I’m wearing a white ribbon on my suit today, as part of the anti-domestic violence campaign. About this time last year, a CIS-funded visitor attacked the wearing of ribbons as what he called conspicuous compassion. Paul Comrie-Thomson argued that:
"for the vocal majority, quietly getting on with the job is no longer good enough. In todayâ€™s climate, it is beholden on everybody (and particularly those in public life) to show by outward and visible demonstrations of feeling that they care"
(A month later, amidst the outpouring of donations that followed the Tsunami, Gerard Henderson used his trademark perfect-hindsight technique to go for the jugular.)
I don’t expect my white ribbon to make a huge difference today. I’d guess that domestic violence perpetrators are underrepresented in my building. We don’t know a whole lot about the demographics of men who hit their partners, but given that men who mistreat women are themselves often dissatisfied with their lives, it’s probably the case that those in better-paid, more flexible jobs are less likely to go home and take out their frustrations on their family. Indeed, even if the rates of offending are the same, it’s certainly the case that people around universities know the right answer to the question "it’s OK for a boy to make a girl have sex with him if she has flirted with him or led him on" (1 in 6 young Australians apparently think the answer is yes).
Still, a white ribbon is an easy symbol to be proud of, and for the small chance that my wearing it today might spark an interesting conversation, I’ll have it on my lapel.