What Does an Ally Look Like?

By : Lowrah · July 9, 2013

Ovarian Psycos: Male Ally Ride

A group of rad womyn from Los Angeles, Ovarian Psycos, do work with WTF cyclists that is similar to what we do with the Grease Rag. They inspired our Full Moon Rides!
They recently had an event called the Male Ally Ride that I thought was really cool.
Interested in a discussion exploring masculinity? Gender binaries? Misogyny, privilege and machismo???
Then Join Las Ovarian Psycos on a Bike Ride and Workshop by Aaron Mallory - ending at Corazon Del Pueblo to break down what it means to be a male ally. Open to all gender identities to deconstruct and examine mens' roles within the system.
The big secret (that's not such a secret anymore) is that NO ONE WINS IN PATRIARCHY! and EVERYONE BENEFITS FROM LIBERATION AND ANTI-OPPRESSION WORK!! And by everyone I mean you!
SO AWESOME, right? They published some notes about what went down during the meeting, and I pulled a little excerpt out for you. (Modified a tiny bit and edited a little for clarity.)

Male Ally Ride Notes

Opening statement: Man’s position of power does not only assure his relative superiority over women, but it assures that his standards become generalized as generically human standards that govern the behavior of men & women alike!

How Do You Work Towards Becoming a Good Male Ally?

How Privilege Works

    • Indifference [you have to see it!]

      • You see unhoused, you don’t even notice
    • Distancing [you have to address it!]
      • You clutch your bags, cross the street instead
    • Inclusion [you have to be real w/ it]
      • I understand where you’re coming from, I stand with you! Buttttt you’re not really doing anything beyond acknowledging someone else’s struggle. A lot of men are at this point, saying they support but they don’t do much beyond words and even revert back
    • Awareness [you have to listen]
      • Our own message or plan isn’t necessary, active listening and stepping back is necessary
      • Rides are great because you spend a few hours TAKING DIRECTION from female-led rides
    • Allyship [we have to act on it!] – this one is the best
What is an Ally?
    • Acting collectively on oppression, with the direction coming from those that are oppressed
    • Men will often want to bash back on behalf of oppressed, but no jumping to male-centric “solutions”!
    • One person isn’t going to change the system or stop violence against women – what we’re doing to trying to change our collective consciousness and being cool with taking direction from folks outside society’s “norm”
    • Check ourselves, deconstruct and unlearn things, say your dissent aloud and don’t let the little things slide
    • Speaking up with the best interests of those being oppressed – that may mean you stand in solidarity [in silence!]
    • “two sides to the story” bullshit binary framed – we actually are more correct if we assume each accusation is true

Challenges We May Face

    • How to approach a friend who uses abusive language and is not “politically conscious”
    • Apprehension to maintain friendship, worry over how man receives “being checked”
    • Creating a safe(r) space, avoiding hypermasculinity or meeting machismo w/ machismo – taking people ASIDE, letting them know in a soft, clear voice away from the scrutiny and pressure of the group. Use “I statements” i.e. when you do this, it makes me feel…

Some really good stuff there. Thank you for sharing, Ovarian Psycos!

Grease Rag: What Does an Ally Look Like?

The event and conversation above gave me some motivation to state a conversation on the Grease Rag Facebook Group. I hope we can continue having these kinds of discussions.
I recently updated the group description to include, "Everyone is welcome to be a part of this group, but please respect this space as a discussion forum for women, transgender, and femme, gender variant cyclists." As I'm sure you're aware, this is an open group, and anyone is able to join and participate.
This is a difficult conversation to have, but I have been inspired by the Ovarian Psyco-Cycles event, "MALE ALLY RIDE!" to ask you, Grease Rag mavens spanning the gender identity spectrum... What makes a good ally, online or otherwise? What kind of support do you expect from someone who does not identify as WTF? What kind of support do you need from other WTFs? I always think of this group as an extension of Grease Rag events, so how can we make this have a similar safer space vibe?

Read the responses to this question.  Please tell us what you think!

I've selected out a few responses, below.

in allies it is important for them to not argue about a WTF's experience. for example, if we convey that we had to deal with a sexist interaction, then it was sexist--no trying to convince us otherwise.
I also think this is something we could visit within our own Grease Rag gatherings. Within any oppressed group are varying levels of privilege, and with that privilege comes blind spots. It's important that cisgendered folks in Grease Rag become better versed about cis privilege and are perhaps more aware of the challenges trans folks face. There's cis privilege, white privilege, hetero privilege, and on and on. It's important for each and every one of us to be aware of our privilege, constantly check our blind spots, and think about who ISN'T accessing Grease Rag and hopefully will sometime soon. I am getting long-winded, but that's what came to mind for me.
I was just rightly reminded to think of "ally" not as a status to be achieved or a title to claim after following prescribed steps, but as a role where you have to constantly challenge yourself and how your privilege and place in the world gives you advantages or disadvantages over your fellow humans.

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Our "Preferred Gender Pronoun" post might be of interest to you: http://greaserag.org/user_blogs/lowrah/preferred-gender-pronouns/
Posted by Lowrah on
I constantly refer to the following website. It specifies being an ally to people of color, but you can see how being an ally takes constant vigilance. Check it out here:  http://www.scn.org/friends/ally.html
Posted by JJK on