The problem with White Ribbon Day: Everything

White Ribbon Day causes harm to women who have survived men’s violence.

Seeing a man like Mike Baird wearing a white ribbon, a man who ripped apart women-run services, re-traumatises women who have survived domestic violence. This is a man who, with great fanfare, announced the appointment of a Minister for the Prevention of Violence Against Women, while homicides by men against their intimate partners – that is, women who they lived with or who were trying to leave – increased by 40 per cent.

So the Baird strategy is an abject failure, with which women have paid with their lives.

Baird treats our safety from men who bash and kill women as an asset-stripping exercise. Baird and Abbott and Turnbull take women’s services, strip us of everything that has been built up over 40 years, and defund us on hyper-ideological pretences.

As a religious man, Baird then hands what is left – the social services equivalent of a shell company – to client donors, to organised religion, to Mission Australia and the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul aka the Catholic Church.

These are organisations which, on the evidence, should never be given responsibility over the lives of women and children. These organisations take children from mothers who have been traumatised by men; these organisations have, for centuries, been staffed by men who rape and otherwise mistreat children. And women.

In my household, where I alone have been responsible for feeding and clothing and educating and keeping safe three children, White Ribbon Day is a day to take a deep breath and remember that my society, and my government, sees us as an opportunity for a fancy breakfast and a lapel pin.

I remember back then, fourteen years ago now, wondering what it would be like to get through an entire day without thinking about safety first, without obsessing over where we had been, about what we had escaped. I remember wondering if I would ever live a day without the flashbacks every hour, the horrors every night.

But time really does heal all wounds. Through soccer seasons and camping trips and social media connections and being our fabulous selves, we have become people who are not defined by a man’s violence. Time and love and family and friends and music and having a job and education and sport and safety – all of these together healed the wounds.

Above all, safety.

Every time I unlock the front screen door, fourteen years later, there is still that tiny moment. I take a breath, and remember past fears, and give thanks for being able to walk into my front yard without checking for potential danger. It is a muscle memory thing, a bodily reminder. Moving into a house with a lockable screen door and a gate was a revelation. A gate! I could not believe how safe I felt. I had never felt so safe.

We are still safe. Due to eternal vigilance. Due to my strength and resilience, and that of my children, and to family and friends who supported us through hell and high water – where hell and high water is a euphemism for the violence and the threat of violence perpetrated by an adult man who said he “loves” us.

In those years, I completed a law degree. I enrolled in post-graduate study. I had the benefit of a comprehensive social safety net that allowed me to parent and to work. I bought the house with the gate. I have seen one child into the adult world, with two more on their way. I do this with enormous privilege, with tertiary-educated whiteness, with family support, with friends who praise and do not judge, with the universal education and universal healthcare – and income support when needed – that are the cornerstones OR SHOULD BE THE CORNERSTONES of our society.

And every year, I shed furious tears and shake with anger and pain when White Ribbon Day comes around. At this organisation made up of members who know nothing, absolutely nothing, about men’s violence against women and children. This organisation which causes trauma, by minimising and trivialising the cause, the source, the problem. This organisation which paralyses my otherwise normalised existence, which reminds me again, as though I needed reminding, how little our society cares about people like us.

White Ribbon compels women to mobilise, to donate free research, to volunteer valuable time, to combat the myths and victim-blaming which it unreflectively reproduces. White Ribbon is white patriarchy, it is men dominating the message, it is damaging and harmful to women and children. Like the organisations to which women’s services have been handed, the corporate interests and organised religion (same thing), White Ribbon does enormous harm and precious little good.

Dear White Ribbon. Please get out of the public sphere. Shut yourself down. Forever.

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5 thoughts on “The problem with White Ribbon Day: Everything

  1. I hate White Ribbon day. Originally – as an intellectual premise – I thought it was a good idea, get men to raise the issue as way too often it is only men that other men will listen to. Now over the years it has become this festival of the pollies & celebs saying “look at me, I care” – for just one bloody day. Worse, the amount of air time and funding they suck up to achieve very little grates no ends.

    On a personal level – like you Ingrid, it just makes my day dark.

    Every politician I see with their little ribbon, puffing out there chest, getting their ‘feel good’ media opportunity makes me want to scream. I want to yell at the TV, paper, tweet with “Yeah, you care so much why did you cut…”, “Why the hell did you give funding to [insert God Squad group] who judge & turn away…]

    Every top cop looking pretty in their best Police regalia makes me want to throw up. All I can think of is the 2 cops who instead of removing the perpetrator so I could be safe in my own home, advised me would be best to stay at a friends – resulting in me having legal issues later due to “leaving the family home first”. Looking at these cops, I hear the same words “leave it until tomorrow to come and see us…”, “are you sure you want to make a complaint, if you do…”. How many back in the day didn’t bother? Hell, I would not have if not for the support of a friend who pushed me and would not let me back down, even when I wanted to so much, I mean, the Police themselves pretty much were telling me to just quietly leave it alone 😦

    The celebs & sports stars, well, how often over the years has one of these turds disrespected a woman and White Ribbon have ‘explained’ it away with bullshit like ‘needing to understand where it comes from’. FFS!

    Until White Ribbon is ethical in relation to ALL their Ambassadors, only having people who actually do give a damn, have tried to raised awareness, are not abusers and not in it for the media attention, they can go jump.

    Until White Ribbon actually use all their influence and of course money, don’t forget the massive funds they receive to do more than protect their ‘brand’ – I shit you not, it was referred to themselves yesterday ARGH – then they can go jump.

    Until White Ribbon actually achieve something real, ie having guest of honour at biggest breakfast a male who say actually spearheaded a campaign to raise funds for a shelter, or offered free legal support etc instead of a turd of a politician who has cut funding for DV services, but maybe announces a tiny trickle of funds back in for cosmetic value, well, they can get stuffed.

    Speaking smooth words and looking pretty in your ribbon at a breakfast doesn’t save any lives.

    White Ribbon is too mainstream now and won’t go away, but they could at least get a backbone and reward all that media attention to men who do good, until then, they can shove all their ‘let’s make men feel good about themselves for a day’ bullshit marketing up their clacker!

    1. Agree agree agree when I heard the top brass launching the shitty “what can neighbours do” ad I wanted to scream. You know what he said? “These are people dying in our streets”. When these are literally women being killed in their homes. How dare they take control of these messages like they are the solution all police forces are sexist organisations it and racist too, they should fix their own violent culture and let women and children get to properly funded housing and support services

  2. As someone still trying to break free of DV, still hypervigilant all the time, still attending court to try to protect myself and my children (where I feel I’m the person on trial), your words to describe hypervigilance sound so familiar. Part of me is still so torn about White Ribbon Day. The downtrodden self-esteem in me still tries to argue that at least someone’s drawing attention to us… that at least it’s defined as “wrong” now. But I know this is oversimplifying it.

    Even yesterday on Facebook I saw my local police (Windsor LAC) dutifully doing a White Ribbon Day post and no less than FOUR women jumped on the post commenting “Where’s the day for women’s violence against men? What about violence against all people” etc etc. I commented that I was saddened by the rolecall of women in the comments with such terribly internalised misogyny and one of them even attacked me for saying that.

    I feel exhausted by the whole thing… I feel abandoned by the community around me that claims to be so united against domestic violence. I call to report another attempted home invasion and the police officer on the other end doesn’t believe me. I feel like giving up and just letting him kill me sometimes. It’d be easier. Maybe then people would understand that I was telling the truth.

    I got left with all the bills when the perpetrator finally left and I’ve been financially wounded ever since, always catching up, always a week behind in rent, always feeling sick when I open another energy bill. Who’s helping me? Who out of those people who adorned themselves with token ribbons of support really gets that the effects of DV impact you for years and years to come? Who’s helping my post-trauma teenager who was either ignored or shoved aside or verbally abused and called names by the perp? Who cares that I haven’t had a night out to socialise since October 2015? I ask my siblings but they give me the number of a paid babysitter my kids have never met. Yet I bet they went to work and wore a ribbon and posted about it online. No-one actively cares. They just buy a frickin’ ribbon.

    Shit, I’m sorry. You brought out a rant. But thank you.
    Maybe I needed to think about this more instead of just turning away and either feeling confused or pffting at White Ribbon stuff.

    1. That’s okay. You’re allowed to write. As much as you damn well please – I do. And *I’m* so sorry I didn’t see your comment earlier. This post went a bit crazy on social media and I had a job application to do coz while all sounds rosy at times, I am still in the precarious, casualised work force.
      I know exactly what you’re saying about how exhausting is the hyper-vigilance alone, when bills and penalties for late bills are added in… we live in a society that punishes the poor, that punishes women for men’s violence, that assumes we provide for the kids and we will but there is no need to make it so hard.
      In my view, White Ribbon enables the “wataboutery” you describe, and has comprehensively failed. It has not eased any pain, nor saved a single life, it exists for comfy safe folk to feel better about a shitty callous society that looks after the comfy folks.
      If it’s any use, the law re violent men’s damage to property has recently changed, (women are always left with their bills), maybe try HNLAC for advice on that. I know it’s not much, but it might allow a bit of breathing space re the bills. Sending strength sis xo

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