In 1991, Toronto, Canada, introduced the White Ribbon Campaign, a movement against sexual assault, harassment, and domestic abuse towards women. Anyone can take the white ribbon pledge, but most have been men. The pledge says, ‘I, (your name), pledge never to commit, excuse or stay silent about sexual harassment, sexual assault or domestic violence against others.’ Today, this movement has millions of followers spreading awareness through social media, school speakers, and its backstory.
The campaign started on December 6, 1989, when fourteen women were pronounced dead at École Polytechnique in Montreal, Canada; a man entered the school with a semi-automatic weapon and started shooting at the female students. The shooter blamed feminism for the massacre he produced. Because of this event, the White Ribbon Campaign started the ongoing movement.
Zeynab Diarra, a junior at Hun and a member of the Gender Equity Matters (GEM) club, says, “It’s a good opportunity for people to voice their opinion on the issue, but they have to uphold the pledge they made.”
The white ribbon pledge can be a start for many people on a journey towards learning about and supporting gender equality. Still, throughout this journey, they have to follow the principles of the pledge and not just take it for admiration.
Another member of the GEM Club, Stuti Neelam, expresses, “Overall the point of the pledge is good, but I think some people might take it just for show.”
The National Sexual Violence Research Center has counted that in the United States, 1 in 5 women have experienced completed or attempted sexual assault in their lifetime, and 1 in 3 of these women have experienced it between the ages of 11 and 17. The White Ribbon Campaign brings awareness to these statistics, and instead of teaching the victims what they could have done to stop harassment or assault from happening, they bring awareness and empathy to the subject.
However, members of the Hun community question not the idea behind the White Ribbon Campaign but whether or not someone has to take a pledge to keep themselves from hurting others in their community.
Kerem Koyluoglu, a current follower of the white ribbon campaign, says, “I did not sign the white ribbon pledge for show. To begin with, people who need to sign a piece of paper or take an oath to stop themselves from hurting women are probably not very good people.”
The white ribbon pledge seems to be a conflict for many students learning about the campaign because they know some people might take the pledge for approval or disregard it in their everyday lives. Still, overall, the pledge has done its job, which was spreading awareness to millions of people worldwide who were mostly unaware of the topic of gender inequality. There are morally good people out there who are taking this pledge to say that they want to live in a world without violence against women; this is their way of showing they are aware of the topic and are a part of the cause.
“My hope for the white ribbon campaign is that it’s taken seriously so that it can have a positive effect on our entire community,” says Chelsea Clarke, a female student at Hun.