This Is How Men Can Become Better Feminist Allies
Feminism, at its core, is the belief that women are deserving of every fundamental right men have. Some argue that a man cannot truly be a feminist since men benefit from male privilege and can't truly sympathize with women's issues.
As a result, the term “feminist ally” has become the established moniker used to represent men who appreciate feminist values and believe women should possess equal rights to men.
How does one become a feminist ally? All it takes is some education and a voice. Too many men are intimidated or afraid to approach the subject of feminism because they believe they'll be berated for it -- either by other men or by women who don't believe men can be feminists.
But if you, a man, believe that men and women should be equal (and if you don't, what kind of d-bag are you?), these are some of the supportive measures you can take to become a better feminist ally.
1. Get educated.
On your commute to work or during your lunch break, take a look at some articles regarding feminism and/or women's rights and learn more about what feminism is and what it isn't, since the subject is a very large one comprised of many parts, which easily gets convoluted.
“Mansplaining,” for instance, is something a guy might not even know he's doing, but is considered offensive. This occurs when a guy explains something to someone (typically a woman) in a way that is condescending or patronizing, which is common when discussing sports, manual labor and other things traditionally associated with men.
2. Don't expect to impress women by supporting feminism.
Don't be the guy who declares himself a feminist and believes he should be thrown a parade. It's one thing to say you're a feminist, but it's another to actually be one.
A feminist ally treats women they meet in person, online and through apps with the same respect they expect back. You know what that means? No dick pics or sexually suggestive pickup lines. Unless she asks for them, of course.
3. Call out other men.
Once you've become familiarized with women's issues, bring these ideas up with your buddies -- not in a preachy way, but in passing conversation. Let them know that you're not OK with your buddy calling the girl who turned him down a slut or that the joke about abortion wasn't funny.
I almost got in a fight when a female friend of mine was called a “slut” as she was leaving a bar because some guy was butthurt that she was doing fine without him. To make sure what I heard was correct, I asked, “What did you say to her?” And thus began a verbal altercation. As you will find/have found, calling out other men can turn to violence and it's up to you to determine if it's worth it.
Due to their inherent privilege, men can challenge other men in a way women can't and this is a position where men can use their power for good. Planting seeds like this will only help widen people's perspectives.
4. Support feminist and female media.
Is your iPod comprised of primarily male artists? Diversify, dude! Open yourself up to new perspectives by watching films written and directed by women, read articles written by female writers, listen to music performed by female artists and appreciating the artwork of female artists, like Jeanette Hayes or Grace Miceli.
Not doing so isn't necessarily intentionally sexist, but it is keeping you from materials that can assist in better understanding the opposite sex.
5. Practice consent.
Men often believe that silence is consent by default, but this isn't the case. The absence of a no isn't a yes -- especially if it seems like you're coercing her into doing something she's not positive she wants or when she's drunk. Practice what's called “enthusiastic consent” which simply means she gives you “enthusiastic” (as in, like, she's into it) permission to do something.
This phrase also means that saying yes to one thing doesn't translate to yes for everything. For example, yes to vaginal penetration doesn't also mean yes to anal penetration.
It isn't rocket science, guys. Make sure that when you initiate sex, she actually wants to have sex and you aren't coercing her to do so.
You should also make her orgasm as much of a priority as yours. Do this by checking in with your partner to ensure she's enjoying herself and have open discussions about your sexual desires.
6. Believe the victim.
This is pretty straightforward. Instead of assuming the accused is innocent until proven guilty, support the victim. While it's true that women have falsely accused men of such allegations, these cases are an extreme rarity so make the smart decision and favor the likely truth.
It takes courage to “come out” as a victim and doing so can place a target on her back, making her susceptible to even more abuse from naysayers or friends of the accused. Do the less expected thing and lower your metaphorical gun. Stand with her.
7. Support a woman's right to choose.
It's important to note here that if it deals with her body, it's her choice. Whether your partner gets pregnant, your female friend has sex with dozens of dudes in any given month or she's waiting to have sex until marriage, it's a woman's right to decide what she does with her body.
This kind of thing especially includes her decision to raise a child, have an abortion or give a child up for adoption. It's also her choice to sleep with as many and as few men as she wants. As well as eat and dress however she wants.
8. Drop phrases steeped in sexism.
There are so many phrases that degrade women but have become so standard in conversation over the years that we've become desensitized and no longer notice how offensive they are. Things like “Don't be such a bitch” or “You throw like a girl” are both examples of inappropriate comments you should eliminate from your vocabulary.
Cast an educated vote. Politicians are all over the map with regards to women's rights and it's your duty to familiarize yourself with the political villains and vote against them. Make sure that the votes you cast further the feminist movement toward equality.
10. Be responsible for contraception.
When in a relationship with a woman, don't make contraception something she's solely responsible for. Wear a damn condom and don't complain about it. If she prefers a particular method of contraception, let her choose that method.
Female contraception is a lot more complicated than yours, so make sure you support the decisions she makes. Birth control can be expensive, so if you're in a relationship and that's her preferred method, offer to split the bill. After all, she's doing this to keep you both from becoming unexpected parents.
11. Don't be a bystander.
If you witness a woman getting harassed online or off, do something about it. Don't let abusive people get away with their actions. How? Like I mentioned earlier, call these guys out -- online and off. Explain why their comments were chauvinistic or in poor taste. It might cause short-term conflict, but it could keep these people from doing so again, making it ultimately worthwhile.
12. Befriend women.
Because whoever said men and women can't be friends is a closed-minded pervert. By being platonic pals with a woman, you reinforce the idea that women aren't just sexual objects. And by listening to her and learning about her experiences, you better understand your own male privilege.
These are all little things that will have a big impact. It's 2016 and at the very, very least, women should be given the same respect men are. For now, the best we can do is support women in their fight to become equal, as this battle isn't ours to have. But by supporting feminists and becoming allies in the movement, we can certainly help steer things in the right direction.