I know this has been said a lot before, I just wanted to put it in my own words.
The term ally often implies an equal partnership, one that joins together two groups to work cooperatively in order to reach a certain goal. The idea is that one group fulfills the other group’s needs and vice-versa. This works very well in alliances of countries or companies, but I’ve noticed it can have a lot of problems when it comes to feminism. Minorities who view themselves as feminists need help. We can’t make equality happen entirely on our own if we don’t have help from those who are in the majority and hold the social/cultural/political power. The difference with our alliance with the male identifying people in our lives is that it is not a back and forth relationship. Let me repeat that- it is not a back and forth relationship. We need the males in our lives to be the listeners. We need them to be helpers and supporters. And we do not owe them anything for this. They don’t get cookies and they certainly don’t get our love and attention just because they happen to be feminists as well. (I think the phrase I’ve seen tossed around the internet is “Congrats you just did the minimum it takes to be a decent human”)
This is not a typical alliance. Their power that they lend us by giving us room to speak is a silent power. They exercise it by stepping out of our way, by lending a hand, by sharing the stage. They need to be the ones who stand up in work meetings and say “Well I think she has a great idea, and we should all listen” or “She really took initiative on this project, she deserves the credit.” They need to exercise this power by helping a girl who is drunk at a party get a safe ride home. They need to help by believing and reporting all cases of rape. They need to take the roles of listener, caregiver, and supporter to heart. They need to set examples by understanding the dangers women face, and giving them safety.
When we say that the Patriarchy hurts men as well, we mean that it hurts them in silent and unnoticeable ways. It hurts them, but it is not equal hurt. Being a male feminist means acknowledging that the Patriarchy does hurt you, but that you should not be speaking louder than those who are more oppressed by it than you are. I appreciate the idea of being mad on my behalf, but if you’re complaining louder than I am, taking up space in the places where I am safest, or you’re not making a place safe for me to speak, you are missing the point of being my ally. I do not want you to ignore me with your silence, I want you to help me and then step aside- don’t worry I can handle myself. I don’t need your arguing, I don’t need your devil’s advocate arguments, I don’t need everyone else to only hear your voice.
You have had hundreds of years of history to talk long and loud about the views that you hold. Women have not had that luxury.
In the time since I wrote this, I have thought a lot and learned a lot. I think that as a heterosexual cis white woman, this whole thing that I just wrote applies to me as well RE: Women of Color and/or of Sexual Minority. I need to be the one who gives them room to speak their piece, give them credit where it is due, and to listen to their requests, hurts, anger and stories. I need to learn as much as I can about the history of oppression and how I can be the best ally I can be. I need to be an ally who lifts up, lends a hand, and speaks only when it is directly related to me or when I can intercede to help others. It takes work to be a good ally and those who are privileged owe it to those who are oppressed to work hard to help them. Things cannot continue the way they are.
- 1 – Feminist Politics: Where We Stand (evanreadsfeminism.wordpress.com)