At its core, the White Ribbon Pledge is an attempt at a future free from gender discrimination
I keep running into stories, on social media and elsewhere, of the deplorable acts of my fellow Pakistanis against the women of my nation; against not just children but even the deceased. And every time I wonder if all this is just senseless, unpardonable violence or some sort of a sickness. Which brings me to the topic at hand — the White Ribbon Pledge.
At its core, the pledge is an attempt at a future free from gender discrimination. It does this by encouraging men to take an oath to play their part in the prevention of violence against women at the hands of men.
If our best attempt at stopping gender-based discrimination and violence by men against women was to get men to take a “pledge” to not condone the said violence, then we cannot truly hope to achieve much.
Started in Canada in the 1990s, the movement has now spread to over 60 countries around the world.
When I first learnt about this pledge, I discussed it with my peers and friends, many of whom had some ‘interesting’ thoughts on the subject. Of particular note were a couple of them who seemed to believe that the pledge was inherently misandrist in nature, because it focused specifically on violence by men towards women, and disregarded all other forms of violence, domestic or otherwise, that took place in society.
They seemed also to be of the opinion that all men should not be held accountable for the violent and misogynistic actions of a few men in society, believing that just sharing a gender with a perpetrator does not somehow make them a part of the problem.
Since their arguments had some merit, it gave me a lot to think about regarding the subject, and led to some questions in my mind.
In order to quell any confusion that I may still have had regarding the subject, I decided to take to the internet next. I pored over article after article, read tweets after tweets on the White Ribbon Pledge. Over the course of several hours of this, I saw people of different ideologies and mindsets give their two cents on the subject, and though I may not be an expert on it, I did arrive at my own conclusions.
I decided to sit and think about why, despite there being a general consensus in favour of the pledge and in putting an end to indiscriminate violence against women in our society, almost every other day the news had some unspeakable act of violence against women taking place in our society.
As I thought about it, the one thing I was reminded of was how my parents had never specifically told me to never harass a woman, or to never act in a violent way with a woman. Instead, they taught me to be kind to everyone I meet and to not be violent in my day-to-day life with people, irrespective of who they are.
The one thing that hit my mind was that if our best attempt at stopping gender-based discrimination and violence by men against women was to get men to take a “pledge” to not condone the said violence, then we cannot truly hope to achieve much. No one will ever claim that the ultimate goal of the pledge is not a noble one, but when it portrays all men as villains, then we have people like my two friends who, despite agreeing with the pledge in principle, still felt it targetted them unduly.
And although we have men making the pledge all over the internet, domestic violence against women seems to be only increasing. While the Pledge has made some headway you do have cases such as those in Australia, where it had to be shut down after the charity ‘lost its way’. All of which seems to point to the fact that despite its attempt at putting a stop to violence against women by men, the White Ribbon Pledge will not make much headway in achieving its goals.