strut their stuff around the town. Each year the White Ribbon campaign calls on men to titter and totter around the town’s cobbles to raise awareness of domestic violence. Some went further and donned dresses and wigs to add a splash of glamour to the day organised by the Mytholmroyd-based charity. Councillor James Baker from Hebden Royd Council cut the ribbon and then heels clattering against the cobbles with cheering from onlookers. The group of 12 brave men and boys tackled the streets of Hebden Bridge and the issue of domestic abuse by walking a mile in their heels. Onlookers gave their support to the men and helped raise £600 for the campaign”.
So there you go. Check out the website - http://www.whiteribboncampaign.co.uk
I’m on their side. But no gentle walks to tie ribbons to trees please...