In mid-February Hull City Council marked its White Ribbon Award in front of 12,000 Hull FC Rugby fans. The award is made to local authorities who are taking serious steps to involve men in speaking out about male violence against women and challenging negative gender stereotypes which underpin abuse. 30 new White Ribbon Ambassadors released 24 balloons- each one marking 1,000 women who are abused in Hull each year. David Hudson from Office of Police and Crime Commissioner Hull said" I was delighted to accept the challenge of being an ambassador for the White Ribbon Campaign. Domestic Violence is a blight on society which deeply offends me as a man, a husband and father."
This event is a tiny step in awareness raising about the issues for those attending the game, but also earned a 2 page spread in the Sports section of the Evening paper. The City Council has a promotional pop up for White Ribbon on its home page, while Hull FC now have the white ribbon in their programme every match day.
A different approach has been taken in Nottingham. When the Rugby Club there launched their new kit featuring a white ribbon they described their involvement "as a bit left field". Over four months their involvement has been mainstreamed, with players assisting in education work with domestic abuse prevention agencies, and a recent match had programme notes about anti-violence, PA announcements, short presentations at half time, and a mascot race between the club mascot and DaVey the white ribbon mascot, who is now so popular his two identical brothers have now joined him in Yorkshire.
Chris Green, the Founder of White Ribbon Campaign UK said "In the last 10 days I have been involved in speaking at events in Hastings, Cambridge, Brighton, London, Leeds, Batley, Calderdale and Cardiff. Other White Ribbon Ambassadors have represented us at Milton Keynes and Bristol. In the USA there was a huge 1000 delegate conference of the American Mens Studies Association for academics involved in the field. We now have 70 local authorities signed up, including 90% of authorities in right thinking Wales, but only about 10% of the authorities in England.
It is great that there is a huge increase of interest in working to prevent male violence against women, but it is also important that men remain accountable to the women's sector, and as Professor Michael Flood warns "Don't take the Glass escalator" to the top of the sector. Ask, Listen, Respect is one of the first slogans White Ribbon Campaign UK used, and we work hard to remain accountable.
White Ribbon Campaign UK has been growing for 10 years, but still has only 3 part time workers. We survive by selling awareness raising materials. If you offer someone a white ribbon badge a man feels labelled and may say "I'm not violent I don't want to wear that". Offer the same man a similar badge which has a football in the middle of the white ribbon, and he'll wear it proudly .In the same way we have affiliate badges for 15 different sports and leisure activities, as well as a range of 40m posters and postcards. But that isn't enough. If we want to get them put on walls and read we must make sure that they appeal to the target audience. We want to increase our range of posters and badges to appeal more and more specifically to peoples' interest, while bringing them on side as allies of the violence prevention movement. We still have nothing appealing to Gamers, and only one music badge.
It's working- Every day our tweets are shared by a broad range of supporters Today it is Faith groups, Parliamentary equality lobby, Rugby team, Students and Theatre group -@ImamsOnline, @5050Parliament, @Doncaster_RLFC, @HUUPresident, @TheatreRenegade
25,000 men have signed a pledge "Never to Commit, Excuse or Remain Silent about Violence against Women"- of course it should be 20 million , but it's a start, and we have 150 grassroots Ambassadors promoting discussions of the issues across the UK. We asked some of them to write about their experiences-
Joseph Conaghan is a longstanding Ambassador who each year ensures that many Ambulance staff wear a ribbon. "As a long serving Paramedic and representative of the profession it was clear that frontline Ambulance Staff are often the initial contact at a 999 call in Domestic Abuse. The White Ribbon Campaign has a special resonance with Staff as the symbolism wearing the ribbon indicates very clearly to the community that Ambulance Staff have made a stand against violence"
Brian Mitchell of Bradford College School of Teaching added "My daughter explained how she had experienced aggression and violence from her ex-boyfriend a couple of years ago. What started as a couple of derogatory comments and looks spiralled into a cycle of bullying.
The first words on White Ribbon Campaign home page are "Even when it isn't physical- Abuse is still Abuse" - 94% of victims say they found emotional abuse harder to endure than physical abuse. The great new campaign by Wales asks "Where does Alun cross the line" in emotional abuse - See the video at livefearfree.org.uk -asking all men to check their comments.
Lest we forget it was Burke that said "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing"
Michael Conroy has been active in his role at Worcester schools gathering pledges from students and representing White Ribbon at regional events in the South West, as well as volunteering for A Call to Men UK and says "I wonder only one thing- "Why didn't I do any of this before"
The revolution in the lives of women needs a revolution in the lives of men, mass-campaigning to deliver the messages and individual choices - it starts with me"