The 8th of March is a day which represents struggle, strength, community and marginalization, all at once. It means the world to some, especially to those of us who are marginalized by a system built to only support those who are not. This article is a brief reflection on what it means to exist in a world that doesn’t want us and what allyship entails.
Since the very beginning the International Women’s Day has existed in order to support working women in their struggle for basic rights, but throughout the many years of its existence it has become much more than that. Activists have become more aware of the intersection between different forms of oppression and it is now a day on which we show support and allyship to those who are marginalized on the basis of their gender, class, race, ability, sex, identity and body, because we recognize that we cannot fight each of these oppressive structures individually. All of them are tied into a larger system of oppression, mainly patriarchy, capitalism and white supremacy.
Days like the International Women’s Day or Pride are important because they raise awareness and create and maintain a sense of community while we fight for the right to exist as we are, and not the way society wants us to be. However, the fight, and especially being an ally, should not be limited to those days alone. It is essential that we recognize that the struggle is a reality that affects some of us daily, and none of us should pride ourselves with a title that is undeserved. Being an ally can be hard work, but it will never be harder than marginalization itself.
A call for real solidarity
I am a trans person. I am neurodivergent, meaning I suffer from depression, anxiety and PTSD. I am bisexual. I am a survivor of abuse and assault. I come from the lowest class, where food and other luxuries were not always a given. The world has never been a safe place for people like me and those who are more marginalized than I am. Life has been a constant struggle for survival, even around those who don’t aim to take part in the oppression. I request, or rather demand your help in our struggle for survival. I am tired of seeing lives end too soon, because things become unbearable. We have the right to exist and to be defended.
Trans issues, ableism or class awareness might not be your first priority, maybe because you don’t feel that you know enough about it or maybe because you don’t think this is your fight to take on. Let this be a reminder that it is your fight, especially if you call yourself an Anarchist, Marxist, revolutionary, or whichever far-left label you pride yourself with. This is a matter of solidarity.
Particularly in antifascist spaces we can agree on a few core values. We all yell “down with fascists”, we all label ourselves as being against sexism, racism, homophobia and the like. Those values bind us together as a group, as a front against hate. But all of this is mere symbolism if we do not incorporate these values into our daily routine. Of course we should all join protests and actions, if we are able to, but the fight should not be reduced to kicking fascists in the streets or living a sex positive life in which women don’t do the dishes. The fight needs to be reflected in our daily interactions with people, when we are at work and when we are browsing through comment sections on the latest problematic publication.
We have to be truly self-critical, do our best to learn about our own privileges and not just leave it at that. We need to use that knowledge and our advantages to create a world with less hate, ignorance and unconscious bias. We should be comfortable with holding ourselves accountable and create an atmosphere where we can hold our friends accountable for their problematic actions.
Do not let bad jokes and arguments fly because you are afraid that your friends are not going to like you anymore when you point out their racist comments. Avoid making casual remarks about things that could be triggering or even traumatizing to others. We don’t know what experiences the person across from us could have and if we lead with normalized assumptions, we might end up marginalizing oppressed groups of people even more. Listen to those who are marginalized, create a platform for them to speak, if they wish to do so, even if it merely means telling them that you are interested in hearing their thoughts and providing them with an opportunity to speak their mind at the dinner table. Defend their goals and voices without putting yourself in the center of attention. And if you can catch a bullet for them, do it.
Being an ally doesn’t just entail claiming to defend certain values, but actually doing it every single day. I say every single day, because those who are marginalized do not have the privilege of taking a break from it either. If this seems too hard for you please remind yourself that I am not asking you to start a revolution, I am merely asking for basic human decency and empathy for those who live a life of constant struggle.
Ask how you can be of help, investigate and educate yourself, speak up and show real solidarity by acting out your values.
What can you do?
I have already mentioned a few things you can do. However, I want to offer a few more concrete suggestions for how you can help:
- Educate yourself and your comrades by asking critical questions in a constructive manner. Normalize speaking about issues even though you aren’t personally affected by them. Use online resources to learn about current issues and spread that knowledge.
- Follow social media accounts by people who experience oppression and share their content with your comrades.
- If you see bigotry, call it out. Whether it is racism, sexism, fatphobia or another form of oppression. If you see injustice make sure to proclaim it loudly so no one can ignore it and claim they didn’t know about it. This goes for online discussions and everyday life.
- Make it socially unacceptable to be a bigot, by holding yourself and your comrades accountable in social situations.
- Consider your own position, interests and advantages when speaking to others. Use those advantages for good. For example, think about whether you are only arguing a certain position because you have a personal interest in it, rather than helping others.