As a man person dating a feminist, part of my relationship is promoting feminism. This begs the question, “How does a straight white male possibly promote feminism?” The short answer is to be a good ally. The long answer is that being a good ally can be somewhat tricky and will require you to step out of your comfort zone. Allies often have good intentions at heart but can also very easily become an obstacle and a nuisance to their movements, be it feminism or Black Lives Matter, or equal rights for any other minority group. So here are a few ways to become a better ally!
- Offer Help Without Intruding
As allies, we always want to help our friends, and that is great! Feminists and minorities need allies in positions of power and privilege to help further their movements. But one of the biggest pitfalls that allies can fall into is that they force their help on others. If a feminist group holds a meeting and only wants people who identify as females to attend, it is not in your place to question their decision. If an organization only allows people of color to join, the same logic applies. While this may seem unfair at first, hear me out. There are issues and injustices that minorities experience that allies cannot relate to. Our best option is to empathize and tell these groups that we are here if they need us. If they decide to accept our help, they will come to us and explain what we should do. That’s all there is to it! Just following directions, and helping out the way they see fit.
- Call Out Others
How many times do you hear someone use the word “bitch” or “pussy” on a daily basis? More often than not, I typically hear them used as insults, often times directed at males too. It’s hard to call people out on their use of language, but people have to understand that by using words like these, they are enforcing gendered normalcy: Femininity is bad. Be masculine. If allies don’t actively fight against institutionalized discrimination (typically found in everyday language) are they true allies?
And this goes for any and all microaggressions. Speak up when you hear or see them and explain to the person perpetuating them why they’re wrong.
- Watch Your Own Language
On a similar note, be conscious of what you say! Almost everyone is guilty of using some sort of discriminatory language, or even just slipping up sometimes. For example, if you see a person who looks Latino, do not assume they are from Mexico or speak Spanish. And if you must insult someone (who doesn’t at some point during the day?), never use gendered language.
- Make Space
In my opinion, not only is making space the easiest but also the most important way to be a good ally. The concept of making space arose from the fact that in almost any setting (classroom, workplace, online, etc.) people with privilege and power will talk the most, and minorities won’t be able to speak or have their ideas heard. The easiest solution is to first recognize that you are privileged. This could mean you are male, white, rich, more educated, or any number of other factors or combinations therein. Examine your privilege. It may be uncomfortable, but it’s important to recognize it. Then next, be conscious of who speaks during conversations. If you find yourself talking too much, back off. If someone hasn’t spoken at all, maybe ask them a question. It is so easy! It not only adds to diversity of the conversation, but is also just much more equal for all parties involved!
Being an ally is a tricky role to take on. You are necessary, but not in the lead. I like to think of myself more as the trusted advisor. Give advice when asked for it, defend those you love, and let the real leads shine! And don’t forget to just be a nice person – hopefully one day soon, there will be more equality in this world.