Siren Song Like a War Cry


allies: lesson one

Disclaimer: I am only one womyn, my ideas of what a good ally looks like are not complete or perfect. These are my ideas, which have been carefully considered and learned through experience. However, I am not the voice of God. 

Allies are extremely important. Allies can protect womyn from serious harm at the hands of supposed comrades by showing their support for womyn fighting against oppression. The question is how. It can be difficult to distinguish between the privilege and acting as an ally when one has been raised in a culture of sexism and oppression. 

 

Consider Your Privilege

Actively and consciously consider the privileges you are relinquishing in trade for the downfall of patriarchy. Think about how operating as a male in this society benefits you directly, and how that makes you feel. Consider how it will feel to give up those privileges. Some of those privileges you have no control over, such as employment opportunities. However, there are some that you have direct control over. Think of the way you address people, the intricacies of your presentation of masculinity, the space you take up, the way that you posture your body. 

 

Also consider the ways in which patriarchy and masculinity restricts your ability to be a free and autonomous person. That will be personal and individual to each person. These things are important to consider, because the more in touch with what privilege looks like for you, what masculinity looks like for you, and what you are giving up, the less inclined towards defensive behavior you will be when being asked to be accountable to behavior. 

 

Get Called Out

Everyone makes mistakes. It’s inevitable, growing up in this awful, oppressive culture. We will be constantly making mistakes and working to fix them. If you are truly committed to ending sexism within yourself and society, then getting called out is the first step. But for this to happen, you must maintain a reputation for being easy to talk to about masculinity and privilege. Womyn spend every waking hour in an oppressive society, radical womyn spend every day engaged in subversive combat against patriarchy simply to keep our sanity. Fighting against our comrades to get them to recognize their behavior is one of the most draining tasks of anarcho-feminism.

 

When you’re being called out, just listen. That doesn’t mean maintain absolute silence. It means listen. If your first response is that they’re wrong, question that response heavily and wait to debate the nuances until you’ve decided that your knee-jerk reaction isn’t defensiveness. Keep in mind that in many circumstances, the womyn calling you out is talking about the way your behavior made her feel, and those feelings won’t simply go away because you told her she was wrong. Even if she is wrong, this is still about how she feels. Trust what she is saying as her own experience, it may be different from your experience, but trust it as hers. Your reality is not the reality. 

 

Solidarity

Men standing in solidarity with womyn fighting against oppression can be difficult to navigate. Solidarity doesn’t mean co-opting, overrunning, overpowering or acting as a vanguard and protector of womyn from sexism. However, there are times when a male voice can be very helpful. If you see a womyn trying to call out a man who’s being extremely difficult and defensive, even the simple act of nodding in response to her statements can make her feel as though she is supported in her actions. A well placed “Dude, she’s right, listen to her.” or “You’re being really defensive right now, you need to stop and listen to what she’s saying.” can make a world of difference in a conversation. Men are much more likely to listen to another man than they are a womyn, which is a facet of sexism. Allies can use their privilege to subvert this function of patriarchy without overrunning or silencing the womyn who is conducting the call out. 

 

When in doubt, ask. Check in with your womyn comrades about organizing, meetings, house behavior, and ask them how they feel about you and your behavior. Ask what you could do differently. Ask what they need from you if they’re in a position of leadership with a project. It isn’t womyn’s responsibilities to teach you how to be proper men, but it isn’t wrong to ask them how they personally feel when organizing and in any other circumstances. 

 

 

It is not lifestylism to say the revolution starts at home. We must first change ourselves, deconstruct the lessons drilled into our heads by our indoctrination into a capitalist culture, and begin to free our minds from the shackles of oppression before we can ever create a truly liberated world. The lessons of oppression taught to us will not disappear after the revolution, we will continue to carry them with us in our hearts and minds unless we do something to fight against them. And that, my love, is the revolution.

 

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

thank you so much for writing this. and for everything you write.

i think for men, particularly for revolutionary men who might want to think they’re “better” than sexism/patriarchy for some reason, not getting defensive when being called out is highly important.

i find that if you ASK (verbally and vocally) to be called out on oppressive behavior, then when it happens, you’re less likely to get defensive because you’re just getting what you asked for.

stating intent as an ally can go a long way towards subverting your own aversion to “dealing with your shit” (as we so often call it).

Comment by Dirty Hands

i’m helping plan an anarchist book fair soon, in Tacoma, WA (which you both are invited to by the way), and one of the questions that came up was whether we were going to have a “consent workshop”. Now, ive been to about six of these before and i’m sick of them now. Id rather not plan for one. But I know some over-excited anarchist dude probably needs it. and if it means sacrificing collaboration time to learn consent, to stop somebody from getting forceful about their putting their junk somewhere, then its worth it.

But i also feel like ive had consent drilled into me so much that fears about being oppressive have prevented me from real relationships with other people. Consent is sexy, but it’s misused in my experience. I had some friends who were running a womyns’ support group and consent workshops, and they were using those tools in the wrong circumstances. Like calling men out on things just to mess with them, and then saying they were testing their malebodied friends out later. One time I was on the receiving end of that, and told I was flirting oppressively, only to be told I was just being fucked with later. The person apologized and said they needed someone to “practice” their womens’ group skills on, and they chose me because i was easy to talk to. To me that was the most bullshit sex joke a friend ever played on me – straight out of the SCUM playbook.

If you’re being called out, you have to listen. But calling people out wrongly will confuse friendships and really fuck with your friends’ heads. Malebodies and femalebodies both need to unlearn patriarchy.

Comment by lettrist




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