How to Be A Great Male Ally in the Feminist Movement
Because just being a “good guy” is not enough anymore.
I have male friends and a boyfriend who are fed up. They are livid, disappointed, outraged and ashamed at their fellow men. Most men claim to be good guys, really are good guys, really want to help others be good guys. This society that we live in, that gives growth to rape culture, silences women, perpetuates toxic masculinity and creates hostile environments for bullying and harassment is so hurtful and disappointing. Feminist women are doing all that we can to raise our voices, share our views and create discussion.
There are many definitions of feminism but if someone claims that they are a feminist and say they hate men, they are not a feminist, they are a misandrist. Men are greatly affected under the same patriarchal system that women are. The patriarchy creates a society that puts men to impossible masculine standards, stunts their emotional growth, and dismisses any “feminine” feelings of love, sadness or hurt.
The patriarchy wants men to be stoic, to handle conflict and emotions with physical and emotional violence, and creates the kind of relationships where men don’t know how to communicate well with others. Men face real problems based on their sex as well, such as biased custody battles for their children, staggering suicide rates and lack of help for male victims of domestic and sexual abuse.
We need men to be a part of the feminist movement.
Some say that men should call themselves pro-feminist instead of just the label feminist, just like allies are not inherently a part of the LGBT community but just allies. And as allies in a patriarchal society the sad but honest truth is this: men listen more to other men than they do to women. For example, when a woman is getting harassed on the street it will often stop if she says she has a boyfriend, and the imaginary presence of a man the harasser can’t see is worth more than the words of the woman standing in front of him.
Men have a platform that women do not have to hold other men accountable. Men, hold your friends accountable for the jokes they make, especially jokes targeted at marginalized groups, rape jokes, and hurtful slurs. When you see someone getting harassed on the street, call the person out. As a bystander you have more leverage as a man than the person being harassed. If you’re uncomfortable doing that just ask the woman if she’s okay or needs help, or even ask the harasser a direct question like what the time is to deter and distract them. A situation in most cases will de-escalate just by your very presence whether you address the issue directly or not, so use it.
Allies, educate other men, your friends, family and children about rape culture, about the feminist movement, about toxic masculinity and about the patriarchy. Do your own reading and research into feminism, scholarly books and academic journals, and especially work written by intersectional women, so women of color, LGBT folk, international and foreign women, differently abled women, etc.
You have to learn to sit back and listen. Ask questions if you must but for the most part the struggles that women face will be foreign to you. Sympathize because you can’t fully empathize. Don’t interject your own thoughts and experiences as fact. Sometimes you will hear things from women that seem hurtful, angry, or targeted towards all men. This is not the case.
Many of us have been hurt by the men in our lives to a point where we don’t trust men and paint them all the same. These brushstrokes are not a judgement of your character but a commentary on how society has treated women since the beginning of time. Instead of getting angry, ask questions, dig deeper and try to unlearn any unhealthy patterns or responses that are counterintuitive and regressive.
Men, though you are important to the movement you are not the primary part of it. A woman’s voice and experience should be taken to heart and not be explained over or for. Remember, though you are trying to dismantle the system of the patriarchy and are affected by its negativity, you are inherently benefiting from that very system. You have a place of privilege that women in the movement do not. This is not to dishearten you but to show you the kind of power you have to change things. Use it.
Lastly, thank you. All your efforts to try and help women in the feminist movement, unlearn unhealthy behaviors instilled by our patriarchal system, and even reading this article is the first step in becoming an amazing male ally. We truly appreciate it.
If you want to find some male oriented organizations and movements that are great allies to the feminist movement and critically analyze men’s role in society check out Men Can Stop Rape, It’s On Us Campaign, #HeForShe, V-Day for Men, American Men’s Studies Association, National Organization for Men Against Sexism, GLBTQ Domestic Violence Project, and A Call to Men.