Dear male allies
A memo to the many wonderful male allies supporting us on International Women’s day. Thank you for your support. It can be hard to speak out about feminism as a man. Hard, in particular to feel as though you have the right. So sometimes you may accidentally say things that don’t help because, well, no one is perfect.
Because I know you truly care, I hope that you’ll appreciate some gentle feedback. So here are my watch outs for male allies this International Women’s Day.
1. Please don’t say: You have a daughter
I am sure that you cared before you were personally invested in caring but unfortunately this doesn’t read like that. I was recently at a feminist conference where a male speaker got his daughters to record a five minute film talking about him being a good dad before he gave his address. This accidentally flipped his presentation to being women praising a man, when he was supposed to be elevating the voices of women. The intention was good. The delivery was not.
Talk about what parenting has taught you,
What have you learned from your daughter? It is fine to reference her and the insights she’s given you. Just don’t use her to justify being a good ally. Instead give her your platform. She’ll thank you later.
2. Please don’t say: You actually prefer the company of women
This is problematic because so did all the male characters in Mad Men. But the women didn’t feel the same when it was their company that was being sought out rather than their talent. For any woman who has ever been treated as room decoration, this sentence is a trigger. Best to avoid.
Instead: Surround yourself by people who are different to you
Start by rebuilding your workplace, your social life, your reading list and your podcast library. Ask for people’s recommendations. Once you’ve done this, you can reference the experiences of others and talk about what you’ve learned.
This should put you firmly back into your comfort zone, allowing you to avoid justifying your position as an ally, and instead focus on the matter at hand: your role in bringing in change.
3. Please don’t say:You often think women are superior to men
You can’t complete this sentence without reverting to stereotypes like ‘women are naturally so diplomatic / empathetic / [insert alternative female stereotype].
Instead: Forget the binary all together
Because binaries are the enemy of change and because true change is intersectional.
Happy International Women’s Day guys. And thank you again for your support.
By Elle Graham-Dixon, EVP Head of Planning Global - Ford at BBDO New York