Why I have no time for Allies

Modern feminism is increasingly focused on the concept of allies, both within mainstream feminism, and even within some elements of radical feminism. In mainstream feminism, women often proudly declare themselves allies to women of colour or to Trans people. In radical feminism, being an ally takes a slightly different course: men are encouraged not to see themselves as radical feminists, but as allies who support radical feminists in their work.

The aim of declaring yourself an ally often, although not always, comes from a well meaning place. It is usually motivated by a desire to support the fight against oppression that another group experiences when you are not a member of that group. But it is, at heart, a neo-liberal philosophy.

Ally is an identity, a label one chooses for herself by declaration. Others may dispute that self identification and declare that an individual is no ally to that group for various reasons. But a political discourse that relies on self declared identities, is doomed to be a meaningless one.

If we look back at history, before the concept of allies was common currency, individuals instead talked about acting in solidarity with particular groups. Left wing middle class men would act in solidarity with striking miners by organizing and collecting money. And for example, men would act in solidarity with feminists by organising the crèche for a women only conference.

Solidarity was not an identity, it was an action. One could not claim to be in solidarity with another group but do nothing to demonstrate that solidarity.

That is why the identity of ally is meaningless: it leads well meaning people to think they are contributing to fighting the oppression of another group of people by simply declaring themselves an ally. Or worse, individuals claim ally status as a means of gaining kudos and politically currency, whilst continuing to act in an anti woman or otherwise counter productive ways.

I don’t care if anyone declares themselves an ally or not. What I want is for those who are committed to fighting oppression of groups they do not belong to, to act in solidarity. It is only through your actions that any difference will be made. Personal identity is not an action, but a distraction from action.


  1. Miep said:

    Reminds me of “I’m not a racist.” Maybe you are, maybe you’re not, but it’s not your call to make.

  2. Nihil Invictus said:

    So true. It’s annoying when people assume a label is all that they need to work towards equality for people of all genders. There are no gold stars here.

  3. Jess said:

    Personally, my understanding of the growing trend where “men are encouraged not to see themselves as radical feminists, but as allies who support radical feminists in their work.” is based in the same thing you are discussing here: A male ally would (act to) support radical feminists in their work rather than claiming “radical feminist” or “ally” as identities.
    I personally have seen self-identified “radical feminist” men be patriarchal in the ways they would spread their idea of radical feminism, which makes me hesitant to trust them just because they claim the label. These men would speak as radical feminists and often be overly critical/condescending (dominating) towards myself and other women. Like “You’re just brainwashed by the patriarchy and should listen to me since I’ve read hundreds of feminist books” instead of actually listening to our experiences as women.
    Because of this, I personally prefer that men not outwardly identify as feminist because they often end up speaking over women or taking on too much of a leadership role in the movement, rather than taking more of a listening/support/ally role.
    This is mainly semantics though, as I fully agree with you that “ally” is meaningless as an *identity* and what matters is actions.

  4. Reblogged this on FeistyAmazon and commented:
    Action speaks louder than words. Acting in solidarity. Always and in all ways…

  5. helloanonme said:

    On a libfem fb page, I put forward that for a man to claim to be a feminist was to appropriate womens lived realities as one’s own which subverts the very conversation. Many, many libfems rallied around to tell me how wrong I was because ‘intersectionality’. When I pointed out that if a man is socio-economically disadvantaged his issue is socioeconomic disparity, if he’s gay, his issue is homophobia, if he’s black his issue is racism, if he’s disabled his issue is ableism… and none of these intersections of discrimination are sex and/or gender discrimination, thus he can only act as an ally, I got slogans rather than informed and thoughtful discourse.

    You know the slogans, “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit’.

    Identity politics has subverted feminism to ‘social justice keyboard warrior’ ineffectual garbage status.

    Thank goodness for the radfems keeping the fires burning!

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