By Chris Hildrew (@chrishildrew)
1. Check your privilege
If you are a man, you are automatically privileged. This doesn’t mean that you don’t face challenges in your life, or that you have it easy. What it does mean is that, as a man, you have not experienced the influence of the patriarchy from a female perspective. You just haven’t. Acknowledge this. Acknowledge that women, as a group, are subject to systemic oppression through a combination of societal and cultural norms established over centuries – and men are not. Keep this clear in your mind at all times.
Stop talking. Listen to the women. Don’t jump in. Genuinely listen to what they are telling you. Learn from it. No, shhhh. You don’t know best. That’s mansplaining. LISTEN.
3. It’s not about you
You are not the hero of this story. She is. I know – a story with a female hero? Believe me these things can exist. They do exist. When you are an ally, don’t make it about you. Don’t expect recognition, plaudits or credit for your work as an ally. Because it’s not about you. When we take another step towards equality, everybody wins. You don’t have to.
4. Don’t use “not all men.” Don’t you dare.
It’s natural, when you’re hearing about the negative experiences women have had at the hands of the patriarchy, to muster some kind of defence of our sex. You’re not personally responsible for the oppression, for treating her badly; you didn’t assault her; you didn’t make that demeaning comment. It may be tempting to reach for the “not all men are like that…” card. Don’t. Of course not all men are like that. But some are. And she knows that. Women know that. The use of “not all men” attempts to diminish the painful, frustrating or humiliating experience that is being described. That experience happened. It should not be diminished. Help her to move on from it, to build resilience, to develop a strategy to use in similar situations in future – but don’t “not all men” her. Don’t you dare.
5. Amplify the contributions of women
Research shows that, in mixed groups, women get less “air time” than men (Leaper & Ayres, 2007). Men dominate conversations and discussions, both as students in school and as participants in meetings. Be aware of this, and make it your responsibility to encourage and amplify the contributions of women. During meetings, repeat and attribute positive contributions made by women: “yes, and as Sarah said…” or “that builds on what Leyla was saying earlier…” Watch out for women being interrupted, and intervene: “just let Ellen finish, please.” And check your own behaviour – are you an interrupter? Or a credit-taker?
6. Talk to other men
Discuss gender inequality with other men. Make an issue of it. Look at the published gender pay gaps of organisations, including schools and MATs, and talk about what can be done. Recruit more allies. Share the HeForShe pledge, the WomenEd book, and blogs like this. Equality is an issue for all of us.
7. Learn to apologise
You will certainly get it wrong. We all do. If someone takes offence at what you’ve said or done, you have offended them, whether you meant to or not. Don’t try and excuse yourself. Just man up and apologise – and learn from what you did wrong so you don’t make the same mistake again.
Resources which can help men be better allies:
• #LeanInTogether: https://leanin.org/together/men
• #HeForShe: https://www.heforshe.org/en
• 10% Braver Book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/toc/1526460041/
• Collaborating with Men Project from Murray Edwards College, Cambridge: https://www.murrayedwards.cam.ac.uk/about/womens-voices-womens-future/collaborating-with-men
• How Men Can Become Better Allies to Women: https://hbr.org/2018/10/how-men-can-become-better-allies-to-women