Ok boys, listen up. We really need to step it up when it comes to male behaviour in the feminist movement. Allies are becoming a real irritation and if we want to help in the creation of a more egalitarian world for the genders, we need to do better than we are.
I am not here to point out people’s bad behaviour, or try to attack you. What I am writing about today is how we men can do more for gender equality. We have a lot to offer, and here I think I have some ways we can be better allies.
One of the easiest things to say we understand, and yet one of the hardest things to truly understand is the privileged position we men have. Many men can acknowledge that women are institutionalized as second class citizens, but miss out on the qualia of it. Because of our gender, we have had thousands, millions, of small interactions that were unfair to us and detrimental to women.
When you see statistics like how women make 75 cents (In the US even more for black and hispanic women) to every dollar a man makes, keep in mind that quarter is not just something they’re owed, It is something we men have collectively stolen. I think in many ways it’s a fantasy to think we can make an egalitarian society without surrendering some of our ill-gotten gains. This means that men may need to be rejected from more jobs, get paid less, or in many ways surrender some power to the other genders.
As a male, you have an amount of power in society that women do not, and you can use this power in order to make a more egalitarian world. One of the most important things you can do is just politely shut up once in a while. A man in a public space is going to be listened to more than a woman, and so instead of speaking, take the opportunity to buck this discrepancy and let women speak.
This is not a new thing to say, but it is important to know that it is not a judgment on you. We as men get unfair amount of attention, and by surrendering it to women you are surrendering a bit of your privilege to help a good cause. It’s not as if you’re letting them speak, they have the full autonomy to do so. But your being considerate in a very inconsiderate world can go a long way.
Another thing to know about our privilege as men is that it shapes our perspective. We have never been women, so it is important to know that they will see things, interpret things, and endure things we are incapable of understanding. Many of us have no knowledge of fear walking home at night, at living in a climate where if you are sexually violated you would be blamed for it, or having that violation be the butt of a joke. This part I never quite understood men’s inhibitions about, but just give women the benefit of the doubt on these things. You know you can’t understand, that does not mean you can’t be supportive.
How else can you help out the feminist cause? A little introspection wouldn’t hurt. Realize that you might have problematic thoughts and opinions of your own.
We don’t like to self-vilify, that is understandable. Ask any addict, and you will know that admitting the problem is the first step to recovery. You grew up in a misogynistic culture like we all did. You are not an island. A simple apology followed by a little rumination over how you think could really go far.
Then you need to bring that thinking out in action. Guys, we all know that in all-male circles you realize just how little progress feminism has made on a lot of men. It is in these contexts you can do the most good for feminist causes. It might not be easy to tell a friend that a rape joke isn’t funny, or that the girl in the bar is more than mere body parts, but this is when you have a real chance to do good.
Don’t just be silent supporters. Feminist groups are a welcoming place for allies, and getting out there and doing something for the cause will go a long way.
Do not, however, join an organization to pick up women. The reputation of male feminists has been in trouble as of late, with men taking up feminist activism with the desire to pick up women. It’s a real trend and very grotesque. The fullest perversion of what feminism is about. Basically, don’t so anything any man in this Jezebel article does.
Embrace the labels. One of the hardest things to do in fighting patriarchal ideas is that many are trying to make dirty the word feminist. Realize that there are injustices that affect men too (not to give MRA’s real credit) because of patriarchy.
So there you go, be male, be a feminist, and be proud. If we’re going to call ourselves allies, we best start acting like it.