Yukon News

Strong men wear white ribbons

Roxanne Stasyszyn Friday November 25, 2011

Ian Stewart/Yukon News

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Stephen Roddick, left, and Scott Carlson are bringing the White Ribbon Campaign back to the Yukon. The campaign challenges men to stand up for women's rights.

You don’t have to have a vagina to be a feminist.

Scott Carlson has been a self-identified feminist for a couple of years now.

He grew up in a town similar to Whitehorse and admits it is rare to have male feminists in small cities.

Stephen Roddick calls himself a “budding” feminist.

He’s a born and bred Yukoner.

“I know growing up here, and with a lot of my friends that I grew up with, you can’t just drop the F-bomb in a conversation like that,” said Roddick. “But I think it’s necessary for men to take a greater role and responsibility in addressing issues like violence against women. Especially because it is mostly men that are perpetrating these acts.”

Roddick and Carlson are organizing Whitehorse’s White Ribbon campaign, a 12-day initiative encouraging men to wear white ribbons to signify their pledge to never condone, commit or be silent about violence against women.

The campaign wants more men involved, said Carlson. He wants to dispel the idea men aren’t welcome to speak out about a “women’s issue.”

Violence against women isn’t only an issue for women.

And the consensus among women is it’s “about time” the white ribbon campaign returned to Whitehorse, said Carlson.

For men, the campaign hopes to get them questioning their behaviour and to think about the issue as something they could stand for, said Roddick.

And the issue is not just physical violence.

It’s sexist humour - even when it’s just among “the guys.”

It’s the language people use, the gender divide in so many facets of life, the overall way people treat women and the normalization and cultural acceptance of it all.

“It’s really tough to take a stand and be like, ‘Actually, I’m really not OK with that incredibly horrible joke you just made,” said Roddick. “That’s very difficult. But the more that men do that, the more that we can have a change in culture.”

“You have to start small sometimes,” Carlson added. “You have to be willing to challenge someone on a rape joke or a sexist joke that they make because when people are made to feel even just a little bit socially uncomfortable, or when we show, as men, that we’re not really OK with that, then it does start to make small differences.”

And as part of the Whitehorse women’s groups annual 12-day campaign - which always runs from the international day to end violence against women on November 25, to the national day of remembrance and action to end violence against women on December 6 - comedy is a main focus.

The idea is not to have an all-women comedy night, said Julianna Scramstad from Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre.

Nor does the campaign’s spotlight on comedy mean all jokes have to be clean and sweet, she added.

Instead, the idea is to challenge jokes that degrade women and are constantly accepted in our culture.

Montreal-based comedian Deanne Smith is coming to Whitehorse to lead by example before the territory’s own comedians try their hand at a “Cunt-Friendly Comedy Contest Spectacular.”

Challenging sexist jokes, homophobia and degrading language is number three on the territory’s list of 12 ways to end violence against women.

This year, there will also be a focus on No. 11: Be there for your friends; and No. 12: Stop blaming women. And there will be a workshop delving into the barriers that keep women in violent situations and what people on the outside can do to help.

Building safer communities and healthier relationships is an ongoing process, said Scramstad.

“It’s a really profoundly rooted problem and it’s going to take ongoing and creative and innovative change and engagement on everybody’s parts,” she said. “It’s all of our responsibilities.”

Roddick and Carlson are doing their part, dropping off boxes of white ribbons in workplaces and cafes, and challenging other men to be tough enough to stand up for women’s rights.

The 12 days to end violence against women begin Friday.

The Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle is releasing its role-models calendar and discussing domestic violence from a First Nation perspective at the Old Fire Hall tonight from 5 to 7 p.m.

Workshops on how to support someone suffering from violence will be offered in English at 302 Strickland Street on Monday, November 28 at 7 p.m. and in French at the same time and place on December 5.

Comedian Deanna Smith will be at the Beringia Centre on Friday, December 2 at 8 p.m., while the comedy contest will be held on Saturday, December 3 at the Jarvis Street Saloon at 7 p.m.

On Sunday, December 4, the White Ribbon Campaign will be screening the film Tough Guise at Baked Cafe. And a new video of Yukon men - including a few well-known politicians - confessing their “girly” passions of cooking, dancing and fruity teas - is now out on YouTube, along with new posters in the window of Mac’s Fireweed.

Roddick and Carlson need more men to volunteer to hand out ribbons and bring boxes of them to their workplaces or communities. They can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or on Facebook under White Ribbon Yukon.

The 12 days will end with the traditional rose ceremony at the Elijah Smith Building at noon on December 6.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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