Not Enough: Being an Ally

A few weeks ago, this list of ways men can be allies to women was circulating all over Facebook. It’s an important read, just like Peggy McIntosh’s go-to piece on white privilege. But thinking about the privileges of one faction of society is not enough. We need to acknowledge that our struggles are intertwined. I fear that focusing on how men can be allies makes fighting patriarchy a woman’s issue, when it is really something we are all involved in.

The ally talk, while perhaps not as paternalistic as the concept of helping, does not get to the root of the matter. In struggles against oppression, we need to celebrate both solidarity and mutual aid. We don’t all have the same stakes in these battles but we ALL have much to gain from each other and from the destruction of oppressive systems.

Yes, men stand to gain the ability to express emotions in ways other than fighting. But they also have inherent stake in the liberation of women. I don’t believe a person is free while others (women, prisoners, the list goes on…) around them are not. Liberation accompanied by the oppression of others doesn’t sound quite right. As the Wobblies say, an injury to one is an injury to all.

I constantly struggle with all that I just said. I believe in caucuses. I think oppressed people’s deserve their own spaces. I also think that privileged peoples need their own spaces. But we can’t pretend that we don’t all have a lot to gain. We can’t continue to throw around the word ally and think we’ve found the answer.

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2 thoughts on “Not Enough: Being an Ally

  1. lexismanzara says:

    This is golden. I especially like what you said about men having an inherent stake in the matter – rather than the more restricted motive of what they could personally gain.

    I am all for rethinking the idea of an ally. To me an ally stands on the sidelines, waiting to be call upon, they are a reliable source of support – but we need to get past the framework of support. The men as allies model places men in an ancillary role in the fight against gender inequality. A major problem with that is that most of the burden and responsibility still falls on women – keeping it as a designated women’s issue.

    Instead of the movement being portrayed as men being a resource to women in their fight for equality, I would like it to be people working towards a universal goal of ending (gender) oppression.


  2. Love the piece Magda! It’s confusing to me what people mean when they say that they are allies. On one hand, I see people being allies, when they are not comfortable identifying with a struggle they don’t face with their own bodies — but instead want to be sure that they can help any way that they can. In that way I think having allies are important. But I definitely wonder about all the people who would consider themselves allies — yet without telling the people you want to help what you can do and how, some seem to get stuck because the oppressed people that may need their help aren’t always going to come to that person. In that way I see that allies can be a way of distancing yourself from causes. Your piece really got me thinking. I wonder in what ways can we come together to form groups that are set on being allies but not being on the sidelines, listeners, fighters, privileged people that can bring topics into spaces that usually avoid them etc. I agree completely that spaces are important, I think without them there will always be part of us that isn’t comfortable with our questions, our concerns and so on.

    Thanks again Magda!


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