November 26, 2014
Building a Culture of Male Allies
These strands of my identity which I have had little control over are swollen with privilege. Privilege I did not earn, and privilege I do not necessarily deserve. An entire cast of unknown human beings, some of whose faces I see in my own from worn black and white photographs in my childhood home, stand behind me. Yes I worked hard in college and graduate school, but my privilege was always there helping me along. I do not feel guilty about this fact of my life, and it wasn’t until I had been on this earth for 20 something years before I realized it was even there. Yes, I have had a nascent intuition for injustice from a young age, but it wasn’t until I spent two years in the Dominican Republic as a service missionary for the Mormon Church that I began to see the waters I had swum in my whole life. From then on, I have tried to better understand my privilege, and to use it for good in the world. That is one of the ironies of privilege however, we get to choose to pay attention to it or not, to try to reverse its negative consequences or not; to listen to the survivors of violence that do not share our privilege or not.
One of the ways I have engaged my privilege is by volunteering at the Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC). I do this not only to put my privilege to work by supporting the efforts of feminists and anti-gender violence activists within my community of UBC, but also to put myself in a position where my privilege can be challenged and reshaped. At the SASC I do a lot of listening. I am not in charge on anything, I basically do support work for the wonderful staff.
But just because I am actively engaging my white male privilege, doesn’t mean I get to call myself a feminist, or even have anything to say about what feminism should be. As an aspiring male feminist and ally, I find it completely acceptable to be on a sort of feminist probation. As men we do not define feminism, we do not speak for it and we do not speak as feminists. We speak as men who support feminism by speaking to other men about their sexist or discriminatory behavior. Feminism is not a credential, it is not a toy, or a bargaining chip, and it is not an object that we flash at parties or on dates. Male feminism is not worthy of praise or special treatment. Male feminism is probation. It is a seed we plant in our hearts and in our cultural soil. It is an orientation that must guide our thinking and our behavior. It is a tool we use to examine our lives for invisible layers of privilege and discrimination we carry into the world and knowingly or unknowingly perpetuate with our bodies. This is what it means to build a culture of male allies. It means that as men we are seeking to dismantle a culture of ingrained gender violence that runs deep into our relationship, behavior, ethics, norms and the ways in which we raise our sons.
Here are some ways you can start or continue this work:
· Put yourself in situations where you interact with people from different backgrounds from you and listen
· Support the work of community activists with your time or resources.
· Reject racist, sexist, ableist language from your fellow males.
· Confront in whatever way you can men in your community that act aggressively toward women.
There are also a host of resources available for those who want to help build this culture:
· First, flip through a couple dozen of these questions to realize just how deeply male privilege affects the way you move through the world. studyclerk.com/blog/the-male-privilege-checklist
· Then, check out how this privilege is acted out by men in the world toward women.
· Then watch this excellent Jackson Kats talk which shows why the gender violence that results from this male-dominated culture is a men’s issue. youtube.com/watch?v=KTvSfeCRxe8
– Which he follows up with a great set of actions we can take. Ten things men can do to prevent gender violence
· Once youre on board, consider this great check list of ways you can be a better feminist. huffingtonpost.com/aaminah-khan/10-ways-to-be-a-better-male-feminist_b_4227969.html
· Then, make sure that CONSENT is a key word in ALL your interactions with women.
· Then, check out what other men are doing to become better allies, like Performance Artist Jeremy Loveday.
Masks Off– A challenge to Men
· BUT, before you get all self-congratulatory, read this: http://feministcurrent.com/7798/the-trouble-with-male-allies/