A group of men pledged “to never commit, condone or remain silent about men’s violence against women in all its forms” on Wednesday as part of the University of Massachusetts’s White Ribbon Day Campaign.
In previous years, the day of pledges took place in the Mullins Center during halftime at a UMass basketball game. But for the 5th anniversary, the event was moved to the Student Union Ballroom and incorporated more speakers.
According to Michael Wiseman, director of the Office of Fraternities and Sororities and White Ribbon Campaign planning committee member, “each year got bigger.”
“The first year was sort of small,” Wiseman said regarding the number of pledges made. “By the last year we were there, we had enough men to circle the entire arena… plus extra.”
The pledge refers to violence in any physical, emotional, verbal or sexual form..
The discussion featured three keynote speakers as well as performances by University theater troupes.
Debora Ferreira, executive director for the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity was the first to speak at Wednesday’s event.
In her speech, Ferreira said that while some men do create violence, not all men commit violence. She said she hopes that violence against women will end not just on the UMass campus, but throughout the rest of the world.
“Violence is something we need to stop,” she said.
Dr. Amilcar Shabazz, Afro-American studies professor and faculty advisor for diversity and excellence, was the second to speak at the event and emphasized that men not fall into the category of being silent bystanders.
“We have to recognize that domestic violence is every man’s responsibility, we have to speak up and not be a silent bystander,” Shabazz said, adding that “this is difficult” to accomplish.
Northwestern district attorney and UMass alum David Sullivan spoke last and told the audience that he was impressed by how UMass is working to spread awareness about violence against women. Representing many victims of domestic abuse crimes, Sullivan said that his office had over 3,000 reports of domestic violence in the past two years.
The Not Ready for Bedtime Players, a sexual health theatre troupe, performed a skit. A video by men’s health dialogue and theater program Phallacies was also shown between these speeches.
The event started at 12:30 p.m. and lasted about an hour.
Those pledging could do so virtually with the use of an online form at computers which had been set up at the event. Attendees received free white ribbon stickers.
Some attendees believed that the new format enabled the community to further delve into action men could take with regard to prevent violence against women, according to some attendees.
“It’s definitely more of a progress then it was before,” said David Ke, a BDIC student majoring social justice and education. “There was more silence than anything I’d say in the past, but more people are talking about those issues that need to be addressed.
“I think it’s important for men but also women to support this movement,” attendee Darlene Vu, a junior public health science major, said. Vu spoke at last Friday’s Coalition to End Rape Culture rally on the steps of the Student Union.
The White Ribbon movement began in 1991 following the Montreal Massacre of 1989 in which a Canadian male shot and killed 14 women at a Montreal-based engineering school before turning the gun on himself, the Montreal Gazette reported. The crime was later determined to be motivated by antifeminist bias.
According to its website, the White Ribbon movement has spread to over 60 countries in the world.
Chelsie Field contributed to this report.
Paul Bagnall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.