Gender-Based Violence Framework Helps Broaden Vision for the Massachusetts White Ribbon Day Campaign

Update - JDI has reworked the pledge language slightly to continue to articulate our analysis and commitment to ending men’s violence against women as well as all gender-based violence. We heard from many who appreciate the broader platform of GBV for the reasons articulated below. We also heard from others who want to be crystal clear that this campaign continues to invite men and boys to address violence against women – from rape and sexual harassment to domestic violence. By combining these terms, we aim to both be inclusive and specific at the same time. We appreciate the feedback and welcome a continued dialogue about the mission and vision of the Massachusetts WRD.

Main article - Jane Doe Inc. is part of an evolving movement to end sexual and domestic violence where we examine and re-examine our role in promoting social change. This year, we have decided to make a shift in language related to our Massachusetts White Ribbon Day (WRD) Campaign to add a new and broader dimension to our vision. We have chosen to adopt the more inclusive language of “gender-based violence” to describe the social justice issues at the root of this Campaign. Starting this year, the Massachusetts White Ribbon Day Pledge will read:

“From this day forward, I promise to be a part of the solution in ending violence against women and all gender-based violence.”

The change is only a few words but important in many ways. Words often carry deeper meanings and determine options and outcomes. The adoption of a gender-based violence framework both helps define the problem and expands our thinking on how to create the most effective solutions. When we started the Massachusetts WRD Campaign nine years ago, we wanted to bring attention to the specific phenomenon of men’s violence against women in general and sexual and domestic violence in particular. We set out to create an invitation for men and boys to move off the sidelines and to become more active bystanders – and indeed thought leaders and role models – for other boys and men to interrupt the social messaging and reformulate the social norms that lead to inequity and injustice for women the world over.

In many ways we are accomplishing this goal. We want to build a platform that is robust enough to have meaning for a wider range of people who identify as LGBQ/T and/or gender non-conforming, people of color, or people with disabilities. We know that men are not a homogeneous group and that is why we also talk about healthy masculinities. The framework of gender-based violence puts sexual and domestic violence more clearly in the context of human rights to safety, self-identity and expression, dignity and autonomy. Without diminishing the reality of men’s violence against women, this analysis also speaks to the ways that men and boys also treat each other, how men’s violence against other men enforces rigid gender roles and gender inequities even among men , how sexual and domestic violence are tools to maintain systems of abuse of power, and how our work is connected to the worldwide movement for human rights. This change also enables us to think more broadly about the values we want to promote.

We hope this will be an opportunity for all of us to further our collective exploration of reimagining manhood. We hope to raise up new solutions and to broaden our conversation in creating communities and promoting relationships that are free of fear and violence and built on values of safety, respect, and equity.

Words matter as a reflection of our attitudes and beliefs. We also know that the MA White Ribbon Campaign is a growing and dynamic vision that will continue to evolve. We look forward to working with all of you to make this change meaningful.