White Ribbon Ireland is a non-profit organisation and Ireland’s only national, male-led, primary prevention campaign to end men’s violence against women. It forms part of a wider global movement started in Toronto prompted by the 1989 massacre of 14 female students by one of their classmates. The message of the campaign was highlighted in Ireland by Tom Meagher following the murder of his Irish wife Jill in Australia.
We see instances of this occur in bars when men become furious and verbally abusive to, or about, women who decline their attention. We see it on the street as groups of men shout comments, grab, grope and intimidate women with friends either ignoring or getting involved in the activity. We see it in male peer groups where rape-jokes and disrespectful attitudes towards women go uncontested. The monster myth creates the illusion that this is simply banter, and sexist horseplay. While most of us would never abide racist comments among a male peer-group, the trivialisation of men’s violence against women often remains a staple, invidious, and rather boring subject of mirth. – Tom Meagher
If we are serious about ending, or at worst reducing, violence against women by men, we must start with men. When a woman is attacked by a man, it is not because she is dressed provocatively. It is not because she leaves a club with a strange man. It is not because she is drunk. It is not because she takes a risk. It is not because she was asking for it.
When a woman is attacked by a man, it is because a man makes a decision to attack her. Whether it is pre-planned or in a moment of madness, only the attacker is responsible.
We all make mistakes. We all say insulting or hurtful things in the heat of an argument. We all take stupid risks at times in our lives. Many of us get drunk on a reasonably regular basis. Does this mean that we are all vulnerable to being killed or raped as a result?
We must make violence towards women absolutely unacceptable, and we need men to do this. We need men to decide not to make or accept jokes about violence towards women. We need men to decide not to buy, play or listen to songs which feature lyrics suggesting that violence towards women is okay. We need men to accept that no means no, regardless of the situation.
We need men to teach their sons, brothers, friends and team-mates that violence towards women is never, ever, acceptable.
We need men to stop attacking women.
The GAA’s new relationship with White Ribbon Ireland is a step in the right direction.