Thursday, April 5, 2018

The meaning of being an ally and being accountable 1/5

The premise of this paper is that it is inappropriate for men to take on leadership roles in violence prevention. Being an ally means having a supporting role in relation to campaigns under women’s leadership rather than as leaders or equal partners.  This is because of men’s dominance and privilege and the structural gender inequalities within which men’s violence takes place. 
Ayvazian (1995: 1) defines an ally as ‘a member of a dominant group in our society who works to dismantle any form of oppression from which she or he receives the benefit’.  Similarly, Borshuk (2004) defines ally activism as ‘outgroup activism’, where those involved are not direct beneficiaries. This is to differentiate allies from beneficiary activists, which is a term coined by Myers (2008) to describe people whose interests are directly impacted by social movements.
Margaret (2010) raises the question whether it is possible to proclaim yourself as an ally, as opposed to be defined as such by those you are in solidarity with. The Women of Color Caucus (cited in Messner et al. 2015) advise men that their ally badge runs out at the end of the day and that they have to give it back and strive to earn it again each day.  Thus I argue that it is more appropriate for men to refer to themselves as ‘aspiring allies’, as this is a state of ongoing political and personal development. However, even with aspiring allies, there are differing motivations and orientations.
Edwards (2006) differentiates between aspiring allies for self interest, aspiring allies for altruism and aspiring allies for social justice. Aspiring allies for self interest see themselves primarily as protectors of women, especially the women they have personal relationships with. Aspiring allies for altruism see themselves primarily as heroes and rescuers who are endeavouring to assuage their guilt for the privilege they have. Whereas, aspiring allies for social justice understand their privilege and complicity in the reproduction of oppression and work towards gender equality. Male allies should strive for the latter form of alliance with women.
In support of this more progressive form of ally activism, Macomber (2006) offers seven tips for allies:
•  Remember that your role is to support beneficiary activists, not call the shots. 
• Listen to beneficiary activists and learn from them about the key issues the movement is confronting. 
• Ally activists should be reflective about the privilege and power that they bring to activist spaces. 
•  If you are interested in taking on a key activist role in the movement, ask beneficiary activists what they think it should look like and who can best serve the movement. 
•  Create space to do ‘ally accountability work’ where beneficiary activists can hold you accountable and tell you about how your privilege ‘shows up’ in the movement.
• Be open and receptive to feedback and critique and resist the impulse to get defensive. 
•  Although it is important for beneficiary activists to be able to tell allies how their privilege shows up, it is important that beneficiary activists do not shoulder all of the responsibility for teaching allies about their privilege.
There are parallels between men becoming aspiring allies against men’s violence and white people becoming aspiring  anti-racist allies (Kessaris 2006; Green and Sonn 2006; Sonn and Green 2006). Anti-racist activists also talk about the ways in which white allies may unwittingly perpetuate racism and colonialism. They also emphasise the importance of allies critically interrogating their privilege as a necessary precondition to being allies. Similarly, in relation to gay politics, aspiring straight allies explore how to address their homophobia and heterosexual privilege as part of the process of becoming allies to GBLTI people (Berkowitz 2004; Eichlet 2007; Jip 2007).

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