Male Ally Tips – Things You Can Do Every Day!
By Stephen Adler, Prevention Education Specialist – Rape Victim Advocates
- Watch how much space you take up. Often when we are sitting on the train or bus, men tend to take up more space than women. In some cases, it may be because we are physically bigger than women, but in others it is an unearned (and unnoticed) sense of entitlement. When you ride the train, compare and contrast how much space men take up versus women. Remember that your size can be intimidating.
- Learn to step back... From an early age, boys are encouraged to voice our opinions and to speak when we feel something needs to be said. However, that can lead us to dominate a conversation or meeting. Instead, practice not talking. Let others, particularly female-identified people, speak first. If they have said something you thought about saying, you don’t need to echo it.
- …and to step up! Use your voice for good – when you hear other men telling a sexist joke, or statements that support rape myths, or words that belittle survivors of domestic and sexual violence, interject! You’ll be surprised at how effective (and appreciated!) a statement such as “I really don’t think that (joke/comment/remark) is funny” really is.
- Attend feminist events. If male-identified people are welcomed at the space, show your support by attending talks by feminist authors, film screenings by female filmmakers, and concerts with feminist performers.
- Support feminist media. Go one step further – if we want to put a stop to rape culture, we need to work on dismantling it. Supporting alternatives to mainstream, corporate-owned media is imperative. Get a subscription to Bitch magazine, buy albums of feminist performers and buy tickets to movies that feature strong female leads and/or positive depictions of gender non-conforming folks. As the old saying goes, “money talks”- if companies see these movies doing well they are more likely to continue making them!
- Volunteer! If you have the time, volunteer for a rape crisis or domestic violence center. Men NEED to be doing this work. Most of the time violence is perpetrated, a man is the perpetrator. This is not being anti-male, it’s just being honest. Call your local rape crisis or domestic violence center and find out how you can help. You may not be able to work directly with survivors, but you can do prevention work – which involves talking to other men – and that is equally important.
- Make your space feminist. We don’t want to take up more space than necessary, but rather, to make the space we do take up feminist. If you work in an office, push for a sexual assault 101 training. Hang up posters in your cubicle that are supportive of gender-equality. If you’re a member of a fraternity, do a service project that benefits a local rape crisis or DV center. It’s possible to do this in any space – not just the social work field!
- Be an active bystander. Obviously if we see a sexual assault taking place we should intervene, as anyone would do. However, sexual violence exists on a continuum. Verbal street harassment and groping are also forms of sexual violence, though they are commonly accepted. If you see a man talking to a woman on the train, ask the woman if the man is bothering her. When you see a man taking upskirt pictures on his iPhone, tell him that is not only illegal but wrong. If a man grabs a woman, tell him, in your own words, to leave her alone. Most of these behaviors continue because the men who perpetrate the actions feel justified since they have never had another man call them out on it. Equally important, we want to think of our own safety – intervene if you feel comfortable, but we’re not superheroes, nor do we want to feel that just because we are men we need to be “strong” enough to fix everything. Taking your own safety account is imperative!
- Reflect the type of masculinity you want to see in the world. If we want to break the association of masculinity and violence, we need to portray the type of masculinity we want to see. This means allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, being nurturing and supportive of children, taking responsibility for our actions, and apologizing when we’ve hurt someone’s feelings. It also means supporting men who are “outside the gender box,” as well as supporting women and gender non-conforming folks. If we continue to harbor the negative qualities of masculinity, we can’t effectively change it.
- Be accountable. Finally, recognize the ways that you are being oppressive. Always keep yourself in check. Being an ally means being accountable to feminists and to female-identified and gender non-conforming people. Though we may have the best of intentions, it is common to make mistakes. That’s how privilege works, after all – we will always be unlearning sexism. Being an ally is a lifelong process, and you’ve started on the road to making the world a safer place for women and girls (as well as boys and men!). That should be commended. However, we do not deserve praise for doing the work we should be doing; for taking responsibility. Make sure you are self-critical, self-aware, and knowledgeable about your words and actions.