What Do We Talk About When We Talk About #Allies

By Giulia Boggio

Today I want to discuss a concept that is related to feminism and gender politics, as well the LGBQIA+ movement: Allyship.

What does it mean to be an ally? The dictionary definition is: “a person, group, or nation that is associated with another or others for some common cause or purpose”.

Pretty simple, innit?

In 2017, according to the recent neo-vocabulary of politics and gender movements, the meaning of this term has shifted to a more specific definition: an ally is a person (generally coming from a more privileged position) that supports and seeks to work in solidarity with a more marginalized group by fighting along their side. Crucially, an ally  listens, unlearns and re-evaluates their conditioned belief systems. Being an ally doesn’t necessarily imply being a part of the group that are supported, but being rather – showing empathy with their fights and using their voice and actions in support.

“We’re not asking you to be on the front line of all our protests, just to use your privilege to help us speak to who’s not listening to us, at least part-time.”

As a femme, I often feel like a lot of people around me are “getting what I mean” but not really doing anything to help it. Being it feminism or gender politics, I feel like a lot of people that “support it”, but are not really being allies. Personally, I would divide the path to allyship into three steps:

  • listening & re-evaluating,
  • (un)learning
  • speaking & doing

If a good amount of people are available to listen and open to learning and discussion, then why are there fewer individuals who translate this new knowledge and sensibility into words and actions? As one of the “y so serious, u should laugh sometimes” feminists, I find this frustrating and incomprehensible.

What is stopping people from taking the last tiny step into vocalising their allyship?

And yes, as ever, this is mainly addressed straight cis men (sorry guys, the spotlight is on you now, get used to it or do something about it).

On a sample of my Facebook friends (a good mix of people I know, friends, and people I’ve barely ever met), I see a shocking difference between women and queer people being vocal about social issues, feminism and gender politics, and the other half of the sky, apparently unaware of it but definitely ignoring it.

B o y  you always have opinions on everything where are your opinions now?

I don’t have fingers enough to count the many men I know that are almost perfect ‘on paper’, but then don’t do anything to bring this out in their world, or to their friends and family. Why are so many men feminists, but go “I don’t want to label myself” when you tell them they are? Just think about it practically: if I tell one of your dickheads friends that they’re being a misogynist piece of trash, I will be automatically labelled an Angry Feminist™, while if you do, then maybe there would be a space for discussion ( and possibly understanding) of what’s wrong and why. We’re not asking you to be on the front line of all our protests, just to use your privilege to help us speak to who’s not listening to us, at least part-time.

It almost seems like men speak out only when they’re ‘against’. Is this a consequence of toxic masculinity pressuring you into conforming to a hyper-masculine idea? Here’s a recipe: if you bite into the feminist apple, you’re now ‘woke’, and you must speak out. It won’t make you soft or less-of-a-man, it’ll make you a decent human being and it could actually help someone.

Also, being purposely politically incorrect is so 2009, just get over it, it’s not funny anymore, it just makes you look stupid and anachronistic.

If you feel pressured to be funny and easy going and think being openly political would turn you into a boring person, that’s toxic masculinity kicking in, and I suggest trying to check yourself and try to understand where this pressure is coming from and how it affects your actions. If you hear a friend of yours making fun of queer people, making rape jokes or acting in a misogynistic or racist way, just tell them they’re not funny, tell them how they’re wrong, tell them to check themselves. Help. Them. Wake. Up.

And if you find it boring to have to be “politically correct”, maybe you should check your privilege and understand why you’re in the position to find it boring and someone else is not.

Overall what we’re asking of our “woke” friends is to help us be loud about our fights, educate people and make space for everyone. We’re asking you to channel your privilege and turn it into actions. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something big, start from your circle of friends.

It’s not inherently bad to be in a privileged position, if you use your voice and space to be a good ally.


About the Author

Giulia Boggio is a graphic designer and photographer from Italy. Her interests move from art to gender politics. She worked as a freelance writer for different magazines and is passionate about poetry.

Social : @bojjoe


Illustration by Javier Jaén


Author: Gender + the City

Intersectional Feminist digital magazine

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