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.