We live in times where not only have men thought it cool to be identified as a feminist ally, they have made said space male-centric, doing the opposite of what the word allyship connotes. Feminist allyship in this sense has become a tool in the arsenal of soft-core misogynists, to be dangled and ultimately withdrawn in the faces of women when they don’t present themselves as good feminists.
It is disguised in eloquent threads on twitter that reek of faux intelligence, misunderstood ideologies and a casual condescension of women. In essence, allies today make it seem as though feminists should be grateful that they are being offered the strong support of men.
I think it’s time we get back to the basics of iterating what a feminist ally should look like, as it is quite obvious that men do not understand the concept of being an ally. Most claim to, but here we are, faced with the seemingly inevitable centering of men in conversations about women. Being a feminist ally is in all of the ways people that are not self-presenting women, can support the good fight to end the patriarchy. But alas! guess who has made this movement all about men?
You’re right, it’s men.
What I’m about to say is no different than what women have been saying for the longest time. However since it is almost impossible for men to listen to women, perhaps I can show you what allyship can and should mean.
KEEP YOUR EMOTIONS TO YOURSELF. Men have been coddled since birth. We have been socialized to believe that our emotions and feelings are much more important than time and space. The feminist movement requires nothing more than support, not the male emotion. The movement doesn’t exist to serve as a feel-good deed for self-proclaimed allies. It isn’t for men to insert themselves into a discourse that is so clearly about women. Allyship is speaking up, in the face of oppression; for women, against oppressors that look like you.
“Men are trash” shouldn’t trigger you. You should not feel attacked when women feel like all men are trash because as an ally, you understand the years of oppression and violence against women, which that statement encapsulates. You should not get defensive, because being an ally is not about words and theories. When it comes down to it, it is about all the ways you use your advantage of looking like the patriarchy to dismantle the patriarchy. When women say “men are trash”, it is not the time to scream “not all men” because it is not about you, it also not about those men. It is about women that have come to that conclusion because of the oppression they have faced. It is about women pointing out all of the ways they have been oppressed. Feminist allyship is in understanding systematic oppression and violence against women, acknowledging that your actions both directly, indirectly or as a group have enabled oppression and then, lending your voice to support the movement.
If at this point, you still fix your mouth to say ‘not all men’, YOU ARE NOT AN ALLY.
Fight the Patriarchy, not women. Men will never be able to understand what mansplaining feels like. We would never understand what it feels like to be relegated to domesticity, never taken seriously, constantly being talked over; do twice the work and get half the pay. No matter how much of an ally we claim to be, men will never be able to understand the full extent of the plight of women under patriarchy. What we can understand however is that the oppression of women is rooted in the female trope of being helpless and incapable of handling matters outside domestic duties. In plain English, If you are a feminist ally it should not be difficult to point out when mansplaining occurs, it should be very obvious when a woman is being regarded as nothing more than a sex object. There should be no confusion in the face of rape culture.
It is also not enough to be able to identify this, you need to be able to shut it down. Being an ally is calling out the men that propagate the oppression of women. It is pointing out that the man at the end of the room has spoken over a woman and possibly stolen her ideas. It is telling your boys that ‘waiting till she’s 18’ when she has not reached the age of consent, to have sex with a woman is grooming, it is pointing out that the woman your ‘bro’ keeps harassing has said no countless times. It is ensuring that he leaves her alone.
What being an ally is not, however, is joining the bandwagon of trolls to call out patriarchy princesses, when their actions are the direct result of patriarchal conditioning. You have not earned that right. You will never earn that right because you are part of the problem. Sit this one out. There are much better women capable of explaining why pick-me’s should desist from competing for the approval of men.
Focus on making it unacceptable for women to be bullied in public, in your families and in your workplaces. Disassociate yourselves from your rapist friends and make sure that they are held accountable for their actions. Communicate a clear stance on women’s issues. Also, make it clear that you will not tolerate sexist or misogynistic jokes in your circle.
STOP MANSPLAINING. You will never be an expert on women’s issues. You can read all the feminist theory there is, and while that helps, it still does not give you the right to co-opt the voices of women for approval. The very fact that you feel the need to speak over women on issues concerning women, reveals the misogyny ingrained in your conditioning.
Don’t enable rape culture with your silence. Being a feminist ally extends to real life, not just on social media. Check your rapist bros. It’s not enough to do the bare minimum for likes & retweets. It is not enough to sound smart and defend women online. If one in 1 in 3 women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime, it means that there’s a large number of predators in the world, some of which are your friends.
What use is being an online champion defender of women when you associate yourself with rapists?
Hammer it home to your friends. Let them know that they are not entitled to the attention of any woman. They are not entitled to a crease, a frown or a smile on the face of a woman. Tell your friends that you’ll call the police if they’re planning to lace the drinks at parties, Call the police if they do. Friendship shouldn’t be the reason a rapist is allowed to be free.
In the words of the great Mona Eltahawy, ‘Fuck the Patriarchy’. Fuck the Bro Code
Feminist discourse is inclusive of transwomen. If your allyship does not extend to transwomen, you are not an ally. Transphobic is more of an accurate description.
It is also not enough to say, ‘I know nothing of that oppression’ when Google exists. Feminism was built on the backs of black trans women and ignoring this, is disrespectful and downright hateful.
Transwomen are women and will always be women. You are not an ally if your allyship stops at cis-gendered women.
Feminism existed long before men got with the movement. It will exist and thrive without men. Perhaps you need to interrogate your inherent misogyny in thinking that a whole movement will be affected in any way without your support.
By: Ifeanyichukwu Ekwegbalu
Illustration by Maddy Pease