White Ribbon Day – or.. violence against women is not a bandwagon. don’t jump on it.

DISCLAIMER WITH A CAPITAL D… Before you accuse me of being unsupportive of anti violence initiatives please know i support this initiative wholeheartedly.  i support ANY cause that pushes violence against women out into the mainstream, and actually makes people take notice of it.  What i don’t like is below.

Matthew Newton was charged with assaulting and stalking his girlfriend Rachel Taylor last year. He escaped jail but was forced into rehab for drug and alcohol issues and mandatory counselling for bipolar disorder.  He has now given media interviews on A current Affair, and has front page copy in several prominent Melbourne papers today.  This is the same media who gave prominence to Andew Lovett during his trial for rape in a way that continually demeaned and undermined the integrity of his victim. This seems to be the general modus operandi for the media when reporting sexual assault trials especially involving prominent men.   Media outlets are also huge supporters of white ribbon day – Amnesty International’s day for the elimination of violence against women.  I find this massively hypocritical and inappropriate.  If you truly supported an end to violence against women, you would change the way you report stories and give equal opportunity for victims to come forward with their story.  I have not heard one media outlet give Rachel Taylor the chance to tell her side of the story, nor Andrew Lovett’s victim, nor any survivor of violence against women. 

The AFL and NRL  also have encouraged their players to show support for White Ribbon Day and pledge not to commit violence against women, or remain silent on the issue. Great PR campaign lads, but what about taking to task the numerous players within the AFL that have been responsible for committing these crimes.  It is grossly inappropriate to be an apologist for rape on one hand, and a supporter of anti violence on the other.  This is in no way suggesting that every man who’s ever strapped on a pair of boots is a rapist or a woman beater, but there have been several incidences, particularly in AFL that have shown a distinctly misogynist trend in the higher ranks of that institution, one that allows the practices of some of is players to continue with relative impunity.  It is fine for individual players to make the changes in their own consciousness but if those changes are not being supported by the organization they work for (professional sport is that, a business) then it means shit, and anything else that happens is inappropriate.

Similarly hypocritical is the wearing of the white ribbon by members of parliament.  The current state government of Victoria is in the process of slashing funding to women’s services and has deprioritized funding for social workers and domestic violence counsellors… this is not the sign of a government that wants to do the right thing by people affected by this massive social problem.  It is the sign of a government that is obsessed with image and the need to be seen to act, whilst the actions it takes are furthering the damage done.   Also somewhat ironic, is the fact that Ballieu’s law and order platform, including mandatory sentencing for “violent crimes” apply more to the destruction of property, consumption of alcohol and “street crime” than those who commit violence against women and children.  There has been very little meaningful law reform in the area of violence against women.  I feel the same way about this as i do about poppy wearing politicians who send our young men and women into unneccesary wars.  it makes a mockery of an extremely serious issue.

What I am getting at,  is that if the institutions of our society were serious about doing something about this problem, it would extend far beyond a symbolic gesture once a year and we would all look at the way in which we function as a society, the culture we live in that deprioritizes violence against women, relegates it to something that is only important once a year.  It is way too important a cause to be trivialized by institutions that have records of harm.    Wear the ribbon, but also pledge to change society, all year around, and make sure your elected officials, sporting clubs, and anyone you know, does the same. If they don’t,  they are not your allies. Not one bit.

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