How To Be A Male Ally Without 'Mansplaining'

How To Be A Male Ally Without 'Mansplaining'

Learn to amplify our voices, and don't talk over us.

I will be the first to admit that the feminist movement needs male allies. Feminism thrives on unity, even in the face of our less-than-unified American government. As an intersectional feminist, I think it is important to view our world through a lens that incorporates all aspects of privilege and oppression, including race, gender, economic status, ability, etc. In order for feminism to have an impact on modern culture, it needs to be expansive and inclusive of all people from all walks of life. So yes, I think men can and should be involved in the feminist movement. We are always stronger together.

Even in these trying times of political disunity, I have seen many male allies take a stand against sexism, support women when they are attacked with hateful rhetoric, and make an honest, if imperfect, attempt to be educated on important issues. I have seen my father make tremendous strides towards a better understanding of feminism and stand up to family members who repost hate speech and target women with opposing viewpoints. I have seen my brother stand up to his friends, my teachers encourage female students to speak in class, and more.

In this way, I have seen that the voices of men have a unique impact on modern feminism and how it is perceived. Where sometimes the voices of women are overlooked or belittled, men can do a lot to amplify those voices. Men can stand up to other men. Men can walk shoulder-to-shoulder with women, and support us in our fight for equality. Men have the potential to do amazingly positive things for the feminist movement. And I truly believe that all male allies want to do what is best for the women of our world.

But I also have to be honest when I say there is a time and a place for a male ally to speak on feminist issues, and even when a male ally has good intentions and has the correct information, feminists are not required to relinquish their platform so that a well-intentioned man can speak. And it is disrespectful to feminists everywhere for a man to take the place of a woman in a discussion on women’s rights.

This is where the term “mansplaining” often pops up.

But what is “mansplaining?” Mansplaining is, in its purest form, a man taking a woman’s place at the podium. It is a man needlessly replicating, dumbing down, or belittling the voices of women in a conversation about women’s rights. While mansplaining often occurs in a wide variety of conversations, like explaining medical science to a doctor or comic books to a woman in a comic book store, the topic most relevant for this discussion is women’s rights. So many times have I seen men speak over the voices of women in a conversation that isn’t even about them. And again, even if their facts and intentions are good, it isn’t their place.

In no way am I saying that the best thing male allies can do is sit down and shut up — far from it. What I am saying, though, is that there is specific work that male allies can do, and it doesn’t involve inserting your opinion in place of a woman’s, or dumbing down her argument for an online DudeBro. What you can do, though, is stand up to men using “locker-room talk.” Call out your friend for cat-calling, or walk your female friend to her car if it’s dark out.

Instead of being frustrated that you have male privilege and wish you didn’t, use your privilege to do the work that only you can do. Use your position to support and defend and amplify.

But how does one “amplify” the voices of women without being a jerk? Online, often that means you reblog instead of post. In person, that means you stand up for women when they are interrupted, rather than getting into a discussion with the man who interrupted them, which, while good-intentioned, is still not allowing that woman a place to speak. It means that when a female student makes a point in class and a male student interrupts her to say the same thing, you acknowledge that, and don’t attribute any credit to him for restating her point. It means that when there is a discussion on women’s rights, you don’t just interject your opinion; you listen first and talk second.

And listening, perhaps, is the most important thing you can do. When you are caught mansplaining (and believe me, it happens even to the most well-intentioned), and a woman calls you on it and tells you to listen instead of talk, you actually need to do that. You are only as good an ally as you are a listener.

You do have a place in the feminist movement. All we ask is that you are aware of your privilege and that you seek to amplify instead of argue.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.

It won't.

Wait, what?

SEE ALSO: To My Closeted Self, I Have Something To Tell You

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. (Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.)

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town. Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community. I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK. What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives. What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all. Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back; same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others. As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being. My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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The Night We Never Spoke Of

It was then that you took advantage of me.

This article contains sensitive information regarding sexual assault that may be triggering to some.

It happened when I was still convinced of my immortality. Between the years of childish exuberance and adolescent rage, I spent my mornings counting crows as you and I bit into the lush skin of ripe guavas on your neighbor’s lawn. Our innocent adventures by the Himalayan terrains eventually transformed into blissful nights in New York City over shared nostalgia. It was a time before I had seen the world—a time when the universe could be condensed into the several blocks between your street and my avenue. It was then that you took advantage of me.

Me, a seven or eight old girl—I cannot remember. Can you?

Before adulthood routinized 1 a.m. anxieties, 1 a.m. was an ungodly hour that I witnessed only on rare occasions. I will never forget the glaring red of your digital clock reading 1:03 as your fingers dug into my flesh. The silence deafening, I finally understood why my mother feared the darkness. Your fingertips were the monsters that manifested in the dark. Your hands were crude ghosts guiding my humiliation.

I tried to resist you, but you were stronger. You made me feel you as you felt me. You felt like rubber.

Your friends were sprawled out next to us, some snoring lightly on the floor and others on your mother’s couch. I could have awoken the world with the softest noise if I tried. Yet you trusted that I would remain silent, and I did, then and for 11 years thereafter.

I stared at the white of your ceiling that night until the pain became too palpable to ignore. They tell us girls to be vocal, to say no, and to fight for our dignities, but they do not realize that fear is the most paralyzing sensation of them all. It took what felt like an eternity to fight the dryness in my throat and tell you that it hurt—please stop. I could feel the disappointment in your gesture as you let me go and rolled over to your other side of the sheets. I was overcome with shame.

The next day, we continued rollerblading in Evergreen Park the way we always did as if nothing had happened. You went on as if you had not made me fall asleep next to you in tears, as if you had not caused a pain more scorching than the scraped knees we had endured when we fell from mango trees back home.

I had so many questions for you. I wondered if that was what people did to each other when they cared about each other. You had always been a brotherly figure to me, guiding me through the slippery slopes of childhood. Your apathy made me wonder if my experience had been a mere hallucination. I would grit my teeth in dismay and eye you from afar in silent, suppressed rage and wonder.

How could you do it? I was seven or eight and incredibly naïve. If anybody asked me to identify my clitoris, I would stare blankly into their eyes, not knowing the answer. It sounded like a beautiful and faraway galaxy that men could exploit but never conquer. If they asked me whether somebody had touched me in an unwanted place without invitation and forced my hands into territories it did not seek to explore, I would vigorously nod my head and guide them to you.

Guilty as charged and freely roaming the world, you are unaware of the repercussions of your fleeting decision. Do you still bear the moral burden of your action? Does your conscience lead you back to that night and taint your head with remorse? You had no right.

I suffered the pain of silence because I didn’t know any better. I let that night become the night we never spoke of. I let myself endure the immobilizing agony of terror through the dark and uncertain nights that I was forced to see you during family gatherings and dinners. I locked myself in rooms with hostile tears pouring down my cheeks and became distrustful of the dark. I spent years wondering if I had failed you, but it was you who failed me. You failed the world, stripping it of its beauty years before I ought to have realized how callous it truly is.

If you are reading this, you know who you are. But please—do not be concerned. I am better now; I am enraged and I carry my passion within these clenched fists that you once thought you could control. I will no longer let that night be the night we never speak of.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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