Male allies are important- here's why...
By: Sabrina Berndt
We tend to believe that men who aren’t survivors have no place in women-centric movements, such as feminism or the #MeToo movement, but that’s not true – at all. Male allies are essential for a successful movement, especially a women-focused movement, because they hold the ability and skill set to make people listen. This comes as a result of the unequal power dynamics afforded by the patriarchy.
Men can utilize this relative privilege to make a change and alter our current oppressive social dynamic. It can be easy for members of the more powerful group to write off an issue because it does not directly affect them. However, when male allies call attention to gender-based violence, other males are more likely to listen.
Privilege is not a term that was simply created to make rich people feel bad. Privilege represents so much more than economic status. It is a real concept that minorities witness and experience every day, ranging from a police officer using brutal force on innocent people of color to men walking alone at night without worrying about being attacked. As a member of a majority group, there is a certain responsibility to utilize that privilege to help minority groups make a change in the world. This can be as simple as calling out racism or sexism/misogyny.
As women, we are often ignored and overshadowed. It’s our reality--despite what anti-feminists want to believe. As sexual assault and domestic violence survivors, it is even more difficult to be heard by others: by the police, our families, friends, “meninists”, etc. We are at a significant disadvantage, and we fight to make our voices heard every day.
Men— and particularly white men—have the advantage of being heard and taken seriously. This grants them ample opportunities to support survivors. Being an ally doesn’t necessarily require protesting in the streets. It can be as simple as listening to a survivor without judging them and assuring them that they are not to blame. Speaking up to others for saying something misogynistic or triggering represents a small but significant way of making a difference.
The #MeToo movement is certainly gaining traction. Nonetheless, there is still pushback from those who believe the movement is an attack on men or a “witch-hunt” of sorts. The movement is not about making men feel guilty. It’s much more profound. It’s about safety, justice, and autonomy over our own bodies.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. Few survivors ever receive justice. For instance, in North Carolina, the Carolina Public Press found that fewer than one in four sexual assault defendants are convicted. These sobering statistics affect real people—like you and me.
Until sexual assault is considered a human right’s issue, as opposed to a women’s issue, it will continue to be treated with less respect. As more people join the fight, the movement will command attention, leading to some semblance of justice. Male allies: we need you. Please speak up and join us in the fight for control over our own bodies.