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I'm Yechiel, and I'm not an ally.

yechielk profile image Yechiel Kalmenson ・2 min read

Every year since I joined dev.to I always got excited when march came around. The flood of #shecoded stories in my feed is always prompts in me feelings of inspiration, thoughtfulness, anger, empathy, sadness, laughter, and many others.

This year I was a bit conflicted when I saw the addition of the #shecodedally tag.

Don't get me wrong, helping, supporting, listening, lending our privilege to (and some cases just getting out of the way of) our friends who are not cishet white males is extremely important.

But on the other hand, I don't think I've ever read a sentence that began with "I'm an ally to X" that didn't end up implying the total opposite of allyship to X.

In effect, people advertising their allyship has almost the same effect as people saying they are "the least [racist|misogynist|antisemitic|homophobic|etc.] person I know," you almost know for sure that what will follow that statement will make you cringe.

I guess to me, allyship is not a title you achieve, something you can BECOME ("I am an ally"), it's something you DO. It's a way you live your life and something you have to be conscious of and keep doing on an ongoing basis.

The second you bask in the glory of having become an ally in your own mind is the second you stop actively allying (that's a word! Don't @ me!) and, ironically, stop being an ally.

In other words, if you ever feel the need to tell someone you're an ally, stop and ponder what was it that made you feel that need. What are you trying to defend yourself against? What is the action or statement you made that would cause you to feel the need to declare your allyship? Could it be that the best course of action at this point is, not to defend your ally "status", and instead be quiet, listen, and learn for next time? (hint: yes).

The only ones who can give you the title "ally" are those who you are allying with. Virtually any time I've heard someone give the title to themselves it never ended well.

So during this month, please stop focusing on being an ally, and instead focus on listening, empathizing, and actually allying. Who knows? You may find yourself one day being called an ally, not by yourself, but by the people who actually matter.

Posted on Mar 8 '19 by:

yechielk profile

Yechiel Kalmenson

@yechielk

He/Him/His I'm a Software Engineer and a teacher. There's no feeling quite like the one you get when you watch someone's eyes light up learning something they didn't know.

Discussion

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To be quite honest, I feel the same way. I'm tired of woke dudes pretending they're allies while still questioning my or other women's experiences.

 

Yes. I believe we can teach by example.

When you see someone acting in s shitty way speak up, call it out, don't leave the burden on women to explain why it isn't ok.

Saying "I'm an ally" will teach other men to say they are allies. Acting like an ally will teach other men to act like allies πŸ˜‰

 
 

Great post! You were able to put into words a lot of what I was trying to process internally leading up to today.

 

Thanks, I actually struggled a lot on how to verbalize it, an still feel like it came off as disjointed, incoherent rambling. Hope the point came across though.

 

I think you did a great job, especially considering there was only ~ 1 week (tops) to try and verbalize it.

Topics like this are really complex and certainly not easy to get into words.

 

Well for one I don't consider myself an "ally" to pretty much anything, but I will keep doing those things you mention and hope that someday, the others I'm supporting and trying to help, will consider me an actual ally. Thanks for sharing

 

I'm not sure how I feel about the tag. I never faced any adversity or issues breaking into the field as a female. I have always been treated with respect by my peers, haven't been shot down or told I couldn't do something due to my gender, or really had any problems at all. I decided I wanted to be a programmer, and I did it.

So I guess I feel a little confused by the whole thing. What I did wrong (right?) to get where I did so "easily" ... that sort of deal.

 

Great post! And still very relevant a year later.

Ally is not a title or badge we can give to ourselves. Regardless of past or present actions.
To say "I'm an ally to X" is not something for you to say about yourself. It is something that members of X can say about you.

The only thing you can do is let your actions broadcast allyship. Whether or not you are one is completely in the eye of the affected.

 

Thank you for eloquently describing how I felt.

I wasn't entirely comfortable with the idea of calling myself an ally, because to my mind that's just talking the talk. What makes someone an ally is walking the walk.

 

I totally agree here. The more labels an ally puts on themselves, the more skeptical I am from the start about how much of an ally they are.

 

Signaling allyship has undoubtedly had its usefulness over time, specifically in pointing out which members of the oppressive social group can be trusted by members of the oppressed group. So calling oneself an ally could be such signaling.

Aligning oneself with a moral or ethical ideal, even before perfecting one’s embodiment of it, is useful. So calling oneself an ally could be an indicator of such a commitment.

Such a commitment or signal should be a marker of sacrifice - signalling usually endangers the member of the oppressing class and commiting to giving of oneself for the sake of others is just that.

But I also agree - to take on a label of moral commitment is also food for the personal ego, and this is amplified in the era of social media in which people seek to perfect their social representation in a pathological way. The classic moral answer to this dillema has been to perfect one’s actions while renouncing the fruit of those actions.

 

Totally agree with you, thanks for writing this. πŸ‘

 

This is great - I only wish I read it before I felt the need to post my own "I'm an ally" statement. - Oh well, I live and learn.

 

No worries! Allying means to always be learning and never thinking that you "got there". No one was ever born perfect πŸ™ƒ

Sounds like social media nowadays where supporting something means putting a temporary profile picture or yelling out loud how you support someone πŸ˜‚

 
 

Thanks! That means a lot to me πŸ™‚