Developed by the Deep Green Resistance Male-Ally group, with guidance from the Women’s Caucus.
As a class, men have developed an entrenched system of power called patriarchy in order to naturalize exploitation of women’s bodies, labor, time, children, and so on. Patriarchy consists of an interlocking system of social, economic, political, legal, and cultural structures designed to oppress women for the benefit of men. This system provides men with privileges in every aspect of our lives; we are the direct beneficiaries. As men, we often mistake these privileges for natural rights.
It is not enough for us to be “good guys”. It is not enough to personally refrain from exploiting women. It is not enough for us to be personally conscientious and respectful to women. It is not enough to maintain equality in our own relationships with women. While all of those things are important, abstaining personally from outright oppressive behavior doesn’t challenge patriarchy as a system of power. Basic decency commands that we work alongside women to uproot and dismantle this entire patriarchal system– within ourselves, within our groups and communities, and within institutions and the culture at large.
The following guidelines are to encourage male activists in DGR to change their behavior and to better ally themselves with women. As male activists we have been socialized into a culture of domination, and are just as liable to carry, practice, and reproduce patriarchy.
Remember: being an ally is an ongoing process rather than a title one earns; it must always be defined by women, who will determine by the daily actions and behaviors of a man how much of an ally he really is.
1. Learn to be silent, hold back, be humble, and to listen to women’s voices. Be aware of subtle ways that you may devalue women or treat them unfairly.
2. Hear what individual women are saying. Acknowledge what they say and respond appropriately. Respect women enough to disagree with them, rather than pretending to go along with something you obviously disagree with; when you do agree, make this known.
3. We must follow the lead of women, and prioritize issues that are brought forth by women or concern women. The culture we want to move into will be women-centered: we should move in this direction ourselves. Make it a priority to have women in positions of power, and to foster new woman leaders. This includes recognizing how women leaders are objectified and silenced, and having zero tolerance for such behavior.
4. It is inappropriate for us to speak as authorities on subjects that women directly experience. As men we do not and cannot understand these experiences. If we are to speak at all on such subjects, it should only be after women or if women ask us to do so, and never from our own perspective.
5. We must challenge our own patriarchal behavior, such as patterns of silencing or devaluing women, and using patriarchal language (such as hate speech, jokes based on humiliation and degradation, and male-identified generalities e.g. ‘mankind,’ ‘manpower,’ ‘hey man’).
6. Do not use pornography or prostitution. Free your sexuality from patriarchal capitalist structures that exploit women. Be vocal in challenging the sex-exploitation industry.
7. Challenge entitlement. Women do not owe men anything, including a smile, a conversation, a hug, a relationship, or intimacy of any kind. Men do not have the right to take up space at the expense of women’s comfort or personal boundaries.
8. Challenge sexist behavior in your friends, family, associates, and political allies. End relationships with men who continue to encourage or practice sexism. We do not need permission to call out men on patriarchal behavior; it is our baseline responsibility. Calling out men in male-only spaces and groups, is a priority.
9. “Mansplaining” is not tolerated. By this we mean male speech that is arrogant, patronizing, condescending, or in some other way talks down to women or attempts to put the male speaker on a pedestal.
10. While patriarchy does hurt men in some ways, the intended target is women. Thus, while we may feel hurt by masculinity, we are not oppressed by it.
11. We must familiarize ourselves with issues affecting women, and with feminist theory and history. We should not expect to be spoon-fed a feminist understanding.
12. Within the dominant culture males are perpetrators of harassment and violence. Many women are survivors of this violence – studies estimate that nearly 1/3 of all women have been sexually assaulted or beaten by men, and many women say these numbers are low. It is not any woman’s responsibility to assume that men are safe to be around.
13. We are not here to save or rescue women. We are not here to be heroes. We are not here to be protectors of women; women can protect themselves. Our job is not to protect women, its to respect their wishes and work in solidarity with them to dismantle patriarchy. If we take on these roles against the wishes of the particular women involved in a situation, we are violating boundaries.
14. The guidelines established above represent a baseline for acceptable behavior. Following them is not exceptional, and does not merit reward. Conversely, choosing to ignore sexist behavior will be seen as an act of collaboration with the culture of male dominance.