Here is part two of our interview with White Ribbon Campaign Executive Director, Todd Minerson. For more information about White Ribbon, visit their website.
How about women’s groups. Do you work closely with them?
Of course! If we aren’t working closely with women, then we are not doing our job correctly! We have great relationships with many women’s groups nationally and internationally. We are working with them, collaboratively. This is not chivalry. We are not “saving” women. On every level this is a joint partnership. There are a few non-negotiables when it comes to engaging men and boys to end violence against women. 1) Do no harm. 2) The work must be rooted in women’s rights, and human rights. 3) Don’t compete for already scarce resources. 4) The work ultimately must benefit the lives of women and girls, which in the end benefits us all!
We also have a strict policy on funding too. We will not take away any funding which is designed for intervention or support for women’s domestic violence groups. We do not want to take a slice of their pie. We are all about making a bigger pie altogether—one that also incorporates primary prevention work with men and boys.
What do you think is the best way to approach certain men’s groups like “A voice for men”? Created by the blogger Paul Elm, his online forum openly expresses mysogynistic and derogtory comments about women, and extremely controversial viewpoints on crimes such as rape.
On one level, these kinds of “men’s rights groups” are the bane of our existence! Some of their ideas are, of course, appalling. But really, we need to decide how much time and energy we use in engaging with them. They have a fairly small voice. When we evaluate these groups we ask the three following questions:
- Are there any mis-truths/mis-facts?
- Are there any incorrect comments about The White Ribbon?
- Is there any chance of having a respectful conversation? If not, is it worth it?
It’s a tough call. There is an Australian published researcher, Michael Flood, who has done some very interesting research on these men’s groups. His website is www.xyonline.net. He dispels a lot of the myths that some of these groups tend to perpetuate. He’s worth looking up!
Overall, what response do you get from men when they are first told about “The White Ribbon” Campaign?
By and large, the response is very positive.
Within a patriarchal society, it can be hard for men at first to openly come out and combat gender inequality. I’ll tell you a story about my hockey team and how a number of years ago I managed to overcome my own feelings of speaking out. We were in the locker room after a match, banter was flying from all corners, and then one member of the team made a sexist joke. I had just made my pledge to The White Ribbon Campaign and I knew I couldn’t stand by and say nothing. Of course, the articulate, well-constructed response didn’t quite make it out of my lips. Instead I said in a resolute, firm manner, “Dude, it’s not funny.”
After, two of the other guys on the team came up to me and said, “Thanks for saying that Todd, we didn’t like his joke either.”
Now, all of my hockey team have made their White Ribbon pledge, one of the members is on the Board of Trustees, and all took part in our fundraising event, “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes”!
The majority of men say, “I never thought about gender inequality in this way before. I could be doing more…”
You have a young family, including a 4-year-old son, and a 4-month-old daughter. In what ways do you think we could educate young boys and girls on how to manage aggression?
This is of course a real challenge for any parent; helping their children to channel aggression in positive ways. One of the most valuable and important ways to do this is through modelling positive behaviour. Children watch everything you do, and take it all in.
It’s important to have respectful debates with your partner, not angry, aggressive arguments. Children watch how their parents relate to each other, and then copy their behaviour patterns. To a child, non-verbal communication is paramount. Something as relatively minor as slamming a door is an act of aggression that children observe and then copy.
It’s important to teach our children that it is okay to feel angry and frustrated, but it’s paramount they know how to deal with this anger. We must teach them to step away, take time to cool down. It’s never okay to take your anger out on someone else. We must teach children this from the beginning of their lives.
It’s also important that we allow our children to feel a range of emotions. If our boys want to cry, they must be allowed to do so and shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about doing it! If they feel angry, then that is a perfectly normal human emotion, but it’s teaching them positive ways to deal with that anger that is important.
How can people support the fight to end violence against women? How can men and boys join this cause?
Everybody can do something! It’s individuals first. Everything starts with you, and your motivation to make the lives of girls and women better. Men and boys need to look at their own language, actions and beliefs as a starting point.
Once the individual is motivated to make a change, the rest can take place. This positivity impacts the community, the work place, the town, the country! But it all starts from the individual making that pledge to end violence against women, today.
We encourage men to listen and learn from women. Quite often, men don’t understand the sheer depth and scope of the problem. It’s important that men learn how women experience and view violence.
Start by asking the men in your life to make their pledge today, or if you’re a guy, make the pledge yourself! To find the White Ribbon campaign in your country, type “White Ribbon” into a search engine, followed by the name of your country.