"The women of Bikini Kill let guitarist Billy Karren be in their feminist punk band, but only if he's willing to just "do some shit." Being a feminist dude is like that. We may ask you to "do some shit" for the band, but you don't get to be Kathleen Hannah."--@heatherurehere

Monday, April 28, 2008

Being An Ally -- How Hard Is It, Really?

Sudy has a great post that includes some words about how it really isn't that difficult to be a good ally (and why people should stop asking her how to be a good ally):
Being an ally is not as dramatic as people paint it lately. I mean, how difficult is it to decenter yourself and your own life and absorb someone else's for a few minutes of your day? Do you realize it's not just about you? It's not just about YOUR definitions of what is an ally. DO you know acknowledge the larger systematic boot of violence against womyn of color and the knife of economic violence that shoves womyn of color into corners of poverty, rape, and silence? (I mean, really acknowledge it.) Being an ally is not ripping the mic from someone else and thrusting it in the face of WOC. Because, in the end, fast forward 60 years from now, the only person who can answer if you led a life of transformation and solidarity is you. Why ask me?

I think she's right, but I think there are some good reasons why potential allies look to those we are trying to be allied with for some answers. If I sit around and talk about how to be a good feminist ally (for instance) with a bunch of feminist men, we're going to be missing out on some of the answers, just by virtue of blind spots of privilege that we may not be able to even know are there. This isn't to say that we can't come up with good, interesting, varied answers to our questions, or that we shouldn't try to, that we shouldn't do the work required to figure this stuff out. I don't want to make it Sudy's job to teach me how to be a better ally. And yet, I want her views on it, so what to do?

Well, that's where the above quote comes in. Decenter from my own life and soak up her views for a while. Read her, and not just what she has to say about allies. Shut up and listen more often. That's some of the advice I'm going to keep giving myself, even though she, and others, have given me the inspiration to do so.

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