The Zonta Club of Gaylord Area, District 15, arranged for the Gaylord High School wrestling and varsity boys basketball teams to take the White Ribbon Pledge to end violence against women.
The event, titled “Our Team Says NO,” came on the heels of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign. The event featured local men in Michigan who stepped forward to add their voices to the Zonta Says NO to Violence Against Women campaign.
On 20 December, the Gaylord High School Wrestling and Varsity Boys Basketball teams took the White Ribbon Pledge.
The pledge read: “I pledge not to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls. From this day forward, I promise to be part of the solution to end all forms of this violence.”
Now a worldwide campaign, the White Ribbon Pledge was created in 1991 by a group of Toronto men as a way for men to raise awareness of violence against women. According to the pledge, it is the responsibility of all men to step up, speak out and take action against violence. The campaign seeks to promote healthy relationships, gender equity and a compassionate vision of masculinity.
Megan King of the Women’s Resource Center of Northern Michigan urged Gaylord athletes to use their visible role to help make positive social change by initiating respect. In addition to leading the young men in the white ribbon pledge, she explained the origins of the White Ribbon Pledge and shared two short videos. The first featured the Red Riots high school basketball team in Maine who said they chose, “not be defined by the strength of our arms and legs, but rather by the strength of our character.” The second video featured professional football players from the Toronto Argonauts who said it is about “leading by example both on and off the field.”
Zonta Club of Gaylord Area President Amber Theriault followed King’s presentation by asking the athletes to not initiate or encourage inappropriate jokes. Rather, she called on them to help make a cultural shift. Theriault challenged the student-athletes to commit to and share the message of respect for women.
Cherie Nutter, a Zonta member and president of the Women’s Resource Center of Northern Michigan Board of Directors, closed the event by speaking of the goal to keep local young athletes from making gender-biased slurs.
The Women’s Resource Center of Northern Michigan has also created a program titled “Coaching Boys Into Men,” designed to encourage coaches to teach young athletes about respecting women and working to end violence against women.