In 1893, several thousand people gathered together on the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago for the first World’s Parliament of Religions. On the first day of this first Parliament, 4000 people watched as twelve representatives from different religious traditions walked into the great hall holding hands and, simultaneously, a bell tolled for each of the world’s great religions. While neither Unitarianism nor Universalism was represented in this parade, among the planners was Jenkin Lloyd Jones, a Unitarian and a supporter of the Iowa Sisterhood. At that Parliament so long ago, the major speakers included nineteen women, one of whom was the Unitarian, Julia Ward Howe; an unprecedented number for that day and age. Continue reading
In college, I went to a Take Back the Night march with some of my friends (mostly female) from our Students for a Democratic Society chapter. There was solemnity and sharing, but also passion and speeches; by the end of it we found ourselves worked up and ready to keep moving. So I followed the organizers on a continued march around campus, holding signs and chanting slogans. We went to all the campus greens, and even into some dorms. In one of the dorms that many of the athletes lived in, a number of men came out into to hall to see what all the noise was. They had a range of reactions, but I remember someone asking “What the **** are the guys doing with them?”
Many thanks to Rev. Marti for granting me access to this space. I’m Portland, OR-based cisgender white male UU in pursuit of solidarity with folks of other genders, races and target identities. In her invitation, Rev. Marti asked me to write about the need for or usefulness of male allies. My working definition for a male ally is a male-identified person intentionally working in partnership with women and folks of other genders to challenge sexism and interlocking systems of oppression.
One caveat: depending on the situation, maybe a male ally isn’t needed. For real. Regardless of our positive intent, sometimes, as Amanda Hess says, we’re the worst. Even when we’re not the worst, sometimes we’re not what’s needed. For instance, when the Portland-based Men Engaging Now produced a white paper documenting challenges and opportunities related to engaging men in Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault response work, they noted that “men have earned women’s skepticism and distrust” and while “many female abuse survivors do not experience generalized fear of men,” it is essential that male allies honor the boundaries set by survivors. Thus male allyship can only work when it’s done in partnership with women and folks of other genders. Continue reading