‘Help out by staying in, demonstrates a lack of understanding of some of the fundamental issues relating to family violence, and men’s violence against women’
I’m impressed with Danny’s work to address violence against women. If we had more men like him we might get somewhere. I published a piece he wrote for me ‘Men: It’s Time to Change’ here in December 2011 (a while ago but still sadly so relevant).
Danny and his organisation have bravely questioned the rationale behind the White Ribbon Foundation’s latest fundraising campaign. Below their recent press release in full. White Ribbon has responded here).
The latest White Ribbon Foundation fundraising campaign, Help out by staying in, demonstrates a lack of understanding of some of the fundamental issues relating to family violence, and men’s violence against women.
While we fully support the Foundation’s intent in preventing men’s violence against women, and the need to have a sustainable funding basis to conduct this work, we are significantly concerned with this campaign on two levels.
Devaluing women and women’s efforts
First, in a recent email the Foundation positioned the event as raising funds for “Australia’s Campaign to stop men’s violence against women.” This wording positions the Foundation’s work as the campaign in Australia attempting to prevent men’s violence against women. The statement dismisses, and makes invisible, the many existing campaigns by a range of community-based agencies, involving both women and men, to prevent men’s violence against women. It privileges the Foundation’s campaign above all others, thereby devaluing other efforts, particularly those of women who continue to do the bulk of the work in responding to and preventing violence.
NTV assumes this isn’t intentional. However, the effect is to reproduce the devaluing of women and women’s efforts, and processes that make women invisible, through the way in which this fundraising event is framed. The use of entitlement and privilege to dismiss and render invisible women’s voices and efforts is at the heart of men’s violence against women.
Links to the alcohol industry
Second, we are dismayed that the event is associated with the alcohol industry. While alcohol is not a cause of men’s violence against women, there is substantial and conclusive research that it can intensify the severity of violence that women and children experience. There is also considerable clinical evidence that alcohol abuse can make it more difficult for men to do the work necessary to change their behaviour through a men’s behaviour change program. Given the strong association between alcohol and violence, obtaining the support of the alcohol industry is as analogous to as a fast food corporation sponsoring a fun run.
Belittling the issues
Furthermore, while the intent is to provide activities while men spend the night in, the association with alcohol retail outlets will implicitly, and directly, link the night with alcohol consumption. This belittles the issues, and can be seen as encouraging men to ‘crack open a can’ while raising funds for the Foundation.
The email distributed to promote this event provides online links to major alcohol retail outlets, thereby promoting the consumption of alcohol.
We also question the invitation to men to have a ‘movie marathon’ without recommendations about ensuring selected movies are appropriate within the context of preventing violence against women.
Numerous studies have shown an overt prevalence of the objectification and sexualisation of women in the film industry, and sexist references that are in the name of entertainment or humour. We would be most concerned that such movies would be watched in the context of raising money for the Foundation, or, worse, that some men use the opportunity to make fun of the campaign.
Understanding men’s violence against women
We understand the need for a social marketing approach that involves social media, ‘real-life’ opportunities for men to gather, and symbols and analogies that help men to start identifying with the issues. However, the framing of the event, and its connection with the alcohol industry, demonstrates that the Foundation is not achieving an appropriate balance between marketability/accessibility and a sufficient understanding of men’s violence against women.
For the Foundation’s credibility in the violence against women and family violence sectors, we’d strongly encourage steps towards increasing this understanding. We wonder, for example, what processes the Foundation uses to test fundraising and marketing concepts with family violence professionals as part of striving for the above-mentioned balance.
Reflect on the issues
We strongly encourage Foundation staff and Board members to read the Superman? Really? article, to encourage reflection on how violence against women campaigns, conducted by men’s organisations, can inadvertently reproduce patriarchy and reduce the space available for the voices of women and women’s organisations who conduct this work.
This latest event demonstrates that despite obvious goodwill and positive intent, the Foundation does not yet have a sufficient understanding of the issues that underpin men’s violence against women, and is at continuing risk of reproducing the conditions that feed this massive social problem.
The Foundation’s email promoting the campaign is reproduced below.
For questions or further comments, contact NTV Policy and Practice Coordinator, Rodney Vlais.
Alert White Ribbon to your concerns about this fundraising campaign:
Kirsty Jagger is the White Ribbon National
Communications and Marketing Officer
phone: 02 9045 8419
mobile: 0406 757 568.
See also: ‘An Open Letter to White Ribbon Ambassadors’, MTR blog.
‘AFL supports White Ribbon Day while ignoring Buddy Franklin degrading porn tees and company’s jokes about raping women’. MTR blog.