11 Ways Men Can Be Better Feminist Allies
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1) Educate yourself. One summer, in high school, I literally read every book the library had about feminism. You don’t have to go that far, but a familiarity with concepts like male privilege, slut-shaming, and rape culture can give you a lot more understanding of how gender works.
2) Don’t be that asshole. Don’t assume that the women in the room have no idea what they’re talking about regarding gender. (If they clearly don’t, well, see #4.) Don’t expect to be thrown a parade because you’ve decided to vote pro-choice. Don’t forget that most men are not feminists and that many feminists are survivors of rape or abuse, and that you’re not sending out Beacons of Awesomeness that show that everyone has to trust you. Check your privilege.
3) Talk to your male friends. It’s sad but true: For a lot of people, men have more credence when talking about gender issues than women do. If your friend tells a rape joke or says that women just aren’t as good at science as men are, challenge them on it. A lot of times, people can’t think of anything to say in the moment; if that’s you, prepare comebacks in advance so you know exactly what to say when it comes up. Even if you forget in the moment, a simple “that’s not cool, dude” can go a long way.
4) Challenge your female friends. A lot of people say that men shouldn’t tell women when they’re being misogynistic. That’s crap. There are plenty of sexist women in the world and they should not get a free pass. If your friend starts snarking about a fat woman or saying that she’s so much better than all those silly other women that are only concerned about their hair and boys, tell her she’s full of it. Other women will thank you.
5) Consume media made by women. A lot of people listen to music made by men, read books written by men, watch movies directed by and starring men—without even realizing it. That’s stupid! It neglects women’s voices and experiences; besides, think of all the amazing talent you’re missing because of their gender. If you like comics, try Alison Bechdel or Gail Simone; if you like movies, look for Kathryn Bigelow or the late Nora Ephron; if you appreciate music, add some Bikini Kill or Nicki Minaj to your playlists.
6) Practice good consent. The general rule is that all sex should be sex that everyone involved wants. I know you, personally, would never have sex with someone who said no, but good consent goes far beyond that. Talk openly and honestly with your partner(s) about your and their sexual desires. Check in when your partner seems to not be enjoying themselves. Eschew pressure and coercion. And the same applies to you—if you’re being pressured or coerced or not having your consent respected, you are not in a healthy relationship.
7) Believe the survivor. It’s true that occasionally people falsely accuse other people of rape or abuse. This is very rare, however, and time spent figuring out the truth is time not spent supporting the survivor. Also, if there is a rapist or abuser in your social group, don’t take “I don’t do drama” as a reason to keep hanging out with them. Not being invited to parties is not a cruel and unusual punishment, and most rapists are repeat rapists. You can keep them from doing it again.
8) Support women’s bodily autonomy. On a political level, of course, one should fight pro-life initiatives, attempts to de-fund Planned Parenthood, forced sterilization efforts, etc. On a personal level, of course, it’s almost more important. If your partner gets pregnant, it’s up to her whether or not to have an abortion, give the child up for adoption, or raise the kid. Her body, her rules. If a woman is having sex with hundreds of people, don’t call her a dirty slut; if she’s a virgin until marriage, don’t call her a prude. Her body, her rules. If she weighs more than you think she should, don’t call her fat or tell her to go on a diet; if she weighs less, don’t tell her to eat a sandwich. It’s her body and, ultimately, what makes her comfortable in it is what matters.