Issues around gender equality, empowerment and feminism can sometimes be tricky to get our head around, no matter what your gender identity is. Maybe you want to show your support to women, but don’t know how, or are wondering why this is something that is needed or being talked about.
Recently, UN Women UK released a report following an investigation they conducted. It found that 97% of women in the UK aged 18-24 had been sexually harassed in some way, with a further 96% not reporting the incident because they felt like it wouldn’t be dealt with appropriately or ignored.
It’s important to know that the movement against violence towards women and girls, is not about women putting men down, but about everyone supporting one another to challenge issues that are present when it comes to women’s safety.
Violence against women and girls can take on many forms. Visit our That’s Not OK Scenarios page to learn more.
What is allyship?
To be a good ally is to recognise your own privilege, and use it to support people that might experience inequality due to a variety of reasons.
They might be at an assumed disadvantage because of their gender, age, sexuality, ethnicity, race, education or something else.
For example, not everyone might have had access or the ability to enter into higher education, and therefore could be at a disadvantage when applying for certain jobs, even if they had relevant experience.
Many forms of allyship include activism or challenging forms of discrimination that people face because of one of the factors above.
Why should men be allies?
Even if you don’t identify yourself as part of a problem, it doesn’t mean that you can’t help in some way, or have a responsibility not to remain silent, and call out bad behaviour when you see it happening.
To achieve the most impact, everyone can and should be involved in the conversation, have their voice heard and be part of real change.
It doesn’t mean that men don’t also experience violence or assault, or that it isn’t as important. It also doesn’t mean that all men are violent towards women. But this is an issue that affects most women and all men can have a role in ending violence against women.
What can a guy do to be a good ally?
See some tips below on how to be a good ally to women.
Listening to and understanding women when they talk about their experiences of harassment and assault is an important first step in allyship.
Whilst different people have different experiences, being able to support a friend or family member through what they’ve disclosed to you, without judgement or with the need to respond a certain way to what they’re saying, is vital.
Sometimes in our heads, when someone is talking to us, we’re already preparing our answer, or argument against something – instead of trying to understand the other person’s point of view.
Check out our information on being a good listener.
You might have seen a clip from Scottish comedian, Daniel Sloss’s 2019 stand-up show ‘X’, going around on the internet.
It’s a thought-provoking monologue based on Sloss’s experience and regrets at not doing anything about a man he knew’s behaviour until the man raped one of Sloss’s female friends. Sloss touches on the point that stopping male violence against women involves men. He said:
If I’m being 100% honest with myself, were there signs in my friend’s behaviour over the years towards women that I ignored? The answer is yes. And then he raped my friend and that’s on me ’til the day I die.
It can be really hard to stand up to people we’re close with when we know what they’re saying or doing is wrong, but one of the best ways men can be good allies to women is by not being a silent bystander, and instead, speaking up and challenging bad behaviour – whether it’s someone we know or a stranger, and telling them what we think they’re doing is wrong.
White Ribbon Scotland are a charity working to end male violence against women by engaging with men and boys to take a stand against it. They have created a range of resources to help men and boys learn more about violence against women. These include:
4. Pledge Your Support
White Ribbon Scotland’s mission is the largest effort in the world of men working to end men’s violence against women.
There are lots of ways you can get involved.
- Make the Pledge – You can do this online in just a few minutes.
- Get involved in a White Ribbon Scotland Status Campaign – White Ribbon Scotland provide lots of resources for people who want to go a step further and campaign for this issue.
Men and boys can be powerful allies to women and girls.
Check out these links for more information on how you can help support the end of violence against women and girls:
- That’s Not OK – Young Scot’s dedicated information campaign about Violence Against Women and Girls
- White Ribbon Scotland – Local information for men and boys, working to end male violence against women
- Zero Tolerance – Campaigns to prevent Violence Against Women
- Scottish Government Policy on Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG)