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.