LETTER: ‘Changes required’ to curb men’s violence

Dr Kate Seymour, Flinders University senior lecturer in Social Work, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

PROBLEMS compromising the violence prevention goals of White Ribbon Australia have plagued the organisation for many years without being acted on.

Long before financial problems caused the organisation to announce it was in liquidation and cease operation from last week, the effectiveness of its campaign to end men’s violence against women was undermined by White Ribbon Australia’s failure to engage critically with issues concerning gender equality and the meaning of respect.

I am disappointed the critical issues identified in Stand up, speak out and act – A critical reading of Australia’s White Ribbon campaign, published in the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology in July 2017, were not addressed by the organisation – especially White Ribbon Australia’s predominant narrow focus on the choices, attitudes and behaviour of individual men.

Unless the targets for change extend to the structural level, to the systems of privilege and inequality aligned with gender, race, ethnicity, social class, sexuality and so on, then the conditions that enable, produce and sustain violence will remain intact.

White Ribbon Australia’s failure to acknowledge and name the broader structural impediments to change is a critical concern.

If White Ribbon Australia will continue, it must make fundamental changes to be more relevant and effective in curbing men’s violence.

This will require engaging with such difficult questions as what does gender equality “look like”?, Is gender equality about treating everyone the same? How does gender equality relate to broader (in)equalities?
What does it mean to be respectful towards women?

How might men show their respect for women?

White Ribbon Australia has stated, but is failing to fulfil, its commitment to providing men with a safe and inclusive platform to enrich their understanding by discussing complex and sensitive issues.
Neither equality nor respect is self-evident; both require explanation and contextualisation.

Dr Kate Seymour,
Flinders University senior lecturer in Social Work, College of Education, Psychology and Social WorkD

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