Privilege and allies

I've been thinking for a long time about some stuff I want to write about trying to be a good ally—mostly about it being hard to do well and easy to screw up, but important nonetheless—but I'm still not ready to put that post together.

But I just came across some other people's posts from last fall that say a lot of related stuff much better than I could have said it. So if you haven't seen these, take a look (and I recommend reading the whole articles, not just my brief quotes):

  • The Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck,” by Melissa McEwan at Shakesville. McEwan writes powerfully and well about the pervasive sexist and/or misogynist things she hears from the men she cares about. After several followup threads (including some good stuff by other people; follow the links at the ends of the comment threads for more), this piece was reprinted in the Guardian, along with a followup commentary by McEwan. This is stuff that we men who consider ourselves feminist allies don't generally like to hear—but I think it's important that we hear it.
  • McEwan followed that with another piece at Shakesville, “Crank It Up to 11,” in which she pointed out, among other things: “This is the hard truth for progressive men who care about gender-based inequalities: When you leave the public fight to others, you're leaving it mostly to women.” (The same is of course true in other areas of inequality as well.) This is something that's hard for me to keep in mind, but I will try.
  • Partly in response to the McEwan pieces, Recursive Paradox posted an excellent piece about privilege and perspective. The key thing here that I think that I and other privileged folks need to be reminded of regularly is this: “These things add up. One or two of them alone? I could see how that wouldn't be a problem. And from your perspective, there's only been one joke, one stare, one problematic stereotype exploiting comment. Nothing to worry about right? Except that it isn't one comment. It isn't one joke. It is one out of thousands a day, embedded in regular language, seen as completely normal.”
  • And a month later, Recursive Paradox added a useful post on “How to Be An Ally.” It's from a trans perspective, but applicable to all sorts of contexts. I especially like the list of Dos and Don'ts; it's related to other such lists (see especially Ampersand's classic “How Not to Be Insane When Accused of Racism”), but it includes some stuff that sometimes gets left out of such lists.

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