Monday, March 13, 2017

The Danger of False Allies

The internet is quite literally full of articles about the right way and the wrong way to be a feminist right now, especially after this weekend.

For the record, transgender women are women. Full stop.

Any argument people attempt to make about how they have/still benefit from male privilege ignores the anecdotal and statistical evidence that says otherwise.

Trans women are one of the most marginalized groups of people in this society, the most likely to be the victims of violence.

So, let's just not have that conversation, please.

~~~~~~throws things~~~~~~

What I'm here to write about, and what I will try to be as brief as humanly possible about in this discussion, is the reality that our society is full of false allies right now.

I can see some of you cringing at the mention of those two words together already.

We see it in white feminism all the time, where white women center the conversations around their needs, their concerns, their issues, far too often at the expense of women of color, at the expense of trans women, at the expense of anyone who doesn't feel at home wearing a pink pussy hat.

p.s. not all women have vaginas, not all vaginas are pink, and really can we not??? I mean, I get that whole wanting to reclaim the word thing and how the focus is on that simply because the guy we just elected to the highest office in the land is a proud grabber and bragger of grabbing them, but can we not?

Feminism that holds that up as the center ignores women, silences them, tells them that they aren't women, that their concerns are not at the forefront or even welcome at all.

I really don't want to talk about feminism, though, because this issue is so much larger than that (and feminism is a pretty fucking big deal, so what I'm talking about must be virtually constant and legitimately dangerous, right? Right.)


Seriously. I cannot focus today. This is my brain on ADHD and anxiety and I need to go teach a group of LGBTQ+ kids to meditate in an hour and I haven't showered so freaking focus, self.


The False Allies. Let's talk about them. White feminists are just one variety, but they come in all flavors, all races, all genders, all sexual orientations, all political affiliations. Basically, anyone can be a false ally. Me included. You included.

What is a false ally?: someone who claims outwardly to be, and probably really believes that they are, an advocate for someone else, in whatever way they are attempting to express that advocacy, but who messes up fundamental parts of that relationship, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and in the process makes things worse.

Holy run on sentence, Batman.

I swear, I am coming back to edit this later.

I just need to get it out right now...

So, these false allies....I was talking to someone about them recently, about how in my view they are often more dangerous than people who just oppose whatever the issue is, because they create the illusion that they are there to help. They want to believe they are helping. They think they are.

The path to hell is paved with good intentions, and they are super committed to paving that road.

These are the people who step into leadership positions, wanting to organize groups or events or marches or whatever, but who can't understand that their perspective is necessarily limited by their own experiences.

These are the people who think that because they had a friend go through a situation one time, and they were sort of around tangentially, that they're qualified to give people who are actually going through it now advice, but then they stumble over the words and sometimes say terrible things.

These are the people who really do mean well, and want to make a difference, until someone points out the fact that they aren't being inclusive, or that their platform ignores this entire group of people, or that their terminology is ableist or that they've made assumptions steeped in privilege that just aren't going to apply to others. And then it gets hard. And then, instead of acknowledging their own limitations or lack of information or experience, they get defensive. They shut down criticism. They refuse to do the work, instead claim they've already done it or that it isn't necessary at all.

They keep paving that road to hell with good intentions, hurting people along the way.

I wrote a piece last week or the week prior about how we are all problematic and we all are. We are all necessarily limited by our own experiences, by the stigmas and lies we've been raised to believe, by the set of tools we have currently at our disposal.

No one comes to advocacy a wholly inclusive person, no one comes to this with the ability to fully incorporate the needs and concerns of all those who deserve a seat at the table. No one does.

And no one should be excluded from being an advocate because they occasionally screw up.

But if you're going to sit at that table, and if you're going to hold yourself out as an ally and you're committed to really doing the work, then you've got to understand that we're all problematic and the only way we become less so is to learn.



When you fuck up, and you will, apologize. Not that "well, but I tried" or "but I meant ____" or "I'm sorry you're upset" kind of apology. A real apology. The kind that just says, "I am sorry and I will take this experience and learn from it and do my best to do better next time."

That's all.


Being a human is hard.

Being a human who hurts other people can be emotionally devastating, but we all do it.

What matters is what you take away from that experience.

Either you learn and grow, you listen and do better.....or you build a wall of defiance, certain that your intentions matter more than harming other people.

Do that, and you're a false ally.

And you know who false allies hurt more than anyone else?

The people who believe they are real.

Don't pave the road to hell with good intentions. Dismantle the machine that fucks up the road in the first place, then build a better one.

Have a good day.

1 comment:

  1. There is a German word, "Verschlimmbessern," which means, "to accidentally make something worse in the process of attempting to mend or improve it." You make a really good point, it mostly comes down to how you respond to criticism.


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