Although White Ribbon’s mission — men working to end violence against women — is positive and raises awareness for a major issue, its impact at the University of Richmond is not uniform.
“[White Ribbon] is obviously a great message and I’m glad people are talking about it more, but I’m not sure how big of an impact it actually has had on people’s actions,” senior Kat Gebauer said.
Gebauer is not the only woman on campus with these opinions. Senior Kayla Ortiz expressed doubts about White Ribbon’s general message.
“White Ribbon praises men for not condoning violence, when that is something that should be a given," Ortiz said. "And how do we, as women, ensure that they are actually abiding by everything they pledged to?”
Although some female students agreed with Gebauer and Ortiz, others offered different opinions on White Ribbon. Some highlighted the positive impact of the White Ribbon t-shirt days — specific days when students wear White Ribbon shirts to show support.
First-year Jenna Carastro said men wearing White Ribbon T-shirts was a sign of respect toward women and made campus safer.
Senior Courtney Labrecque agreed. White Ribbon shirt days make Labrecque feel safer on campus because younger men are more likely to listen to their peers instead of someone older or less involved, she said.
Nevertheless, Joe Boehman, the Richmond College dean and the architect behind all White Ribbon activities on campus, is aware of the campaign’s limitations, he said.
“Wearing a wristband, wearing a shirt -- that alone will not solve the problem, and [I] never intended that it would,” Boehman said. “The effort that will end sexual violence on this campus is when people internalize that message and when people actually act out in a positive way to end sexual violence.
"Wearing a T-shirt won’t do a dang thing about that. But it will, hopefully, raise the awareness that this is something that matters.”
Boehman also said women or groups of women interested in helping White Ribbon should do so and noted that a substantial percentage of those who signed up to participate in White Ribbon this year were women.
Although Gebauer did not mention joining White Ribbon in conversation, she did suggest an idea to get more UR students involved with White Ribbon.
“I think there needs to be more of an actual dialogue about violence against women because that’s really the only way people will learn/be more actively involved in the campaign than just wearing a T-shirt," Gebauer said.
Senior Avery Maley had her own concerns about the impact White Ribbon has on campus but she also noted the campaign was a necessary step to ending violence against women.
“In order to stop or improve any situation/epidemic, you first have to acknowledge its existence,” Maley said.
UR first partnered with White Ribbon in 2006 because of the initiative of Patrick Benner, the associate dean of Richmond College at the time. Now, White Ribbon and Richmond College primarily work with the Interfraternity Council to organize events.
Last year, IFC partnered with White Ribbon and displayed white ribbons signed by students pledging their support for the campaign along the main walkway in Tyler Haynes Commons. This year, IFC is continuing its partnership with White Ribbon by displaying white ribbons again and introducing a new educational component.
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