As we’ve mentioned a lot, White Ribbon Day was one of the key inspirations for The MESSAGE. The symbol of a white ribbon has historically been a symbol against violence and in support of women’s movements. In 1989, this specific movement began after a self-identified anti-feminist gunman murdered 14 women in a suicidal spree-killing. Which is worth noting as the kind of end-point that anti-feminist movements can lead to, and why they are so troubling.
The White Ribbon movement was a realisation not just that men played a role in creating a culture that supported violence against women, but that women had, for the most part, been forced to take the front-line role in the fight against gender oppression, and that simply wasn’t fair. Gender equality matters to men, and to place the burden of reaching it solely on women is not to be tolerated. We must stand with women, for feminism, as part of feminism, as defenders of it and proponents of it, as loudly and proudly as we possibly can. What does a feminist look like? He looks like your father, your brother, you son.
The White Ribbon campaign’s current slogan is “I’ve got your back”. Approval and acceptance are a big deal for humans of any gender, and going against the mood or what appears to be the mood of the crowd is never an easy thing to do. Even if there is support, making a fuss itself is difficult for anyone. For men, it could easily be interpreted as weakness, as a betrayal of a male code, as a rejection of manhood and what it entails. Men who support feminism are threatened constantly with the idea that they are betrayer’s of men’s rights, that they are turning men into women, and most obnoxiously but still deeply cutting to the male ego, that they will never attract women or have sex. Indeed, large movements devoted to teaching men how to acquire sexual partners contain both overt and covert political messages against feminism.
Part of the modern male mind-set is a sense of aloneness – the man stands alone. He doesn’t talk about his feelings, and he doesn’t ask for help, and his sense of beloning comes from a tribal identity based in ritual – to his nation, his sports team or geek obsession, his mates. To break that ritual is to break with the tribe, and that can be a man’s only sense of social support. That’s why the choice of slogan for the ribbon campaign is so importnat. Why it’s so important for men to pass this sense on to other men. A hundred women can tell a man he’s doing the right thing but it doesn’t feel the same as one man saying that. And it really isn’t easy to say, or even talk about. The picture below had hundreds of us standing together to make the same pledge, and nobody talked about the actual issue. About how to take it home and put it out there. About personal experiences and challenges. Because that’s not what we do.
The badge helps. The t-shirts help. The movement helps us say it when we can’t bring it to voice. Which is of course why we wear t-shirts with gamer quotes on them, too – so when we see someone who gets the joke, we know they’re on our side. And we didn’t have to take the risk by asking them. We can see our tribe, and have support. So if we have to explain it to the norms, we’re not alone. And that matters. It matters so much we hold whole conventions to be around our tribe. The big White Ribbon events are the same idea, except with a more political bent.
The MESSAGE is our way of taking the ideas of the White Ribbon into gaming. And that’s why the regalia is important. We need you to wear the t-shirts, to buy the badges, to use the logo in your avatars and sigs. So the tribe gets stronger. So we can say the unspoken. So we can send the MESSAGE to other men, so we can all be more courageous.
We know you get the idea, or you wouldn’t be reading this. The point is to tell the world you get it. Because only by doing that can we make things better. Tell the world you get the MESSAGE, today. And wear your white ribbon as well, of course.