White Ribbon Campaign works to ensure tragic moment in history isn’t repeated with end to violence against women

By Antoinette Mercurio

http://www.ryerson.ca/news/news/General_Public/20101206_ribbon.html

Standing up for women’s rights isn’t just a woman’s fight.

The Ryerson White Ribbon Campaign (RWRC) recognizes the collective effort it takes to create a positive space for women at home, work and school. The group is a coalition of students, faculty and staff that looks to men to help end violence against women. The campaign doesn’t point fingers at men but rather seeks to inspire them to respect and honour women as well as themselves. RWRC’s message is tied to Ryerson’s Dec. 6 memorial, which begins today at noon in the quad.

The memorial has been held every year since Dec. 6, 1989 when a young man entered a classroom of engineering students at the University of Montreal’s École Polytechnique and shot six women. The gunman continued his rampage throughout the building, eventually killing 14 women and injuring 14 more people, before turning the gun on himself. Each Dec. 6, the Ryerson community remembers the victims by gathering in the quad next to the Tree of Hope, a sculpture crafted in 1994 by interior design student Alexandra Leikermoser. She created the sculpture to communicate feminist issues and environmental consciousness while serving as a focal point during the vigil. This year the observance will be followed by an event in POD-250, which will include a keynote address by Michelle Davis, program director for METRAC Safety, an organization that seeks to end violence against women.

The White Ribbon Campaign is active all year. The RWRC hosts or participates in workshops, speaker series and presentations on a variety of issues such as gender roles, homophobic bullying and body image. The group especially reaches out to high school youth, to educate teens about gender-based violence and how to end bullying in their school hallways. Jeff Perera, RWRC founder and co-chair and a fourth-year School of Social Work student, is trying to help redefine the terms of masculinity.

“In inspiring healthy concepts of masculinity, RWRC wishes to help address how narrow and binary concepts of gender affect all people in truly being free to be who they are. These limiting expressions of gender ultimately lead to the devaluation, hatred and violence that women, LGBT2S members and even heterosexual men face,” Perera said. “Speaking at events and in classes creates a space for men and women to dialogue and open up.”

RWRC has worked in the past with Wendy Cukier, associate dean in the Ted Rogers School of Management. Cukier is co-founder and president of the Coalition For Gun Control, a national organization founded in the wake of the Montreal massacre and which has lobbied for stricter gun legislation. To hear a podcast interview with Cukier, click here.

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