Change among the Change Agents? Men’s Experiences of Engaging in Anti-Violence Advocacy as White Ribbon Australia Ambassadors

  • Kenton BellEmail author
  • Michael Flood


How does men’s participation in the social movement to prevent violence against women change their relationships with other men and with women? How does it affect their understanding and practices of masculinity? This chapter offers a case study of White Ribbon Australia’s Ambassador Program, which involves men as public anti-violence advocates, inviting them to ‘stand up, speak out and act’ to influence other men’s attitudes and behaviours towards women. Drawing on an online survey (n = 296), complemented by in-depth interviews (n = 86), this research examines men’s perceptions of the meaning and significance of their involvement as advocates for the prevention of violence against women and how to improve advocacy outcomes to end men’s violence against women. These male advocates report that they have changed how they relate to other men, to a lesser extent how they relate to women, and that they have greater commitments to promoting gender equality and to reflecting on their roles as men. Moreover, they report that because of their involvement they are engaged as active bystanders and agents of change. The findings of this research could have practical implications for the efforts to improve the engagement of men as agents of change.


White Ribbon campaign Violence prevention Engaging men Social movement Men Masculinity 


  1. Australian Electoral Commission. (2016). First preferences by party. Australia: Australian Electoral Commission.Google Scholar
  2. Barker, G., Ricardo, C., & Nascimento, M. (2007). Engaging men and boys in changing gender-based inequity in health: Evidence from programme interventions. Geneva: World Health Organization.Google Scholar
  3. Bell, K., & Seaman, C. E. (2016). White ribbon Australia ambassador report: Case study of white ribbon Australia’s ambassador program – men as allies to prevent Men’s violence against women. Wollongong: University of Wollongong.
  4. Berkowitz, A. D. (2004). Working with men to prevent violence against women: An overview. VAWnet, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.Google Scholar
  5. Bryant, A. (2017). Grounded theory and grounded theorizing: Pragmatism in research practice. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carlson, J., Casey, E., Edleson, J. L., Tolman, R., Walsh, T. B., & Kimball, E. (2015). Strategies to engage men and boys in violence Prevention: A global organizational perspective. Violence Against Women, 21, 1406–1425. Scholar
  7. Casey, E., Carlson, J., Fraguela-Rios, C., Kimball, E., Neugut, T., Tolman, R., et al. (2013). Context, challenges, and tensions in global efforts to engage men in the prevention of violence against women: An ecological analysis. Men and Masculinities, 16(2), 228–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Casey, E., Leek, C., Tolman, R., Allen, C., & Carlson, J. (2017). Getting men in the room: Perceptions of effective strategies to initiate Men’s involvement in gender-based violence prevention in a global sample. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 19(9), 979–995. Scholar
  9. Casey, E., & Smith, T. (2010). “How can I not?”: Men’s pathways to involvement in anti-violence against women work. Violence Against Women, 16(8), 953–973. Scholar
  10. Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.Google Scholar
  11. Coulter, R. P. (2003). “Boys Doing Good: Young Men and Gender Equity.” Educational Review 55(2), 135–145.
  12. della Porta, D., & Diani, M. (2006). Social movements: An introduction (2nd ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  13. DeKeseredy, W. S., Schwartz, M. D., & Alvi, S. (2000). “The Role of Profeminist Men in Dealing with Woman Abuse on the Canadian College Campus.” Violence Against Women 6(9), 918–935.Google Scholar
  14. Diani, M. (1992). The concept of social movement. The Sociological Review, 40(1), 1–25. Scholar
  15. Dutta, U. (2015). Change-Agentry. In J. M. Bennett (Ed.), The SAGE Encyclopedia of intercultural competence (pp. 45–45). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
  16. Dworkin, S. L., Treves-Kagan, S., & Lippman, S. A. (2013). Gender-transformative interventions to reduce HIV risks and violence with heterosexually-active men: A review of the global evidence. AIDS and Behavior, 17(9), 2845–2863. Scholar
  17. Edström, J., Shahrokh, T., & Satish, K. S. (2015). The new ‘MASVAW men’: Strategies, dynamics and deepening engagements. A Case Study of A Networked Approach To Challenging Patriarchy Across Institutions In Uttar Pradesh. United Kingdom.Google Scholar
  18. Edwards, B., & Gillham, P. F. (2013). Resource mobilization theory. In D. A. Snow, D. della Porta, B. Klandermans, & D. McAdam (Eds.), The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social and Political Movements. Malden, MA: Wiley.Google Scholar
  19. Fabiano, P. M., Perkins, H. W., Berkowitz, A., Linkenbach, J., & Stark, C. (2003). Engaging men as social justice allies in ending violence against women: Evidence for a social norms approach. Journal of American College Health, 52(3), 105–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Flood, M. (2004). Men’s collective struggles for gender justice: The case of Antiviolence activism. In M. Kimmel, J. Hearn, & R. Connell (Eds.), Handbook of studies on men and masculinities (pp. 458–466). Thousand Oaks: SAGE.Google Scholar
  21. Flood, M. (2014). Men’s Antiviolence activism and the construction of gender-equitable masculinities. In A. Carabi & J. Armengol (Eds.), Alternative Masculinities for a Changing World. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.Google Scholar
  22. Flood, M. (2015a). Preventing male violence. In P. D. Donnelly & C. L. Ward (Eds.), Oxford Textbook of Violence Prevention: Epidemiology, Evidence, and Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Flood, M. (2015b). Three challenges: Maintain a feminist agenda; engage and mobilise men; get intersectional. In Keynote address, Australian STOP Domestic Violence Conference. Canberra.Google Scholar
  24. Flood, M. (2015c). Work with men to end violence against women: A critical stocktake. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 17(sup2), 159–176. Scholar
  25. Flynn, S. I. (2011). New social movement theory. In Theories of social movements (pp. 88–99). Pasadena: Salem Press.Google Scholar
  26. Ford, C. (2015). White ribbon ambassador Tanveer Ahmed’s dangerous message on domestic violence. Daily Life, February 10, News and Views.Google Scholar
  27. Fulu, E., Jewkes, R., Roselli, T., & Garcia-Moreno, C. (2013). Prevalence of and factors associated with male perpetration of intimate partner violence: Findings from the UN multi-country cross-sectional study on men and violence in Asia and the Pacific. The Lancet Global Health, 1(4), 187–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fulu, E., Kerr-Wilson, A., & Lang, J. (2014). What works to prevent violence against women and girls? Evidence review of interventions to prevent violence against women and girls. Pretoria: Medical Research Council.Google Scholar
  29. Funnell, N. (2016a). 10 reasons why I will ignore white ribbon day. The Daily Telegraph, November 25, RendezView.Google Scholar
  30. Funnell, N. (2016b). Why you should never give a cent to white ribbon. The Daily Telegraph, June 23, RendezView.Google Scholar
  31. Funk, R. E. (2008). “Men’s Work: Men’s Voices and Actions against Sexism and Violence.” Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community 36(1–2), 155–171.
  32. Johnston, H. (2016). What is a social movement? Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  33. Kimball, E., Edleson, J., Tolman, R., Neugut, T., & Carlson, J. (2013). Global efforts to engage men in preventing violence against women: An international survey. Violence Against Women, 19(7), 924–939.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Macomber, K. (2015). “I’m sure as hell not putting any man on a pedestal”: Male privilege and accountability in domestic and sexual violence work. Journal of Interpersonal Violence., 33, 1491–1518. Scholar
  35. Mann, R. M. (2008). Men’s rights and feminist advocacy in Canadian domestic violence policy arenas: Contexts, dynamics, and outcomes of antifeminist backlash. Feminist Criminology, 3(1), 44–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McCarthy, J. D., & Zald, M. N. (1977). Resource mobilization and social movements: A partial theory. American Journal of Sociology, 82(6), 1212–1241. Scholar
  37. Meer, S. (2011). Struggles for gender equality: Reflections on the place of men and Men’s organisations. Open debate.Google Scholar
  38. Messner, M. A., Greenberg, M. A., & Peretz, T. (2015). Some men: Feminist allies and the movement to end violence against women. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Minnings, A. (2014). How men are transforming masculinities and engaging men and boys to end violence against women and girls in Zimbabwe: A case study. Master of arts thesis, globalization and international development specializing in Women’s studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ottawa.Google Scholar
  40. Myrttinen, H. (2018). Stabilizing or challenging patriarchy? Sketches of selected “new” political masculinities. Men and Masculinities, 22, 1–19. Scholar
  41. Newton, J. L. (2004). From panthers to promise keepers: Rethinking the Men’s movement. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  42. Our Watch, Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), and VicHealth. (2015). Change the story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia. Melbourne.Google Scholar
  43. Pease, B. (2008). Engaging men in Men’s violence prevention: Exploring the tensions, dilemmas and possibilities. Sydney: Australian Domestic & Family Violence Clearinghouse.Google Scholar
  44. Peretz, T. (2017). Engaging Diverse Men: An Intersectional Analysis of Men’s Pathways to Antiviolence Activism. Gender & Society, 31, 526–548. Scholar
  45. Piccigallo, J. R., Lilley, T. G., & Miller, S. L. (2012). “It’s cool to care about sexual violence”: Men’s experiences with sexual assault prevention. Men and Masculinities, 15(5), 507–525. Scholar
  46. Pichardo, N. (1997). New social movements: A critical review. Annual Review of Sociology, 23, 411–430. Scholar
  47. Ricardo, C., Eads, M., & Barker, G. (2011). Engaging boys and young men in the prevention of sexual violence: A systematic and global review of evaluated interventions. Washington, DC: Sexual Violence Research Initiative and Promundo.Google Scholar
  48. Seymour, K. (2018). “Stand up, speak out and act”: A critical Reading of Australia’s white ribbon campaign. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 51(2), 293–310. Scholar
  49. Stein, J. L. (2007). “Peer Educators and Close Friends as Predictors of Male College Students’ Willingness to Prevent Rape.” Journal of College Student Development 48(1), 75–89.
  50. Smallbone, S., & McKillop, N. (2014). Evidence-informed approaches to preventing sexual violence and abuse. In P. D. Donnelly & C. L. Ward (Eds.), Oxford textbook of violence prevention: Epidemiology, evidence, and policy (pp. 177–181). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Starck, K., & Luyt, R. (2019). Political masculinities, crisis tendencies, and social transition: Toward an understanding of change. Men and Masculinities., 22, 431–443. Scholar
  52. White Ribbon Australia. (2015). Regional Forums. accessed 2015/05/10.
  53. White Ribbon Australia. 2017. White Ribbon Annual Report 2015–16.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  2. 2.Queensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia

Personalised recommendations