Complaints against White Ribbon Day ad by male viewers are seriously saddening

A screengrab from the White Ribbon day advertisement.

A screengrab from the White Ribbon day advertisement.

In the process of writing this article I attempted at least seven introductory paragraphs, each time deleting them in a fury, until I realised the best way to begin this piece was with the simple facts: there are men in Australia who took the time to complain to the Ad Standards Board that this campaign for White Ribbon Night was sexist:

Why the complaints? Because White Ribbon Night (and presumably by extension, White Ribbon Day, and White Ribbon itself) is a campaign to stop violence against women, not violence against women and men, therefore it is sexist. One of the complaints submitted to the ASB ran: “The advertisement is deceptive as it only condemns domestic violence against women and therefore is misleading people to believe that only women are the victims of domestic violence and implies that only men are the perpetrators. The advertisement is sexist as it only condemns domestic violence against one gender – women.”

I wonder why that might be? Could it be because White Ribbon is a men-led campaign that encourages Australian males to help stop violence against women? Might that be it? Did these campaigning wits for men’s rights bother to read White Ribbon’s ‘About’ page before they began papering the ASB with complaints? Did the tagline “Australia’s campaign to stop violence against women” not clue them in?

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White Ribbon responded to the complaints in an impressively measured fashion: “White Ribbon Australia’s advertisement is an animated advertisement to raise awareness of violence against women and promote the organisation’s fundraising initiative to help stop this violence. The advertisement alerts the viewer to the fact that in Australia at least one woman is killed every week by a former or current partner.” Yeah, but, but, but, that’s sexist against men! Right?

There exists online (but also in ‘real life’, as this infuriating string of complaints demonstrates) a variety of man who is so incapable of sitting quietly and respectfully while problems facing women are discussed that he must immediately chime in with how said issue also affects men, inevitably seeking to engage other commenters - and, indeed, the author - in a witless game of “what’s more tragic?” in which statistics are swapped until nobody can work out exactly what the point was to begin with.

Here’s the thing: discussing one issue does not negate another’s existence (though that concept seems to be difficult to grasp for these particular men). The fact that, in this case, violence against women perpetrated by men was being discussed doesn’t mean we don’t care that some men are abused by their partners (male or female); it just means that, right now, and on White Ribbon Night, we were talking about something different. The conversation doesn’t have to cover all bases at all times. 

Additionally, there’s usually a reason something is being addressed as specific to women. As Finally Feminism 101’s excellent entry on these derailing tactics put it, “Understand that if lots of women say something is important, it is. Your opinion, as a man, about the extent and nature of the problem is not valuable when the specific problem pertains to women’s experience”.

It’s not as though these men will listen to other men on the topic, either. Victoria Police’s Chief Commissioner Ken Lay had this to say about violence against women in July, and how it was men’s responsibility to help put an end to it: “Just a few weeks ago the World Health Organisation released its findings into violence against women and described it as a ‘global health problem of epidemic proportions’. Their multiple studies found that 1 in 3 women worldwide had been either physically or sexually assaulted. Linger on that statistic. It’s appalling. Violence against women everywhere is very, very common.”

Of course that doesn’t stop these men. Rape, intimate partner violence, abortion, you name it: if a problem is widely acknowledged to affect women, this particular bloke will be there within seconds trumpeting “I can’t believe you didn’t mention how this also affects men”. Indeed, he spends so much time derailing discussion of women’s issues that it’s difficult to imagine that he has any time left over to campaign directly for the men’s issues he feels are so sorely underrepresented by the media.

It is men’s responsibility to create spaces to discuss men’s issues, not to invade women’s spaces and demand they tailor their content to fit; that men are surprised when they come to a female-focused site, read commentary about issues that relate specifically to women, and find no discussion of how rape/abortion/divorce/domestic violence affects men is their problem.

If these men read the opinion page in the newspaper and find it lacking in voices about men’s issues, then they should be submitting pieces to the opinion editor, not complaining that “space is being wasted” talking about violence against women “again”. To quote again from Finally Feminism 101’s derailing entry, “the appropriate response to a thread about women is not to post a comment on it about men, but rather to find (or make) a discussion about men”.

And guys, next time you see a campaign about violence against women, just remember: it’s about women.

 

 

130 comments

  • OK, fine, I get it. Issues impacting _people_ aren't relevant to Fairfax, only issues impacting women and in any of those discussions, only female approved points of view must be expressed. I'm off to The Conversation or somewhere else that actually has an interest in human affairs, rather than just "women's".

    Commenter
    Tim the Toolman
    Date and time
    September 27, 2013, 7:35AM
    • Tim. Daily Life's 'about' section says: Daily Life is a different kind of news experience for women. It offers the perfect daily cocktail of news, opinion, food, celebrity, style, beauty, health and relationships.

      See the "for women" part? This website is SPECIFICALLY TAILORED FOR WOMEN. Go to any Fairfax news website stories impacting all people. You're exactly who Clem is talking about in this article. Christ.

      Commenter
      miats
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      September 27, 2013, 9:40AM
    • Get going then.

      Commenter
      Ripley
      Location
      Hunting Aliens
      Date and time
      September 27, 2013, 9:40AM
    • You might want to re-read paragraph six, which starts with "Here's the thing..."

      Or alternatively just don't read stuff that will upset.

      Commenter
      Tom Calthorpe
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      September 27, 2013, 10:20AM
    • I agree, it is SHOCKING that a site dedicated to women's issues would talk about womens issues...SHOCKING. You should really write a letter!

      Commenter
      Liv
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      September 27, 2013, 10:26AM
    • Hi, Tim! Congratulations, you have demonstrated that, without a doubt, Anita's Irony exists! http://reagle.org/joseph/pelican/category/internet-rules-and-laws-20.html

      Commenter
      Clem Bastow
      Date and time
      September 27, 2013, 10:37AM
    • As a woman, I'd actually like to see the gender removed from some of these debates. Why can't we all take a vow to stop violence full stop? Domestic violence is awful whether it's directed at men or women. So let's just stop it.

      Someone said complaining about the exclusion of men's issues in the discussion is like getting angry about HIV benefits not discussing cancer issues. I disagree. It's like holding a benefit to discuss only HIV as it impacts gay men while excluding others' thoughts on the topic because they are not "as impacted". It's too exclusionary, even if it does capture the largest group affected. So let's open the conversation.

      Just one woman's opinion.

      Commenter
      TK
      Date and time
      September 27, 2013, 10:44AM
    • I'm female and I don't support white ribbon day or domestic violence 'victims'. If they leave after the first punch, well done and power to Them. You hang around for more then you are not a victim, you are a volunteer. I have an ex-friend (I dumped her coz I was sick of the 'look how bruised I am today' stories, smile n all, when it was him living in her house) she seemed to love the attention the bruises brought her. After a month or so I just told her I no longer cared, and I didn't. When I saw her coming I'd pretend I wasn't home till she got the hint. That was 5 yrs ago. She's probably dead now. I still don't care, I'm just glad she was infertile. She had 1000 offers of help but luuuurved him so stiff, stop whinging and keep getting punched, kicked, whatever but shut up about it. These female 'victims' should go to jail when they have a baby to a violent man and if he touches that baby, she is just as responsible. To the men being whipped by women, seriously, grow a pair. Smash her once, see if she continues. Some people just enjoy being victims and are beyond helping and frankly after a while don't deserve our time and resources. Love it or leave it. Your choice. My husband has always known, even raise a hand and I hope he can sleep with one eye open for the rest of his life, which wouldn't be long.

      Commenter
      Anne
      Date and time
      September 27, 2013, 11:11AM
    • Nice one Tim, you just proved the whole point of the article, hats off to you.

      Commenter
      Mellah
      Date and time
      September 27, 2013, 11:30AM
    • Hey everyone,

      Let me begin my announcing that I am a man (I felt that was necessary - Adrian is a Unisex name after all) but I am also a feminist, strange I know.

      As a gay man, I can relate and do identify with many "women" issues and as a university student I studied arts, which was where I was introduced to "feminism" as a way of thinking and came to the realisation that very little of it was about burning bras and sticking it to the man and that socially, philosophically and artistically it was about so much more.

      I do agree that when we are talking about "violence against women" that it only detracts from the conversation to have people chiming in and saying "oh, but what about men".

      That's not to say that violence against men isn't an issue (certainly it is, maybe not as big, but still an issue). Violence at the end of the day is deplorable and I am against violence inflicted upon men, women, children, animals - anything really. But when we are talking about violence against women - that's the topic and its an important one. We should stay on topic.

      I must say, I do wholeheartedly disagree with the following quote: "Understand that if lots of women say something is important, it is. Your opinion, as a man, about the extent and nature of the problem is not valuable when the specific problem pertains to women’s experience”.

      Just because I am a man does not mean that my opinion on topics pertaining to women is invaluable. In discourse; any reasoned, logical opinion that has been well-thought out deserves to be considered - regardless of the gender of the person speaking.

      Thanks Clem for this great article.

      Commenter
      Adrian
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      September 27, 2013, 12:06PM

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