According to the latest data fromThe Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1 in 4 women (2.2 million) have experienced emotional abuse by a current or previous partner since the age of 15, and 1 in 6 women (1.6 million) have experienced physical and/ or sexual violence by a cohabiting partner since the age of 15. As a father of two girls, this fills me with fear and so much rage I want to scream at the world.
Because of this I constantly think to myself, how can I help prevent them from becoming victims of this silent epidemic? Yes, silent, because despite living in the 21st century, the supposed era of information, there is still a lot of secrecy around this issue.
As a parent, I see it as my duty and obligation to educate my daughters in a way that they will never accept any kind of abuse, let alone from a partner, the person that is supposed to love and cherish them above all. So, what do I do? Well, it’s all about the little things.
Break down traditional stereotypes
First of all, both my wife and I set an example for them of equality. By having a healthy relationship, where communication, respect and equality are key. We share and rotate between the different house hold tasks. Also, in our house dad does not ‘baby sit’ you, he parents you!
Why is this necessary? Even though we have made progress, we still live in a society where strong sexist stereotypes around the role and expectations of a man and a woman still exist. Breaking down these stereotypes is a critical step in relationships being more equal and functional.
Get rid of bullshit fairy tales
The vast majority of classic fairy tales have the female as the weak one who needs to be rescued by the male character. Yeah, not in our house! Those stories are banned and replaced by books with strong females. Books such as “Strong is the new pretty” and “Good night stories for Rebel Girls” are our staples.
One of my proudest moments was listing to my five-year-old discuss with her friends who their favourite rebel girl was (hers was Frida Kahlo) and how they didn’t like the latest peroxide blonde pop star because she wasn’t ‘rebel’ enough.
Don’t joke about chasing boys away
I used to do the traditional thing that dad’s do. Where we threaten to not let our daughters out of the house and that we’ll chase their boyfriends away. This dad joke sets up a combative relationship between their family and their chosen partner. Instead when my daughters talk about getting married or having a boyfriend, I talk to them about the qualities they should look for in a partner; kindness, compassion and thoughtfulness. I also talk about how beautiful relationships can be and what joys they will experience from a good one.
A partner is not the missing piece in your life
Another aspect I think it’s important to mention is that, even if we don’t realise that, we live in a world where there is still a lot of pressure for a woman to be in a relationship. Like it’s some sort of social achievement, and being single is just not okay. How many jokes about single women have you heard?! We don’t do that with men, so why do it with women? This attitude creates a mindset in women that it’s better to be in a bad relationship than be single.
Never come from a place of judgement
Heaven forbid that you have a child that finds themselves in an abusive relationship. But if they do, you want them to feel safe enough to turn to you for support. Judgement kills safety! When your children turn to you about a deep and emotional situation, you must make it a good experience. If they show vulnerability and you shame them or judge them or get angry, they will never do that again.
I am hopefully setting up an environment where my girls know they can talk to me about everything and I’ll always be there to listen. Which, if you think about it, will also help prevent them from becoming abuse victims, because they’ll know it’s okay to ask for help and that I’ll always be there to support them.
Not only have they received accreditation status, but received 8 ‘outstanding achievements’ against their assessment criteria. A new record for the Workplace Accreditation Program since its inception in 2012.
Through their assessment, it was clear that Tasmanian State Growth is strongly committed to creating an inclusive workplace that embraces the values of equality and respect. They were also rated as ‘outstanding’ regarding their internal communications, engagement, policy development, manager training, risk assessment, support for victims and approach to continuous improvement.
Their accreditation not only demonstrates what they stand for as an organisation but allows them to encourage other industries to take the same stand.
I have labelled myself as a feminist for the past decade. I am now twenty and my thoughts and views on the issue have not changed, in fact they have continued to expand and develop. I’d like to highlight the importance of sport in this current climate- in shaping community values, behaviour and attitudes towards gender equality.
There is a strong connection between the prevention of violence against women and gender equality particularly within fostering respectful relationships and employing inclusive, safe environments for women. The 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women Article 3 states, “women are entitled to the equal enjoyment and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field”. In order to properly exercise these rights, it is crucial to have conversations with young men about the importance of respecting women.
I want to emphasise whilst men are also subjected to violence, it is not to the same degree as women. Violence against women is a widespread problem and men have the power to change that. You see, violence against women is not just a woman’s issue, it is a man’s one too. It is a woman’s prerogative to live in a society that is inclusive and anti-discriminative of gender, an environment in which violence against women does not exist.
Toxic masculinity; the patriarchal structure surrounding young men to behave in certain ways and gain acceptance into the infamous “boy club”. This is a normality in many different sport clubs across Australia. It is important to redefine what it means to be “masculine”, and that begins with a conversation on self-respect.
I recently watched a TED Talk called ‘”Locker room talk.” Says who?’ given by activist and motivational speaker Alexis Jones. Firstly, Jones spoke about the increasing need for participation from men since “the majority of these young men have never been invited to sit at our table”. This is a crucial first step in engaging young men and broadening their perception of masculinity- inside sport clubs is a prime place to begin.
Alexis raised three main points:
imbue these men with self-respect,
broaden a definition of confidence,
and work with them.
Hence, educating young men within the sport environment is an effective approach to preventing violence against women and strengthening gender equality.
With one in three women having experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by someone known to them, we need to make primary prevention a priority. I truly believe that sport has the power to inspire young men and redefine the concept of masculinity to further prevent violence against women.
Since sport is so influential, elite athletes also have a significant role in being able to speak up and take action and positively inspire young men and women. With women’s sport getting more attention, it is great to see leaders, both male and female, act efficiently and address the issue that is violence against women.
By educating young men, transforming attitudes, creating inclusive environments and speaking out against violence of women in sport environments around Australia, we can as a society improve the lives of women and children.
As Jones says, “men are not simply the problem when it comes to violence against women, they’re also the cure”.
Author Indianna Dimmer is a White Ribbon AustraliaSports Programintern.
Ron Mitchell here again, Fatherhood ProgramCoordinator at White Ribbon Australia. I hope you enjoyed my last blog about modern dads. I really enjoyed writing it and sharing a bit about my life as a young dad.
My time at the Multicultural Council of the Northern Territory
I want to now talk about a different aspect of my life. My work life.
Prior to leaving Darwin in December 2017, I was the Program Manager at the Multicultural Council of the Northern Territory(MCNT) based in Darwin. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Australia’s top end as a practitioner and advocate in the multicultural sector.
For twelve years, I was committed to quality service provision and best practice project management. I worked with colleagues in Darwin’s collaborative community services sector to identify and address the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals and families within the Australian multicultural community.
I learned that resettlement is a multi-layered and long-term process and that recently-arrived migrant and refugee families continue to experience challenges with successful resettlement in Australia many years after arrival.
Migrant men and their challenges
From my time at the MCNT, I learned a lot about perceptions of masculinity and fatherhood from the experiences of recently-arrived migrant men settling in Australia. For many of the men I worked with, the resettlement experience was disempowering – particularly with long-term unemployment (when they expected to be the primary ‘breadwinners’), changing family dynamics (their wives gaining a sense of independence through receiving Centrelink benefits), and intergenerational conflict from their children becoming ‘Westernised’ and no longer respecting their authority.*
For many men being resettled, there was a clear division between the experiences in their home countries and their new experiences of Australian life. There was a constant tension between maintaining traditional cultural practices and parenting styles while adhering to the demands of a new society. I saw these issues create ongoing challenges for maintaining good relationships with their wives and children, often leading to alcohol abuse and even domestic violence.
As service providers in Darwin, my colleagues and I at MCNT were very concerned about the impacts of the resettlement process on migrant men and their families. So in November 2017, in partnership with my colleagues from the community services sector in Darwin and consultation with community leaders, I co-founded the first ever Multicultural Men’s Group in Darwin. The group explored many issues of concern for migrant men including the lack of information about living in Australia, competitiveness for employment, health and wellbeing, and respectful relationships within the family unit.
The entrenched patriarchy of society has reinforced the attitudes, behaviours and violence-supported social norms of male dominance and privilege. Not just for newly arrived migrants, but for all Australians born and raised.
I believe it’s so important that we, as a society, start building a positive vision of masculinity. I can see it starting to happen in the men around me. Many fathers are taking on more equal care-giving responsibilities and breaking down the gendered stereotypes that they have been told to traditionally follow.
The importance of fatherhood
It is estimated internationally that about 80% of menbecome biological fathers during their lifetimes.
The birth or adoption of a child is a milestone for men and provides an opportunity for men as fathers to review their lives and often generates the motivation to take greater responsibility, and develop stronger and more respectful relationships.
Supporting dads as they go on this journey of caregiving, and empowering them to reject the traditional roles or “boxes” that hold them back was one of the aims the Multicultural Men’s Group addressed. Now I’m proud to be part of White Ribbon’s Fatherhood Program, building on the aims and goals I first set out to address in the Northern Territory.
Fatherhood is truly a time of transformation that inspires men to adopt a caring masculinity and act as positive agents for social change. I’m so excited to see what the future holds for the dads of Australia.
Author Ron Mitchell is White Ribbon Australia’s Fatherhood Program Coordinator, a proud husband and father of two.
*I must openly state that there is ultimately no excuse for any form of men’s violence and abuse against women, and that the perceptions within this article relate to the experiences of some migrant men I encountered in Australia sharing their personal perceptions of their resettlement.
By way of introduction, I’m Ron Mitchell the Fatherhood Program Coordinator within the Community Development & Engagement Team at White Ribbon Australia. As background, I am a happily married man and the proud father of two adult sons (born 21 months apart), who I like to believe are now fine men. To a large extent, my views of involved fatherhood were formed and evolved during the early 1990s when my sons were still infants.
You might have seen our launch of our new Fatherhood Program over the weekend to celebrate Father’s Day 2018. Today I wanted to discuss the role of fathers and father-figures as I’ve seen and experienced during my time as a father and share an anecdote with you about an experience with one of my sons. I also invite you all reading this, to share your perspectives, experiences and anecdotes with us on social media. Use #whiteribbon #fatherhood to let us know your stories.
As we’re currently seeing in contemporary Australian society, the role of ‘father’, the concept of ‘family’, and the expression of masculinity and gender roles within families are becoming more socially diverse and broadly defined than in the past. The term ‘father’ now includes a range of males who function in a caregiver role for children.
In addition to biological fathers, there are adoptive fathers, foster fathers, stepfathers, and a range of relatives and friends who, as social fathers, play significant fathering roles in the lives of children. I think you’d agree that positive male role models in every form are essential in shaping the lives of young kids. That’s the remit of White Ribbon Australia and our new Fatherhood Program.
By all accounts I was effectively a stay-at-home dad in the early 1990s, although I had not heard of the term at the time. I was at University undertaking studies towards a Bachelor’s Degree and I was the primary caregiver for our sons. My wife was working full-time to support my studies. My infant sons were enrolled in the University child care centre. I recall I took my sons to a playgroup a few times near where we lived. I was certainly the only man there at that time amongst all the other female caregivers. Somehow we fitted in okay, although it was still a social stigma at that time for a man to attend a playgroup.
I recall very well one time when I arrived at the child care centre. To my alarm I found my older son wheeling around a toy pram with dolly passengers.
I asked the educator, “What are you doing to my son?”
She replied, “One day he is going to be a father”.
Her comment really put me in my place.
Upon reflection, the child care centre was quite progressive for the time, and in their own way was normalising male caregiving for the children in their care. My son was probably modelling my own behaviour as a caring father.
I often wonder how many other dads have had experiences similar to mine. I think it’s a good time now for modern dads and social dads to celebrate special moments with the kids in their care. And to reflect on their impact on the small humans whose lives they help shape.
Author Ron Mitchell is White Ribbon Australia’s Fatherhood Program Coordinator, a proud husband and father of two.
Since the genesis of theWhite Ribbon movement in Australia, the endorsement of community representatives, particularly men, as Ambassadors has been a central feature of our mission to end men’s violence against women. Our Ambassador Program has been highly successful, although it hasn’t been without its critics.
The original thinking behind our Ambassador Program in 2003 was for every Australian man to become a White Ribbon Ambassador. Whilst this model of campaigning saw many successes, and made significant strides in spreading awareness about men’s violence against women, it was not without its flaws and drew criticism; some justified, some constructive, and some misleading and inaccurate. Critique is something we always consider seriously, as learning is crucial to this journey. The criticisms we faced could be seen to follow certain themes that I would like to address to reflect the developments of the Ambassador Program.
If anyone can be an Ambassador, the status becomes obsolete or too easy.
This is something we’ve learnt from, as we accept not every man should be an Ambassador. We instead need individuals who are genuine, knowledgeable and active to lead the charge in ending men’s violence against women. Our original rationale was to make all men part of the solution in ending men’s violence against women. This failed to fully account for the way in which the gendered inequalities that drive men’s violence is perpetuated, often unconsciously, through socialised and normalised patterns of behaviour. The insufficiently flexible ‘blueprints’ or ‘social scripts’ given to men and women, which at their root often give men a more valuable social position, enable abuses of power. In short, this did not go far enough to challenge the status quo, and a movement that does not challenge the status quo will have limited success in changing social outcomes.
In recognising this, we have implemented a more robust recruitment process for White Ribbon Ambassadors, which we continually reinforce. All Ambassadors have demonstrated a depth of understanding of the issue, real-life engagement with the movement, and credibility as a representative through a 5-step application process involving:
An online training package.
Telephone interview with a White Ribbon Australia Ambassador Team staff member.
This has reduced our numbers from 2900 to 1200, and we aim to ensure that only the right people will becomeWhite Ribbon Ambassadors.
What do Ambassadors actually do?
White Ribbon Ambassadors come from all levels of society, in communities across the length and breadth of Australia.
Their main role is to bring the movement into everyday life – personally and professionally. Through their roles as friends, brother, fathers, sons and colleagues, Ambassadors drive the movement to prevent men’s violence against women through their interactions both publicly and privately. By continuously discussing the issue, they put the message more firmly into the public consciousness that violence against women is an issue that must not be tolerated.
Whilst the widely-publicised promotional campaigns to raise awareness are the most immediately visible, and make a significant contribution to the movement, the power of everyday interactions cannot be understated. It is through everyday interactions that society changes. Through the network of active Ambassadors, we can influence hard to reach people or those less connected to the issue, and this is the real strength of a genuinely community-led grassroots movement.
We create accountability for the individuals who represent the movement. All Ambassadors have agreed to a role description and code of conduct that sets out expectations for an initial two-year tenure, which if not met will result in this status being lapsed. We have regular communication with our Ambassadors to provide support, give training opportunities and educational tools, and we have implemented an activity log where Ambassadors evidence their activity towards the movement under three streams: Engage, Educate and Act. It is a requirement for Ambassadors to demonstrate their activity to remain in this position.
White Ribbon is about the brand.
The white ribbon as a symbol has become ubiquitous in the movement to end men’s violence against women. As a symbol, it’s a powerful tool in bringing attention to the issue and uniting those supportive of the movement to end men’s violence against women. We make no apology for utilising this powerful tool to spread awareness, and harness support under the banner to prevent violence. As an organisation passionate in its mission, we view the symbol as one of our greatest assets in empowering communities to take up the charge, and unite people from all backgrounds to work together.
Ambassadors tell us that the white ribbon is a physical reminder that holds them to account in their behavior wherever they are. It reminds them to notice the issue more in their day to day lives, commits them to doing something about it, and gives them the platform to act with confidence.
The ribbon is a unifying statement that our Ambassadors carry into their communities. One of the most important functions of the symbol is that it tells other people that we oppose violence against women wherever it occurs. It makes the issue visible and stops us from turning away. It is a declaration to act, for if we don’t act now, nothing will change.
Applications for the White Ribbon Australia Youth Advisory Group (YAG) are now open!
White Ribbon are looking for people aged 15 to 24 years old, who are passionate about promoting respectful relationships and preventing men’s violence against women. YAG members will advise and support the White Ribbon Australia movement over the coming year. If this is you, or someone you know, apply now.
Applications will be accepted between Monday 27 August until Friday 21 September, 2018. Late applications will not be considered. If you have any questions, please contact our Youth Team at email@example.com.
The Sydney Opera House is one of the most iconic buildings in the world: its architectural vision and the methods required to build it were cutting edge; and the sails floating over the harbour inspire wonder whether seen for the first or the thousandth time. But the opera shown there isn’t as progressive as the building. The stories inspire wonder for the wrong reasons.
I moved back to Sydney with my wife in 2015. We were keen to go to the Opera House regularly: initially for plays, contemporary dance and music. Then we decided we’d go to the opera as well. I’d always heard that the opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings, but the truth is different and distressing. Usually, it’s not over until a woman dies.
In 2015 we went to Madama Butterfly. I’d heard the name, but knew nothing more. I became incensed as the plot played out before my eyes. An American man arrives in Japan and decides he wants a ‘wife’, but only for the time he’s there. He chooses a young geisha who throws her all into their relationship and the false promise of a future life in the USA. After getting her pregnant, the man goes back to America, but Butterfly holds onto the hope he’ll return. After three years he does, with a new wife, saying they want to adopt the baby. Butterfly is devastated and commits hara-kiri (suicide). That’s the grand finale, then everyone stands up and yells ‘Bravo!’
When the director, Moffatt Oxenbould, was interviewed about the themes of the production, he focussed on the set and then on the male character’s grief. He excuses the character from treating women and children like possessions and causing others pain.
Perturbed but not defeated, in 2016 we went to Carmen. I’d learnt the music on piano as a boy, but didn’t know the story. At the beginning, it was great to see a vivacious women live her life as and with who she wanted. However, I was horrified at how the story continued. Carmen’s ex-partner stalks and then stabs her to death when she leaves him. Then everyone stands up and yells ‘Bravo!’ I don’t remember any warning that this was about to occur, there definitely weren’t people at the entry and exit talking about men’s violence against women. Yet one in three Australian women have experienced sexual and/or physical violence perpetrated by someone known to them; and one in five women over 18 have been stalked. None of this was mentioned, it was just another night at the opera.
John Bell, who staged the performance, said that his inspiration was “what leads you to love the one person who is going to destroy you?” I have huge respect for John Bell’s career, but found this comment out of line. These words seem to suggest that women in abusive relationships have ‘chosen’ what happens to them. This is victim blaming and removes responsibility from where it lies: with the man who chooses violence when he can’t get what he wants.
We knew people in the 2017 performance of Tosca, so we attended the production with trepidation. As the story goes, Tosca’s lover is captured by a dictator. The dictator tells Tosca that unless she sleeps with him, the dictator will order the death of her lover; she is forced to submit due to the threat of violence. However, when the dictator begins to assault her, she assassinates him. Tosca stands up in defence of freedom and liberty, and against authoritarianism and corruption. In the grand finale, she’s killed with a machine gun. Then everyone stands up and yells ‘Bravo!
Again, John Bell was director. He described the plot as, “a tyrannical regime, resistance fighters hunted down, women forced to give sexual favours in order to protect a loved one — these things are still happening, and always have been, during war”. In fact, men force women to do things against their will through violence and threats every night and day.
Violence at the opera
We were slightly traumatised by this time. Butterfly, Carmen and Tosca all died fighting against the same issues of our society today. Yet in another cruel irony, their struggles were abstracted by the men staging these productions, who portrayed each of them as having fatal flaws, rather than blaming the men who cause their deaths. And the music and voices soar, to make it all seem okay – reviewers seem to say it’s only the music we’re really there for.
I get that these stories happened in a different place at a different time. I definitely get that they were also all written by men. However, the argument is that we study great works of art like Shakespeare because their themes still have relevance today. Yet opera runs away from the most direct connection with today’s world in each: men’s violence against women. Opera doesn’t own up, contextualise or really explore the theme, it celebrates violence. Killing the woman onstage and then the audience gives a standing ovation. I mean honestly… what is going on?
Why can’t opera showcase stories where the women live? If these stories can’t be found, why don’t we write some? Or deconstruct the stories by inverting the gender roles or the endings? Why is it always women that have to die at the opera and how can this be seen as acceptable?
The opera bubble
Opera seems to exist in its own bubble, disconnected from the world around it. Globally, we’ve been having a massive discussion about men’s violence against women and gender equality for decades. Two Australians of the Year in the last five years have campaigned on this issue. Surely influential people within the opera community have heard what’s going on around the country. We don’t need these tragedies played out in seasons onstage. These stories are lived out nightly in homes, on streets and on TV screens during the news. And in real life, there are actually empowered women and survivors.
To be relevant today, opera needs to provide the context of what has happened in the past and how those attitudes are no longer acceptable, or it needs to change the story.
The Opera House has just started seasons of Rigoletto and Aida this week. We’ve learnt our lesson and have read the synopses first. Each time, another woman dies to end the performance. Rigoletto has the most disempowered female role in opera that female opera singers hate to play. More stories telling women that they must suffer in this world based on the power and violence of men. We don’t need to hear the bravos, we’ll stay at home instead.
Author Jeremy Tarbox is a White Ribbon Ambassador.
Views expressed in this article are that of the author and don’t necessarily represent the views of White Ribbon Australia.
As a party to CEDAW, Australia is obliged to promote and protect women’s rights, including equality before the law, freedom from discrimination, political participation, health, education and employment.
The UN CEDAW Committee keeps watch on the implementation of such instruments by conducting periodic reviews of the performance of countries against the standards they prescribe. Countries are obliged to report every four years.
Recently, on the 2nd and 3rd of July 2018, Australia’s record on women’s rights was reviewed by the CEDAW Committee. Domestic and international performances were examined, with the former including action on domestic violence.
The Committee drew attention to the following matters:
– The absence of a bill of rights at the federal level or other mechanism to integrate the protections provided by CEDAW and other instruments.
– The level of resources provided to the Office for Women (which has only 30 staff – fewer than White Ribbon).
– The need for targeted and gendered services to be provided for female victims of domestic violence, much more than they are.
– The need for federal legislation addressing domestic violence. The Committee remarked that this may be the only way to overcome problems with gathering consistent data and implementing policy in the federal context. It was suggested that the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) might address this.
– Serious concern about the influence of false claims by so-called men’s rights activists on government policies and practice.
– The family law regime not presently meeting the contemporary needs of families and effectively addressing family violence and child abuse.
The Committee also raised concerns over women’s health, economic security and homelessness in Australia.
Under health it noted that while abortion is covered under Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, it is still criminalized in NSW and QLD.
Under homelessness it is well established that domestic and family violence is the principal cause of homelessness for women and children. The Committee questioned the lack of affordable housing in Australia, particularly its access to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, older women, single mothers and women leaving violence. White Ribbon works to reduce violence and thereby address the problem of homelessness.
The CEDAW Committee review provides a timely reminder to Australia that all is not as well as it should be in relation to women’s rights in a country like ours. NGOs, such as White Ribbon, have a role to play in pressing government for improved compliance and in shouldering some of the burden themselves – in White Ribbon’s case, by working to end men’s violence against women. Success in this endeavour reduces the consequences and the harms resulting from the matters particularly noted by the UN Committee.