The Problem With Male Allies

One of the main goals of HeForShe is for boys and men to become the leaders in the movement toward gender equality. After all, the campaign is called “Heforshe.” Like I had said in a recent post, feminism is largely misconstrued nowadays. Because of this misconception of feminism, people often think only women can hold the identity of a feminist. This just isn’t the case, and Emma Watson clearly stated this in her speech and spoke to men and boys directly with: “I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too” (“Emma Watson” UN Women).

Before Watson made this speech and before HeForShe began, “male allies” to women did exist. But what exactly are “male allies”? Are they different from feminists who happen to identify as male?

Funnily enough, it is a bit hard to track down a formal definition for a “male ally,” even though the term is used quite often. Formal definitions for gay allies do exist, which can help determine what it exactly means to be a male ally. A gay ally is commonly defined in this way: “Typically any non-LGBT person who supports and stands up for the rights of LGBT people, though LGBT people can be allies, such as a lesbian who is an ally to a transgender person” (University of Michigan).

So, would a male ally be someone who identifies as male and who personally advocates for equal rights and fair treatment of women? Wouldn’t that just make a person a feminist? Some have argued that men calling themselves “male allies” or sometimes “feminist allies” are afraid to label themselves as a feminist, and because of this perpetuate the false assumption that only women are feminist (Nerdy Feminist).

In addition to the frustration people have with the term “male ally” rather than just “feminist”, there was recent controversy during the Male Allies Panel at the Grace Hopper Celebration. The panel brought together male tech leaders to discuss how men could advocate for women in the tech industry (Larson). Unfortunately, the panel didn’t go as well as most thought it would. The panel “spent less time discussing how men can advocate for women than it did instructing women to advocate for themselves by ‘speaking up’” (Hess). People were largely disappointed by this.

grace hopper

(Photo: Readwrite)

Instances like this, and even some popular male celebrities proclaiming they are feminists, are not the only issues people have with “male allies.” In 2012, North Carolina State University sociologist Kris Macomber interviewed several men and women “who advocate against gendered forms of violence” (Hess). What she found was a string of contradictions that lie in the process of incorporating men into feminist movements (Hess). It goes like this… “Because men are ‘members of the dominant group, they have access to social and institutional power that women lack;…and that makes them valuable to feminism—but it also makes them representatives of a culture feminists are working to change” (Hess). So basically, men are called upon to change these gender norms, while at the same time still perpetuating these norms. There are several other interesting findings of this study (that include many more contradictions) and I highly encourage you to read more about it here.

I think that HeForShe has combatted a lot of the problems that people might have with male allies. It might be a bit harder to tackle the controversy over the use of the identity of “male ally” rather than just “feminist.” But like I mentioned in my last “what if?” post, Emma Watson is the perfect person to lead this campaign and I think the selection of her – a strong and influential female – combats the second problem people have with male allies and their influence perpetuating gender norms. Watson has a huge influence among young and old, male and female, and I think that is pretty remarkable.


“Emma Watson: Gender Equality Is Your Issue Too.” UN Women. 20 September 2014. Web. 29 November 2014.

Hess, Amanda. “Male Allies Are Important, Except When They’re the Worst.” Slate. 15 October 2014. Web. 29 November 2014.

Larson, Selena. “White Male ‘Allies’ Have Surprisingly Little To Say About Fixing Sexist Tech Culture.” 09 October 2014.

University of Michigian. “LGBT Terms and Definitions.” Interntional+LGBT. Web. 29 November 2014.

“What is a ‘Feminist Ally?’” Nerdy Feminist. 06 March 2010. Web. 29 November 2014.


One thought on “The Problem With Male Allies

  1. Glenn Hefley says:

    This is going to take a while isn’t it — really won’t matter how we say the words, or the order we put them in it is going to be as it was when I was younger..

    But on several levels, you are right. I’m a man. Even worse, I’m an alpha. I don’t “tag along” or wait in the car while mommy takes care of it. I don’t recall Emma asking me to lead however. I believe she invited me to support. Support does’t mean to do it for you. You’re big girls. Do it yourself. Support, for me, not talking about anyone else since I can’t — support means exactly that, to support. To bear the weight To hold up. Sounds like beast of burden work doesn’t it.? I hear a lot of that.

    So I’m down at the bar the other day, and some guys are making some — well they were offensive to me — jokes. The kind of joke that are jabs and used to color conversation. Not story joke. And it was a casual thing, when they, by body language and the offer of a beer invited me to join their mirth. I told them I don’t drink with slavers. You weren’t there. None of you were. And that might have been relevant if those men were going to be stuck in that bar for the rest of their life. But they were’t, they were going to come back out here, with the rest of you. You can take care of yourself, but I didn’t want you down at the start.

    The point that only 20% are now identifying themselves as feminists is making the rounds. “Why do only 20% of women say they are feminists now?” was just asked about an hour ago. I shrugged, and turned to find out if that was true.

    Actually my first reflex question to statements like that is “Is it relevant?” I’m a writer, and a marketing person. That statement is an “implied fact” The implication is that is bad, and that feminism is falling away. The way the brain works, is it accepts this implication as true by default. If you are interested I have a whole article I wrote about this when I was doing awareness campaigns against disinformation campaigns back in Aug up to Nov’s voting day. That was an eye opening time. I knew that marketing was a science, but I had never seen it weaponized before. Anyway, implied facts are harsh, and you should be wary of them. I use the question, “is this relevant”, to force my mind to question instead of accepting.

    I couldn’t find any stats on the population segment of feminists in the 60s. There couldn’t have been more than 30%.. not much more. I would guess even at the height of power, during the second wave there would been members who would deny to a reporter or a stranger on the phone that they were feminist. Remember this is an age that if you were married it was illegal for you to use contraception. Women had a purpose then, not a future, or a goal. A purpose. It’s little wonder so many alphas ended with suicide then. Now its rising again.. basically for the same reason, only different.

    Since I can’t find what I’m looking for I check for the source of the “20%” factoid Turns out that the source is good and has peer collaboration on top of it.

    This is the article which as resurfaced in the Google results .. sparking this topic again..

    I could just close the browser and nod my head at this point. I mean it’s true, right ? Not like they are lying on you. — but there is that implied fact jabbing at you. — so I decide supporting you in this case means taking a few minutes and writing a post at the bottom of the page.

    Holding you up, supporting you, isn’t all that difficult. Not when you’re dealing with an equal. Leading is a burden. Much more of burden than supporting. Supporting, as Emma describes, is actually very simple and highly effective.

    1. I don’t give my voice to those who spread hate … that being her first instruction.. the hate has to stop. Which means I dont’ spread it, and I don’t allow it to flow over me.

    2. I don’t agree with them. — Do they still call that co-signing? Are you old enough to remember that phrase? — . I do not,– by action, by word or by my silence, allow them to believe they are among friends. That they are safe and can speak their derogatory nonsense.

    I really believe that Emma is right. We’ve reached a plateau, and if I’m going to get out of this without clearing my mind with a .44 some day, then it has to be us, not just you… because it never was just you to begin with. Hell, Mark Twain knew that back in 1904. . He’d been waiting for women to rise up and march for more than 20 years. He supported them longer than they supported themselves. When they did rise up, he used all of his talent and experience to write a speech which went wildfire across the nation when he gave it — that’s what they called viral back them. 🙂 Sorry .. couldn’t help it.- stil not use to being this close to 50. so..i’m practicing being an old man. It’s harder than it looks.

    So, there is precedent for the #HeForShe men.

    “Because men are ‘members of the dominant group, they have access to social and institutional power that women lack;…and that makes them valuable to feminism—but it also makes them representatives of a culture feminists are working to change” (Hess). So basically, men are called upon to change these gender norms, while at the same time still perpetuation. There are several other interesting findings of this study (that include many more contradictions)” — umm. you.

    Thanks for the references by the way. Very cools stuff. This is something i’ve always liked about feminist women. They went and looked things up. It’s easy to spout stuff like 20%. Way too easy. And as I said, the brain default to belief. So tf you do nothing .. you believe. and that messes with your decision matrix.
    Here.. soave you the trouble. In fact here.. we’ve been doing a lot of research and catching up. Can’t support if you don’t know what to hold up.

    You assume something up there in your understanding of the paragraph being contradictory..In fact you are assuming two things. The first is that we like the way things are.. that even though I’m all but a poster child on the surface for this male domination tripe, II’m white, old, well educated, make a good amount of money, live wihout the worry that a policeman is going to shoot me on the street, and alpha) that i care about it, or see it as valuable in any way. In fact I can’t recall a time I thought that the way things were should be that way. This may seem odd to you but i dont’ feel like I’m sneaking around and talking to the enemy camp. Because I could care less what a man, who in the year 2014 still can’t get his head around the fact that he’s not god, thinks about me. Like most feminists, I check the source. A man like that I would trust to get my coffee for me. I would probably check the source if he gave me a weather report. So, really, its not a burden or a stress to sit down and share one with you .Kind of relaxing actually.

    The other is the perpetuation crack.See, I’ve lived with that al my life. Every man has. We are suppose to react to it with an aire of entiltlment. Like getting kicked in the nuts is a privilege. Well.. I have to tell you, its now. Not by a long shot. And I have no problem with standing up and facing my peers, some of whom dont but into that entitlement crap any more than I do, but to what purpose? you’re not going to believe me anyway and will probably accuse me of pandering, an get hurt even more. So, choice is to take it, or cause you pain. — like that’ s a choice.

    Every day men deal with that and it doesn’t get easier. I’m hoping that Emma is right, that when you are an equal, then this will go away.I hope it happens soon. I’ve watched my son deal with it his whole life too, and i’ve talked with him about it. But that doesnt really help that much. Maybe it does.I hope it does.

    Equal rights is fairly basic idea. In April 2012, Governor Scott Walker repealed Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act. The Equal Pay Enforcement Act was passed in 2009 in response to the large gap between the wages of men and women in Wisconsin. Among other provisions, it allowed workplace discrimination victims redress in the less costly and more accessible state court system, rather than in federal court.

    Now, that was a good move for the Act to take. Most people who are in the middle working class, don’t have a great deal of spare change laying around. Not the kind of change it takes to get a lawyer for Federal Court cases. In other words, this wasn’t a useless law. The means it provided were accessible to a much greater population than many of the other laws which said the words, but didn’t provide the means.

    Defending the repeal, Walker stated that the Act had essentially been nothing but a boon for trial lawyers, incentivizing them to sue job creators, including female business owners, and that the law was being used to clog up the legal system in his state.

    So, what Walker is saying here, is that because there were so many cases of women not being paid at the same level for the same work, and because this Act provided means to a huge number of people being victimized on the basis of having a vagina, Walker could not allow this to continue — too many businesses were suffering — Those businesses being the ones perpetrating this inequality.

    Republican State Senator Glenn Grothman said of the repeal, “You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious.”

    Now, THAT is really what we are talking about here! That is exactly the issue Emma is talking about — Stupidity and the flagrant out-of-touch mentality, which simply can not accept that sexual bias is wrong before you open your mouth. Doesn’t matter what you say. If you think like that, you are injuring people. Let’s take this by steps so that we can see what the issue really is, and what it is not.Which in my humble opinion is the largest issue facing feminism today– lack of clarity.

    The Act itself wasn’t the issue either way. You may have got caught up in that red herring and it is forgivable. But the Act is just an Act. People — not just men or women – people deserve fair pay.

    Walker, is a pig, but protecting business owners is a real responsibility. He could have taken another step, and offered another solution … in fact he could still do this … but simply ignoring the fact that — because of a new Act a large magnitude of businesses in his state were about to be shut down because of serious penalties from these lawsuits, all at the same time, isn’t a responsible thing to do as a Governor. Standing back and letting it happen (justified or not) does no one any good. Unemployment skyrockets, the state falls into a depression. No one is happy. Men or women. So — not the issue either. Again, a red herring. (Hey, I don’t like him, he’s a pig, and I would love to stick this on him, but for clarity and understanding, he isn’t our guy).

    And then… our State Senator weighs in, and shows us what real sexism looks like, and clears the air for what Feminism truly objects to. Grothman’s idiocrasy is exactly what Emma is addressing in her speech. Both men and women are brutalized by Grothman’s statement and position. Money is more important to men. How blatantly sexist can you be?

    This is a Senator of our country. A law maker. And he believes — strongly enough to say on National TV — that because you have a cock, you find money of major importance. Not job satisfaction, not benefits, not security, or time off with the family. Money is more important than everything else if you have a cock. So important in fact that knowing your fellow workers are being penalized from getting the same amount, of that thing you find so amazingly important, you don’t care. Your cock-sense is so needful of money that it overrules any sense of fairness, and blinds you completely to any injury to others Where money is concerned, man is a Neanderthal. The hell with man, that I am a neanderthal. that if there is a dollar on the sidewalk, i’m throwing you under the bus so I can get it. As a person, you mean nothing to me.

    And he’s a senator. So why wouldn’t you believe him/? Well— you are goingt to believe him, and nothing I say or do is going to change your mind. — so — two months later I quit. It gnaws at me too much. I can’t even look you in the eye. How can I work with you any more? How can I call you partner, with that shit in the air? So.. i walked away.

    This is the real issue that Emma is talking about with HeForShe.

    Clarity of purpose is what will change the world. I could have wrote that from the woman’s point of view, about the female injury. — which is Emma’s point. Sexism injures both.

    When you are sexist, it harms everyone.

    So, my point here is that , you assumed, with that paragraph, that i’m not close to giving up. That i’m not reaching for any chance to do something about this crap. That seeing my son dealing with the crap I’ve lived all my life, watching it tear him apart, doesn’t make all this worth the effort.

    And then they say “You are one of the entitled, you wouldn’t understand.”

    So.. damn. look the time .. I got to get back to it … this SDSU thing has my hackles up. And I’m not going to let this slide. The others aren’t either.It is taking a while, because of the mandate of no hate, but we got it together now. and we’re starting with it tonight.

    Thanks for the talk.


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