Matt de Groot hits back at White Ribbon critics

Matt de Groot

He's not just Fitzy and Wippa's newsreader or a panellist for The Morning Show, FOX Sports, and the ABC – Matt de Groot is Be's newest columnist. He's also White Ribbon ambassador and addresses claims the organisation's efforts are tokenistic.

I’ve read multiple articles and opinion pieces over the weekend critical of White Ribbon Day (which was on Saturday), and White Ribbon as an organisation.

I’ve read claims that White Ribbon Day feels more like a celebration, with events and celebrities, rather than a solemn opportunity to focus on the cause.

I read another which even went so far as to mock those involved in White Ribbon Day, labelling men involved as faux-heroes for “standing up and speaking out”.

I can’t tell you how sad it is to read words like this.

Matt's a proud White Ribbon ambassador. Photo: Twitter
Matt's a proud White Ribbon ambassador. Photo: Twitter

For the uninitiated, White Ribbon is Australia’s largest male-lead campaign to end violence against women, and White Ribbon Day is a chance to put the issue at the front of the national psyche.

I’ve been a White Ribbon Ambassador for upward of four years now, and of all the work I do, it is this of which I am most proud.

As a brother, a fiancé, and a son, I am proud to stand in front of schools, businesses, sports teams, and specifically-convened events to discuss the issue; an issue which has enjoyed the safety of being a taboo topic, operating in the shadows for far too long.

I’ll be the first to say that ‘discussing’ the issue isn’t a silver-bullet solution, nor is a widely-attended public march, nor is selling wrist bands - and I doubt White Ribbon argue it is either.

If there was a silver-bullet solution, this all would have been solved yesterday.

But White Ribbon helps. Speaking about the issue helps. Gathering together and walking arm-in-arm helps. Having the problem discussed on TV, radio and in newspapers in a positive light helps. The Prime Minister championing the day helps. Having celebrities post messages of reinforcement on social media helps. Wearing a badge that shows others you support gender equality and safety helps. Having school students stand in the shape of a white ribbon on a school ground helps. Having work colleagues gather together for morning tea to discuss the issue helps. Having a White Ribbon Cup in the AFL helps.

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It all helps. Because it all creates a wider culture of awareness and change.

As a man, I’m embarrassed that White Ribbon exists. When so many people are dying from uncured illness or accidents, the fact one woman dies every week at the hand of a current or former male partner is unacceptable.

I have chosen to use the platform I have to discuss the issue directly with as many men as I can reach, and challenge them to question their own values and treatment of women. That’s the help I can offer.

Others choose to help by being the best husband and father they can be in the privacy of their own behavior, and that is great too. Because it helps.

Others choose to help by volunteering at shelters, and working directly with victims and in shelters, and that is sensational.

We all do what we can, because even though the problem is bigger than any one of us, it shouldn’t stop us doing our bit to help.

Matt can't understand why the organisation has been slammed, with reports it fails to support frontline services. Photo: Twitter
Matt can't understand why the organisation has been slammed, with reports it fails to support frontline services. Photo: Twitter

Reading these criticisms, I was struck only by how strange and sad it was that anyone would take time out of their day to criticise those who’ve taken time out of their own day to help.

And why would anyone ridicule the promotion of men who want to use their own examples of change for good? In seeking change, you have to allow grace and acceptance for those who have done exactly that.

White Ribbon Day - like White Ribbon - is not a cure in itself, but it is part of it. I couldn’t be more proud to stand up and speak out against domestic violence and, in turn, help create a society that sees men and women as the equal genders we are.

I wish we didn’t need to have conversations about domestic violence - it’s a pathetic reflection on men - but I certainly don’t see the benefit in lashing out against those men, women or organisations who are doing what they can to try and end this horrifying scourge on our society, once and for all.

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