#52 Violence, Women & White Ribbons

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“We invite men to rethink what strength means, you need a lot of strength to take on another person’s pain.”   Véronique Church-Duplessis — Bilingual Program Manager, White Ribbon Campaign. 

December 6, 1989, the day Marc Lépine walked into the Montreal engineering school, École Polytechnique, and shot and killed 14 women and injured another 13 people in the school.

In response to that dark tragedy, in 1991, a grass roots movement called White Ribbon was created.  Jack Layton and Michael Kaufman co-founded the organization to work with men and boys to end gender-based violence.

In White Ribbon workshops, we emphasize that some aspects of traditional masculinity though not inherently harmful, they can turn harmful when used to establish unequal power relationships between genders, or when used to perpetuate sexism or homophobia.  It’s really about helping men understand how some of these behaviours can be problematic.  

For example, strength.  In our societies, we ask men to be strong, but at White Ribbon we invite men to rethink what strength means.  Is strength only physical?  Or are we also talking about resilience and the ability to be empathetic and compassionate?  You need a lot of strength to take on another person’s pain.  So being strong is not necessarily bad, but how can we make it better and how we use it in a way that fosters healthier, safer and non-violent communities.  

Being caring, you need a lot of strength to be caring, and being caring is just a good attribute of any human being.  

An excerpt from our conversations with Véronique Church-Duplessis.

Chris Kennedy