[UPDATE: The real White Ribbon Campaign has responded; I’ve added excerpts at the bottom.]
Apparently, A Voice for Men is just itching to be sued.
Paul Elam and the gang over at everyone’s favorite Men’s Rights hate site have just launched a new website — WhiteRibbon.org — that seems pretty clearly designed to undermine and co-opt the real White Ribbon campaign, a long-running international initiative to fight violence against women.
The REAL White Ribbon campaign has a number of websites, reflecting its international reach — in Canada, where the initiative originated, as well as in the UK, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand. and other places. But apparently the organization didn’t buy up all the related domain names.
And so the little schemers at A Voice for Men have grabbed the WhiteRibbon.org URL for themselves and set up a site of their own that seems intended to, as the lawyers say, cause confusion in the marketplace and take advantage of the White Ribbon campaign’s good name for its own purpose. As least that’s how it looks to my non-lawyer eyes — and to the eyes of one lawyer I contacted.
The site has evidently just gone live, heralded by a post from Elam on AVFM declaring
Gents and ladies, I present to you without further ado whiteribbon.org and whiteribboncampaign.org. It is a website I am very proud of, and proud to say that AVfM will be investing whatever resources it takes to make whiteribboncampaign.org the most highly recognized and iconic voice in the worldwide White Ribbon Campaign.
With our resources, and our reach on Google, it is only a matter of a short period of time before we can make good on that promise.
A Voice for Men may pretend that their sites are an attempt to fight domestic violence “against everyone.” But evidence of AVFM’s bad faith is everywhere, and overwhelming.
On its faux White Ribbon site, for example, AVFM declares that it is the REAL White Ribbon campaign and that the real campaign … is a fake.
In a post with the title Caution: Please beware of false White Ribbon initiatives, Claire Bissett – identified as the “administrative manager of whiteribbon.org” – writes:
There is only one whiteribbon.org
First, allow me to welcome all of you to whiteribbon.org. White Ribbon is a worldwide initiative to bring awareness of the problem of intimate partner and other forms of family violence to the population at large. …
It is … my sad duty to caution you that there are numerous attempts by other entities to corrupt the message of the White Ribbon Initiative by inserting dishonest and sexist messages into this movement. …
[W]e urge you in the strongest possible terms to consider what you are actually seeing when you encounter groups going by the name “White Ribbon” whose message is gendered, as in “Stop Domestic Violence Against Women.” …
These people are much more interested in raising money than in raising awareness. …
There is only one White Ribbon Initiative that seeks evidence based, scientific and realistic ways to help reduce the problem of violence in the home. You are at the source of that initiative right now. Please help us out by donating and by passing this website on at social media sites and your own blogs.
Yep, they’re asking for money. The donation button is at the top of the page, with the perhaps deliberately ambiguous message:
WhiteRibborn.org is owned and operated by A Voice for Men. All donations for our White Ribbon effort will be used to maintain and enhance this website.
It’s not clear to me whether “this website” refers to WhiteRibbon.org or A Voice for Men. In any case, if you click on the PayPal button, it takes you to an A Voice for Men donation page, and it’s up to you to specify the purpose of your donation. There are no assurances on the page that donations intended to support WhiteRibbon.org will be kept in a separate account or even spent on that website.
Elam’s own post announcing the WhiteRibbon.org page is so extravagantly disingenuous, so suffused with self-satisfied gloating, that you can practically hear him snickering sadistically like some cartoon villain as you read it.
The people behind the White Ribbon have undoubtedly put in a huge amount of sweat equity and actual funds in branding the White Ribbon Campaign (WRC). …
Obviously, the people getting the job done on behalf of WRC really outdid themselves on planning and marketing.
Well, there was one goof. They neglected to pick up the obvious choices for domains for their program, especially given they are aiming for growth. …
As I mulled over the considerable resources we now have at A Voice for Men, and our ongoing interest in the area of domestic violence, I surmised that this was a very opportune moment to invest vigorously in the WRC project. This was confirmed when I found out that whiteribboncampaign.org, whiteribbon.org, and most of the .coms and .nets associated with that name were similarly unspoken for.
What a fantastic time, I told myself, for the AVfM organization to figuratively join hands with White Ribbon Campaign organizations worldwide and to help them spread the unyielding truth about the problem of domestic violence in this culture.
So that is exactly what we did.
As I said before, I’m no lawyer, but someone who is a lawyer tells me that what AVFM is doing is such a clear violation of trademark law that the real White Ribbon campaign could not only sue but win its case. The evidence of AVFM’s bad faith is so clear and overwhelming, the lawyer notes, that the judge hearing such a case would likely “choke.”
Not only that, but AVFM seems to be acknowledging upfront that their new “initiative” is an attempt to divert money from the real White Ribbon campaign and into AVFM’s coffers. The reader comment chosen as the “featured comment” for Elam’s article is from a longtime AVFMer saying that he will be taking the money he would have donated to the White Ribbon campaign and sending it to Elam’s initiative:
Other commenters praised Elam’s “genius” and did little victory dances, their comments indicating that they understand full well that Elam’s claims to be “figuratively join[ing] hands with White Ribbon Campaign” are transparent bullshit. Here an an assortment of comments taken from the 100+ now up on the site.
Some commenters took it a bit further. Shrek6, so gleeful in the comment above, earned some upvotes with a violent rant against the original “white feather” and the White Ribbon campaign that he sees as its modern equivalent:
If I had the power and I could, I would arrest every single white feather wielding coward, strip them of all their female clothing, put them in army greens and send them directly to the front line to have their heads blown apart by high powered bullets or shrapnel. Or they can watch as their female friends get their bodies blown into many parts by a bomb of some sort.
That is the only way to treat the lowest form of scum on this planet. You have to make them actually experience the hell they are shaming men into.
They are nothing but murderers and the most vial and foul thing to walk on 2 legs.
Knowing this white ribbon campaign is nothing but an extension of the white feather campaign, we must show them our indignation, our hatred and our anger. We must do all we can to beat them down, even if we have to get into their filthy nest to do so. And having this website is hopefully going to achieve that end.
(Emphasis mine. See a screenshot of his full quote here.)
A fellow by the name of Mike Gibbs added:
Traitorous white-knights and mangina’s are exponentially worse that feminist and as such, both should be eliminated.
(See a screenshot of his full quote here.)
One commenter responded, for some unknown reason, with a graphic photoshopped picture of … Anita Sarkeesian with bruises all over her face, as if she had been severely beaten. Screenshot here.
If you plan on “fucking up the shit” of a large international organization by infringing on its trademark, it seems to me, it’s probably a bad idea not to announce this publicly – and gloat about it.
And if you’re trying to pretend that you care about ending violence, you should probably not be posting comments calling for violence against your enemies.
UPDATE: The real White Ribbon campaign has responded to AVFM’s campaign. Here are some excerpts of their response, which you can see in full on their web site.
Today, White Ribbon (www.whiteribbon.ca ) became aware that a “so-called” men’s rights group has launched a copycat campaign articulating their archaic views and denials about the realities of gender-based violence.
Their vile sentiments – which include disparaging comments about women’s shelters and victim blaming survivors of rape – are completely incongruent with our values at White Ribbon.
Their misguided attempts to discredit others only make clear the extent to which they see the success of our equality-driven, evidence-based, ally-focussed work on gender justice as a real threat to their ill-informed, isolated views on this issue. This latest example is clear evidence of their insincerity and lack of commitment to developing compassionate solutions for the issues they claim to care about. It also showcases their real focus: attacking, harassing and directing anger towards others. …
Allies and supporters: do not to be fooled by this copycat campaign. We are exploring all of our options, but we will not be engaging with this group in a public screaming match. They can remain a shrill minority. We will continue to engage with the vast majority of men who believe in gender justice, and want to be part of the solution.