I’ll be spelling ‘women’ as ‘womxn’ in this article. Just to piss off the patriarchy lords and ladies.
Feminist activist, Eniola Hu is of the opinion—which I strongly believe and accept— that men cannot be feminists. However, you can be an ally. We define male allies as members of an advantaged group (men) who are committed to building relationships with womxn, expressing as little sexism in their own behaviour as possible, understanding the social privilege conferred by their gender, and demonstrating active efforts to address and smash gender inequalities at work, home, society and everywhere they find themselves.
So, here’s what you MUST know to become an ally or be a better ally.
- Understand and recognize that you don’t define what being an ally entails. Womxn have that job. You must recognize that being an ally requires you to be in constant communication and collaboration with womxn. Don’t go off and be a feminist vigilante or something crazy.
- All things with full consent of your partner and womxn around you.
- Ask womxn questions only on things you have READ AND RESEARCHED yet still don’t understand.
- Know that If you’re going to be chivalrous (on dates) or in everyday life, do it for everyone out of kindness, not just for womxn or people you think aren’t capable of doing things themselves.
- Make a daily effort to understand privilege. As a male, it is your social responsibility to be conscious of your privileges. Use this consciousness to explore different situations. For example, how would a situation be different if it were a womxn in your position? Would a womxn have been treated differently than you?
- Hold other men accountable. As male allies, you must have systems of accountability in order to keep yourselves in check and make sure we’re doing things right. Womxn will hold you accountable. It is your job to hold yourself accountable AND keep other men accountable. If you see or hear anything sexist, speak out. If a man is blinded by his male privilege when taking feminist action, do your best to make him aware.
- Lots of reading. Search for ‘feminism’ on Medium and over 1000 articles will come up.
- Take note of, and make a conscious effort to carry out daily conversations imagining you were speaking to a feminist. Let that guide your words.
- Speak to your fellow men about what feminism is, who is a feminist, why feminism exists and how they can contribute to making the world a better place for womxn.
- Give an opinion if you were not asked.
- Be self-professed. At least, a minimum of 10 feminist womxn must classify you as one. Sometimes, self-professed allies are really benevolent sexists who try to be ‘careful’. E.g of such an ally is —“I’m a feminist; my mother taught me to respect womxn; and, I saw the light after the birth of my daughter.”
- Reply any/every feminist theory with ‘not everything is a gender war’ or ‘not all men’ or ‘but I am not that kind of man’. We know it already. Stick to the main point.
- Think you know and embody everything that womxn go through. That you’re an ally doesn’t mean the shoe pinches you as much as it pinches us.
- Keep quiet in the midst of adversity and troubles for females. Silence is being complicit — you can’t look the other way and also be an ally for womxn
- Replying to sexist and misogynistic men —in a bid to explain feminism to them and dissuade them from their ignorance—with ‘I understand you and where you are coming from, but…’. That just makes you a terrible ally who is a fake.
- Using your low-EQ to rescue, mansplain, or even attempt to become the spokesman for womxn. We didn’t ask you to take the lead. In feminism, you’re playing assist.
- Catcalling: By catcalling, you are contributing to a culture that teaches womxn to be scared and be constantly aware of their environments. By catcalling, you are agreeing to the notion that all men are perverted assholes who have zero respect for womxn. By catcalling, you are promoting a sexist culture.
- Showing contempt for homosexual men and lesbian womxn. Be intersectional.
- Fueling, thinking and believing the stupid notion that womxn who want to —Netflix, come to visit you, hang out with you —are ‘100% down to fuck’. This is how entitlement, rape thoughts, and violence starts.
- Referring to womxn or groups of womxn as ‘guys’, ‘bros’, or ‘dude’. Stop using ‘mankind’ to generalize the human race.
- Slinging on feminism like a superhero cape when your girlfriend, female colleague or even boss is watching, to impress — or worse, seduce — womxn, or to avoid being labeled as sexist despite your pattern of sexist behavior.
- Living in constant self-reflection and taking charge of educating yourself about feminism.
- Using your male privilege to bring visibility and tangible change to the systemic issues that differentially impact individuals, groups, and communities. Being an ally is not an identity, it is a role.
- Monitoring your use of words. Stop using words, telling jokes, or making comments that are offensive or could be interpreted as offensive. You can’t be a male ally and still call womxn bitches, sluts, whores, or whatever degrading words come to mind. You must check yourself.
- Doing more of listening to act and less of listening to reply, it can be misinterpreted as mansplaining!
- Showcasing your feminist pride. Wear t-shirts, sports wristbands, or put bumper stickers on your car. Make noise. There are many different ways to do so. As a man, you’re bound to draw attention and possibly rally support with your feminist gear. Here’s my favorite t-shirt design. ‘Men of quality don’t fear equality’
- Sponsor a cause, there are lots of them. If you need advice on which ones, reply below and I’ll direct you.
- Start a cause
- As Martin Luther King once reflected, shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.
- Writer, Shannon Ashley says—It’s not enough to say you believe in equal rights. Or that you love womxn. You have to call out the hatred aimed at womxn every damn day. Anything less is enabling. Anything less is complicit.
- Recognize that this movement is much larger than yourself. This movement isn’t about you. Try not to take anything personally. Work with the discomfort and use that to advance the movement.
- Keep in mind that committing to express as little sexism as possible in your interactions with womxn is the easy part of allyship. The hard part requires you to take informed action.
- To reiterate, either you follow this, or you fuck off. We don’t need any more fake advocacy.
Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash
Stephanie C Odili is a feminist writer and author, whose work focuses on writing, speaking and advocating for gender equality, education, nation building, climate change and productive living. She has written over 200 articles and is now a top writer in feminism on Medium.