In the wake of Stanford, my own recent experiences, and the long awaited drop of the Not In Our House Article I have had a lot of wonderful, kind, feminist men seek me out to ask how they can be better allies. I am not an expert, and this list is not exhaustive, but here are some thoughts–jump on in Feminist friends–let’s talk about how to make it better:
1. Be a feminist. Talk about feminism. Call yourself a feminist. Say the actual word. If you can, find a chair, stand on it and shout, “I AM A FEMINIST.” Ask women what feminism means to them. Ask yourself what feminism means to you. Join the revolution.
2. Understand, and use, your power. The world is not equal. That’s a goal and a dream, not a thing we’ve achieved. Emulate Sir Pat in the attached photo. Here are a few examples of what I mean:
a. I can go out to the bar with my lady friends, and a fella can approach them and make them uncomfortable. When I (because you better believe it’s not an “if”, it’s a “when”) say, “Hey man, she’s not interested, step off.” 98% the time I will be ignored. If you, a gent, says that to another fella, 98% of the time, you will be heard.
b. Talk about how much you are paid. Be comfortable talking about how much you are paid. And if you find out that your women colleagues are paid less–start asking why. Literally–ask everyone. In your out-loud voice. Ask them, ask your HR Manager, ask your fellow employees–make the people who could change it face the fact that the truthful answer to, “Why?” is that your lady colleagues are not men.
c. When your women friends are dealing with some patriarchal bullshit, name it. Call it what it is. We’ve been taught to accept a lot of things, we’ve been told it’s impolite to be angry. Don’t accept that. Tell us it’s OK to be angry. Remind us that we’re dealing with patriarchal bullshit every moment of our lives.
3. Educate yourself. There are so many resources out there. If you don’t have the time or energy to read all the books, then start in these two really excellent but pretty basic places:
4. When a woman is upset about a thing, listen. Just listen. Don’t offer advice unless she asks for it. Don’t try to parse things out for her unless she asks you to. Just listen. We are so often unheard. And, frankly, any sentence that starts, “Well, when I’ve been in that position…” is already moot because you haven’t. You haven’t been in the position that she’s in. Cause she’s a woman, and the world treats her differently.
5. This is the most important one my friends. This one changes lives. In this one you can either be the hand that pulls your women friends out of a hole or you can be part of the problem: If a woman tells you she’s been, or is being abused in any way–believe her. Don’t ask her what she was wearing. Don’t ask her how old she was. Don’t ask her whether she was drinking. Don’t look for extenuating circumstances. Just believe her.
6. Understand your privilege and your contribution. When you ask your women friends how their day was and they say, “Oof, dude, I have dealt with some patriarchal bullshit today.” start your reply by saying, “Jesus. I’m sorry.”
7. Are you a storyteller? Awesome. I love storytellers. I come from a long line of storytellers. Tell womens’ stories. Tell stories written by women. Find women who are telling stories and watch them, listen to them, publicize them, share them. Start contributing to a culture where women get to be protagonists, where women get to be heroes.
Be the change you want to see in the world.