Bloody oath, it’s National Swear Day!

Bloody oath, it’s National Swear Day!

Apparently, I’m a potential wife-beater. I didn’t know that, never having beaten my lovely wife and never having inflicted violence against women in any shape or form. But according to a campaign underway today, men should swear never to inflict violence on women. Otherwise, I guess the implication is, we would.

Today is National Swear Day, in support of the My Oath campaign being run on behalf of Unifem, the United Nations Development Fund for Women.

The concept of National Swear Day is for the ten million men in Australia to be encouraged in the media and by celebrities to swear an oath that states:


We swear:

  • never to commit violence against women
  • never to excuse violence against women, and
  • never to remain silent about violence against women

My problem is that, as far as I am concerned, I sort of take all of that as ‘read’. I would think all of you reading this would as well. In all honesty, I find it vaguely offensive that I’m being encouraged to swear an oath committing me to a course of action that would be pretty much already hot-wired into my DNA. It’s like getting me to swear that I will continue breathing or continue eating on a daily basis. Well, d’uh!

Actually, what it is closer to is being placed on a good behaviour bond for a crime I didn’t commit. All Aussie men are stood in the dock, being paroled with the undertaking that we’ll be good boys from now on. That doesn’t really sit right with me – especially as those who do commit the crimes aren’t stood next to me.

As Cathie McGinn (@acatinatree) commented on Twitter:


The idea that violence against women is some default setting you actively have to strive to overcome sickens me.


Of course, the argument for the campaign is that it raises awareness and creates the stigma that violence against women is socially unacceptable. But does it really? So what if me and a few thousand other similar males, the Prime Minister and minor on-air celebs like Hamish and Andy take the oath? Were any of us at risk of committing such acts anyway? Would those in our society who are most at risk of perpetrating violence against women feel influenced by a radio DJ saying hitting women is wrong when they are in the full red haze of a violent temper? Would anyone capable and/or disturbed enough to attack a wife or partner or daughter or whatever be the sort of person to pull back at the last minute and say “Hang on – I took an oath not to do this. Let’s talk reasonably through our feelings instead.”

I really don’t see how this campaign can achieve anything except some commentary within marketing circles about an experiential campaign that reached x number of people; pat them on the back, give those guys an award. Where Movember is an experiential campaign that raises humongous buckets of cash to fight prostate cancer and male depression (and you can still sponsor my irritating, crumb-laden, itchy mo here), this Swear Day campaign seems to have nothing more than ‘PR gimmick’ writ large across it.

Couple this with the publicity the organisers have tried to extract by incorporating Google Wave into the strategy as an apparent ‘world first‘, and the whole thing begins to reek of lots of buzz with little substance. The extremely limp Google Wave exercise is a perfect example of the shallowness of the campaign as – open to all public users of Google Wave – it has failed spectacularly in engaging users to discuss the issues or interact in a meaningful way towards the supposed goal. Merely clicking yes to take the oath, in a Wave only seen by a technologically fortunate few, doesn’t really demonstrate any deep thinking, engagement, conversation or mind-changing behaviour. Many of the comments on the Wave are more to do with the excitement of seeing lots of live people on the one Wave at once, and what that means for geekdom, than any profound discussion of the worthy cause.

There is also a whiff of sexism in all this as well. As Cathie McGinn again pointed out:


I think what bothers me most re. #whiteribbonday is that women’s voices are absent, perpetuating a sense of women as victim/passive…


Warrick Rendell (@Warwraith) also was incensed by the gender issues in considering violence a one way problem.


What about violence by women? Or violence by men against men?


All violence is wrong. National Swear Day merely buries the real issues of why some people in our society inflict physical harm against others underneath a feelgood message with no real insight, understanding or practicality behind it. There is no mechanism for National Swear Day to actually instigate change.

An awareness campaign may be a noble goal, but does merely creating awareness amongst those most likely to be already aware represent a good use of marketing resources? Will that awareness generate any kind of change?

A good campaign creates real, measurable change with a defined cause and effect. A bad campaign achieves nothing towards the core goal. Guess what I’m expecting to happen here.