"The White Ribbon Project challenges culture overall, we aim to create an environment and a community that is safer for everyone," said David Garzon.

Project Lighthouse at Algonquin College worked in collaboration with The White Ribbon campaign to host an event for men premised on how they can become better allies in ending violence against women and girls.

David Garzon, the team leader of community engagement at White Ribbon, hosted a workshop on Feb. 9 that offered students strategies about speaking up and taking a stand in ending gender-based violence.

The White Ribbon campaign was started by a pro-feminist group in November of 1991 in response to the École Polytechnique Massacre — a lethal shooting that occurred in 1989 which resulted in the murder of 14 women at an engineering school in Montréal.

“The White Ribbon campaign was created to engage men, raise awareness and speak on the role that men play in this conversation,” Garzon said.

This issue remains important even amidst a global pandemic. Instead of canceling the event, the hosts ran the event virtually.

“We want men to speak up, to be good role models, and to be an example of what healthy masculinity could look like,” Garzon said.

Sexual assault is more common than most would think—over 80 per cent of sexual assault and domestic abuse victims are women according to sexual assault statistics published by Statistics Canada.

“It’s very apparent that men and boys are not as educated on the matter as women and girls,” said Maclean Collins, a business administration (CORE) student at Algonquin College who attended the event. “It would be a step in the right direction if more men and boys provided their support, awareness, and understanding when it comes to these topics.”

It is important men and boys work to remain active allies to the women’s rights community.

“Oftentimes, gender-based violence and sexual violence are seen by our communities as women’s issues— they’re seen as this because they mostly impact females,” Garzon said. “Therefore, they’re only often relevant to women and people of the LGBTQ2+ community.”

Having conversations, stepping out of one’s comfort zone, and understanding the issues women face make room for men to grow as allies.

“Opening up spaces for men to engage in these conversations challenges gender expectations and speaks to the endless possibilities that exist when we step out of the ‘man box,’” Garzon added.

The “man box,” Garzon explains, is a theory based on a specific set of expectations, perceptions, and behaviors society imprints on men.

While the White Ribbon campaign is a great way to become an ally to the women’s rights community and supporting violence against women, there are many other ways men and boys can show their support.

“There are definitely things I learned during this event that I can implement when it calls for it like being watchful of a situation where sexual violence can occur, and act accordingly if need be,” Collins said. “I also learned to be non-judgemental on men’s choices to be more vulnerable, but to rather applaud them for the courage it might’ve taken them to go that route.”

The White Ribbon campaign aims to educate men by engaging them in these conversations on gender-based violence and sexual violence.

“Even though it unlikely as a man to experience this ourselves we need to validate the voices of various women and use that knowledge to change our behavior and how we present ourselves,” Garzon said.

It is important men continue to dismantle toxic masculinity and the “man box” in support of women.

“The event taught me to be understanding and open when it comes to men defying toxic masculinity standards, and also not to be a bystander when it comes to sexual violence against women,” said Collins. “I strongly suggest more men and boys attend events like the White Ribbon project so that they can be more aware of the harsh reality we’re living in.”

Reports can be submitted anonymously through Algonquin College’s counseling services.

For additional resources, go to www.algonquincollege.com/projectlighthouse.