Updated: Jun 11, 2020
What Intersectional Feminism Taught Me About Being an Effective Ally
***Author's Note: This post is dedicated to Breonna Taylor whose birthday would have been today. She would be turning 27 if not for the officers who broke into her home and shot her. At the bottom of this post will be more links, this time links directly related to helping Breonna's case in some way. Thank you!
This past week has been both extremely hard but also truly inspiring as we are living in a moment of history, experiencing the biggest civil rights demonstration the world has ever seen. Hopefully, despite all the anxiety and uncertainty this year has brought so far, 2020 can be the start of something so profound the world will not easily revert into old habits.
However, although I am glad to have seen so many participants in protests around the world, so many people politically active on social media, so many petitions, etc., it is important to highlight- the Black Lives Matter Movement started in 2012. It has taken almost a decade for the statement "black lives matter [too]" to stop being so controversial. Again, it's great people are getting behind the movement sooner rather than later, or still not supporting it at all; but while the world took years deciding if black lives mattered enough to disregard their own comfort and become an ally, black people are brutalized and traumatized from racism everyday.
Nevertheless, since there are more people getting behind or looking to join the movement, but do not know where to begin, keep reading.
If you are looking to strengthen your allyship, intersectional feminism is a good place to start. I found feminism in 2018 after taking my first women’s studies course. Since then, it has forever changed me as a person and has certainly broadened my worldview, allowing me to become the writer I am now. In fact, it is part of what inspired me to start writing because I was compelled to be a person who wanted to help educate people on the injustices many under-privileged and under-represented communities face.
Intersectional feminism laid the foundation for me to learn about the hardships people outside of my demographic experience. The feminist sphere will help a person who does not know where to start in becoming a better ally because it covers ALL the basis of oppression. It will teach you about all the -isms and -phobias and provide you with ways on how to effectively help other communities.
Two good books currently in my library that have left an impact on me is "Can We All be Feminists?", a book of essays from a diverse group of feminists, and "Bad Feminist" by Roxanne Gay. The very last sentence in "Bad Feminist" states,
“I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”
This quote has stuck with me for years because it urges forgiveness. I would like to think many people want to be allies of the black community and want to reach out but they’re scared, scared they’ll mess up or say the wrong thing. Part of being a good ally is approaching allyship with humility.
You’re not going to know everything straight away and you may not always get it right; however, the possibility of making mistakes shouldn’t be enough of a deterring factor to keep you from trying to help others. Never assume you know everything and always allow people from the community in which you wish to help correct you when need be. The road in which true allyship will direct you is extremely uncomfortable. It will force you to make some uncomfortable observations, perhaps within yourself, your family, and your friends. Observations so uncomfortable, you can no longer remain silent on the ignorance and/or bigotry around or within you.
Effective allyship sometimes requires finding the confidence to stand up for others, uncomfortable conversations with the people you love, and many times removing unwavering problematic people from your life. However, if you truly want to be an ally, you'll do the necessary work. Remember, no matter how uncomfortable it is for you to stand up to bigotry, it is even more uncomfortable being at the receiving end of it.
Steps to Becoming an Effective Ally I Learned From Intersectional Feminism:
1. Recognize Your Privilege
Acknowledge and learn the ways in which you benefit from another community's oppression.
2. Confront Your Ignorance
Introspection. Lots and lots of introspection.
3. Educate Yourself
Take responsibility for learning a community's history and trauma on your own. If someone wants to help you through this step, great. Just know it is not anyone's responsibility to do so. Doing this step on your own will help you retain the information better anyway because your knowledge will be a result of your work.
4. Practice Empathy
Generally, practicing empathy is something you want to actively be doing because it makes you a better person, for empathy not only allows you to see things from someone else's perspective, but feel another person's pain. Empathy is what bridges the gap between you and a community whose oppression you will never experience.
5. Use Your Privilege to Aid Under-Privileged Communities
USE YOUR PRIVILEGE FOR GOOD! Ways you can use your privilege to help others might be calling to diversify spaces you are a part of, crediting and amplifying minority voices, or literally or figuratively using your privilege as a shield to protect others in danger. Basically, help or uplift under-represented communities any way you can.
I understand this may seem like a lot of information. But if you have gotten to the end of this post, you at least care enough to try to do the work. So, try. Don't be afraid to be the voice people need to hear right now. To reiterate, your refusal to speak up against injustice until you are confident or educated enough is a privilege. Imagine the structural change we could have seen in America if people supported the Black Lives Matter Movement 8 years ago. Don't wait to speak up, we need allies now.
"The only wrong thing to say is to say nothing."-Megan Markle
As promised, links to amplify or help Breonna Taylor's case. I will be updating this section as I come across new information. Don't stop saying her name.
Links to Donations:
Links to Petitions:
Request Action (cr: insta @muchachafanzine):
Mayor Greg Fischer| firstname.lastname@example.org
Attorney Thomas Wine| email@example.com
Governor Andy Beshear | (502) 564-2611
Attorney General Daniel Cameron | firstname.lastname@example.org
LMPD Chief Steve Conrad | (502) 574-7660