Dear Male Allies (of feminism)
As someone who calls myself a feminist and never shuts up about my beliefs on feminism and other issues, I have struggled with my thoughts on male feminists / allies. Even as I write this, it is still something I am trying to learn about, I don’t feel I am quite where I should be on this.
A few men are becoming more vocal about gender equality and feminism; there is still some distrust in accepting the genuineness of their actions and I understand it. I have quite a few friends who are allies and there are thing I see them struggle with when it comes to women’s issues and how to respond. One of my discomforts has occurred both online and offline when allies talk over my experiences as a woman or try to tell me about what it means living as a woman.
To be clear, I totally believe male allies are important and many people have pointed out how much easier it is for men to listen to other men but isn’t that what this movement is about? Aren’t we saying listen to me too irrespective of my gender?
I do believe you can learn almost anything including feminism, but more importantly I believe; your learning does not invalidate someone’s experience. Now, I’ll tell you another thing that makes me uncomfortable and this is not only with male allies, it is with people who see themselves as the good guys; the entitlement that comes with it is unnerving. Almost like, “how dare you question my opinion on this issue, can’t you see I support you?” From here on it gets really awkward for everyone because what makes you unquestionable even as an ally? Please don’t contribute to the problem.
The thing with privilege is you can sneak into empathy and right out of it like you do with clothes, because it is not your reality, you don’t have to wear it all the time. Even with all the inclusivity in feminism, I find that even I have the luxury of changing my opinions and enthusiasm on issues because again, I have the privilege not to experience that issue. What I have found is that listening helps, as an ally, it is important to listen. Most feminists and women have lived these experiences, it is more than a theory so if you want to support them, it goes beyond saying that you support them, it includes quietly listening to what they want, where they stand and why they fight.
We all have biases we are trying to unlearn so you cannot claim that after reading ten feminist authors you now understand everything about being a woman. Women are still trying to learn the experiences of women across race, sexuality, class e.t.c.
This does not mean I think male allies should shut up. Far from that, in fact I think they should use their voices more especially in spaces where their privilege is as stake, which is amongst other men. I am more than open to having male allies and I hope allies know when it’s time to step aside and listen to women.
Dear allies, be conscious of your privilege, use it to help the movement go further, be clear where you stand, sometimes we see you crip walking into the misogyny dance floor.
Do the work and don’t expect a cookie for it.