Whitewashing and white ribbons

Helen and Cristy both have absolute crackers of posts up regarding the widespread misogyny informing various religious and conservative thinkers who are coming out with variations of “but maybe the mad mufti had a point about you wimmin and your tempting bits, asking for it that is”. Helen’s post title, in particular, deserves some sort of prize. Ms Fits also pointedly notes the relative lack of outrage about Christian spokesmen being sexist tools in comparison to the reaction against the mufti – there’s protest, certainly, but there’s no front-page headlines.

Helen’s target is the cartoonist and occasional columnist Michael Leunig, who embodied the epitome of the ‘concern troll’ by publishing this cartoon:

Leunig cartoon
originally uploaded by Gary Sauer-Thompson

There’s excellent discussion of the pronouncements of Leunig, the mufti, various pastors and archbishops at all these forums. What I want to contrast with these people who implicitly state that as women dressing immodestly is immoral then that immorality excuses male violence towards them is the message of the White Ribbon Day campaign this year:

sshot-153-4-full.jpg

The aim of the campaign is to get fathers to wear white ribbons against Violence Against Women this year on November 25th. The ad above, if you’re having difficulty reading it, asks “Prepared to give your right arm to protect your daughter?” and goes on to say “wear a white ribbon to help”. The idea they want to push this year is vowing that you won’t be silent in the face of male violence against women – that you will speak up against it when you hear it spoken of and see it happen.

They have other disturbing ads aimed just at dads – Take a Trip to Hell, Get Mauled by Sharks, Run You Over Bus Tours. I like the way they’ve compared the risk of social awkwardness involved in speaking up with all these hyperbolic images of noble, rescuing fatherhood. Sure, it’s playing right up to romantic patriarchal parenting myths, but it’s a valid question – if you would jump into shark infested waters to save your daughter from drowning, then why would you not be brave enough to speak up when other men threaten violence, or approve of others committing violence, against the daughters of other dads?



Categories: gender & feminism, religion, social justice, Sociology

Tags: , , ,

4 replies

  1. have i misunderstood? does that mean that those white ribbon ads (i heard them being discussed on the abc while i was making dinner but didn’t pay enough attention) are implying: if you love your daughter enough to step in front of a bus/jump into shark-filled water/cut your arm off for her, you’ll speak up about sexual assault/abuse?
    hello guilt card. hello daughters, you’re responsible for your father doing something horrid – you’re too blame for his having to speak up about his emotions rather than making a noble (physical) sacrifice…
    did i get the wrong end of the stick?

  2. I hadn’t thought about it that way, dogpossum. I dunno. Part of me likes to think that in some ways this ad campaign could go some way to deromanticising the daddy-daughter relationship, which I think could stand doing.
    By which I mean that the hyperprotective language about fathers and daughters once the daughters are adolescents, an age when mothers are very much encouraged to stop being protective of sons so they can become “real men”, is highly problematic as a bulwark of sexist concepts of women being incapable of true independence.
    If daddy’s a mensch and stands up/speaks up without complaint, they get to have a more adult respect for each other’s appreciations of social realities. If daddy bottles it, or whines about having the guys give him the hairy eyeball, then daughter learns some valuable truths about the power of the homosocial hierarchy over other human bonds.
    I think it’s good for a teen to learn that there’s a disheartening number of men who will throw the women in their lives under the wheels of the hierarchy, actually.
    Than again, I’m a very cynical person.

  3. Saatchi and Saatchi did the campaign ads last year for nix. I assume they are doing this year too. I commend their intent and committment to this important cause as a credit to their social philanthropy.
    However, while one line of thought holds that any exposure is good exposure, another is that clever dick ad campaigns that may win kudos in advertising awards, but fail to understand the nuances of social marketing is a missed opportunity to drive a clear message home to a strategic audience.
    The number of girls who end up in DV who were raised in DV is ridiculously high. Clearly their Dads arent wearing ribbons. In fact the very fantasy of having a ‘father figure’/ ‘protector’ is what often leads them to be attracted to controlling men in the first place, interpreting possessiveness and jealousy as positive traits in partners.
    Personally my first reaction when trying to decode the image before reading the print, was that it was somehow related to Genital Mutilation. Also, IMHO the use of a scalpel as a dominent image, sadly and unwittingly links into the ‘self harm’ ‘cutting’ phenomenon which is incredibly prevalent amongst girls who have experienced sexual and domestic abuse.
    Irrespective of the visuals, however, White Ribbon Day is a brilliant and vital opportunity for men who care about this issue to made a stand against all forms of violence toward women around the world and i’m right behind it 100% 🙂

  4. The number of girls who end up in DV who were raised in DV is ridiculously high. Clearly their Dads arent wearing ribbons. In fact the very fantasy of having a “father figure’/ “protector’ is what often leads them to be attracted to controlling men in the first place, interpreting possessiveness and jealousy as positive traits in partners.
    Ah, that puts the finger on the button of what does bug me about the romanticising paternalism of the ads. It’s addressing exactly the wrong dads.
    OK, love White Ribbon Day, but despite well-earned kudos to Saatchi and Saatchi for their pro bono contribution, take a reality check fellas.

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