EDITORIAL: How to be an Ally

In light of social movements such as #Metoo and #TimesUp, there is no doubt that International Women’s Day will create a buzz on social media. The day is meant for the world to celebrate and appreciate the courageous women in our lives and the trailblazing women who inspire us. We can certainly expect to see many posts, many Snapchat filters used and many tweets hashtagged. What we should be hoping to see, however, is more action and effort to advance the rights of women and girls.

International Women’s Day should be a day to reflect on the work that is left to be done. Posting on social media is a good way to spread awareness, but it shouldn’t end there. We have to remember that International Women’s Day is also a day to honor the strength and resilience of women across the globe. Also, many women don’t have access to social media or they face censorship and punishment for trying to make their voices heard.

So we should stop and think, “Are we truly acting as allies for those women when we just post on our social media accounts?”.  

There are women around the world that are not given the same platforms and opportunities for social change that we have. That’s why it’s important on International Women’s Day to not only use this time to praise women, but also to engage with policies and laws that affect women both locally and globally.

While you’re hashtagging, over-thinking lengthy captions and posting photos, remember to acknowledge the privileges you hold: race, class, gender identity, ability and sexual orientation. It’s important to remember that you’re not celebrating women unless you’re celebrating all women.

Allyship requires us to do more and be better. We must be willing to be uncomfortable and challenge the systems that we benefit from that oppress women. Being an ally is not about labelling ourselves as allies but instead educating ourselves on our own time and allowing the women in our lives to determine if we are doing enough.

We can take active steps towards allyship. The first would be to remember to check if your voice is taking up space that could be used to bring the voices of other women to the forefront. Remember that solidarity does not mean allyship. If you believe that you are a feminist, show that you are one. Use your privilege and access to empower marginalized women by giving them the space to tell their own stories. Listen to women who are sharing their voices and don’t debate their lived experiences.

Ask yourself, “How can you support women off social media?”. We shouldn’t need International Women’s Day to remind us of the work that needs to be done for women in our classrooms, in our workplaces, in our homes, around the world and online.  

We can begin right here at Ryerson where there are aspiring female entrepreneurs, engineers, doctors, nurses, journalists, actresses, directors, teachers, and more. These women can all make a difference to the world, but it won’t happen unless we show up and become allies for them.

We must listen to women, empower them and challenge the systems that seek to silence them.


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