More Than A Ribbon

Filed in Recent News by November 23, 2018

By Sue Abbott

Sue Abbott is a Scone resident and Councillor, as one of few female leaders in our community asked her to write a piece on what White Ribbon Day means to her. Sue has consistently championed the need for more low-cost housing for women and children escaping domestic violence in our Shire, which is yet to be realised. Sue also gained the respect of many residents who witnessed the behaviour of Councillors at the October Council meeting, her poise inspired young women in the audience and prompted many adult men to question attitudes towards women in our community.

IT’S White Ribbon Day, and you’re a bloke, so you pin a white ribbon to your lapel.

The marvel of you now that you’ve publicly acknowledged the notion of men’s violence towards women makes you feel new-age and caring.

Only it’s going to take a lot more than wearing a white ribbon to truly eliminate men’s violence against women in our society.

The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women defines men’s violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.”

Violence against women prevents women from fully participating in society, and that is detrimental to them, their families, their communities and Australia.

The wearing of a white ribbon does not fix male violence towards women and is not the behaviour change that our society needs.

All too often the wearing of a white ribbon turns out to be meaningless lip service essentially masking shallow actions of no consequence to women and their safety.

So while white ribbons will be donned across the nation today, who can explain to me the rationale for funding cuts to women’s shelters and refuges?

And why is our society more bound up with endlessly re-sheeting roads rather than providing safe spaces and beds for abused women and children?

Today I would like to ask every single man wearing a white ribbon:

  • (1) “What have you done to combat men’s violence towards women?”
  • (2) “And how do you oppose everyday sexism in everyday ways?”

We live in an inherently patriarchal society where misogyny is systemic and where power structures are set up to keep men in power and to keep women out.

Women face an uphill battle, and over and over again they are pushed back and silenced.

Yet women have the right to express their opinions, and women have the right not to have double standards meted out to them in the workplace.

It is not for no reason that there are few women in leadership roles in Australia, and this woeful predicament diminishes our society.

The less we see women as leaders, the less likely we are to accept that women leaders are every bit part of our community fabric as men leaders.

Australian women are far from equal with their Australian male counterparts yet the key to ending male violence against women is gender equality.

Sue Abbott is a ratepayer and resident of Scone, as well as a councillor for the Upper Hunter Shire Council. This post is written in her personal capacity and does not represent the views of organisations she is, or has previously been, affiliated with.