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A Simple Way to Be an Ally: #NotCoolMan

Earlier this year, twitter user Feminist Next Door asked her followers about times that they had spoken up when they saw misogyny or predatory behavior. She tagged it #NotCoolMan, and a twitter moment followed.

At Blackburn Center, we were inspired by the men who tweeted at Feminist Next Door using this hash tag, telling how they spoke up in situations where they could have chosen to remain silent. These men were acting as allies — a person of one social identity group who stands up in support of members of another group.

At our 2019 Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, 1,100 participants joined us at St. Clair Park to raise awareness about gender-based violence. The educational aspect of this event focused on how we can all be allies on our everyday lives. We asked participants to come up with their own ideas for #NotCoolMan. Here are some of their thoughts:

  • “Making people feel bad is not funny”

  • Divert the conversation, then pull the person aside to speak to them

  • “Was that supposed to be funny?”

  • If someone says an inappropriate joke, do not laugh. Ask “how/why is that funny?”

  • A good friend used a homophobic slur. He didn’t know the horrible history of the word. I took the time to educate him and I haven’t heard it from him since.

  • Ask them to think about what they’re doing

  • “You don’t have the right to tell her what she can/can’t wear, do, or say. Let her do what makes her happy.”

  • Stop being mean

  • “Won’t you join me in respect?”

  • I won’t hesitate to call the police if I suspect domestic violence

  • Catcalling is NOT a compliment

  • What would you do if it was your loved one? Would you just stand back and not speak out?

  • “I don’t accept that type of behavior – ever”

  • I can address the situation with a level head

  • Ask them why they think their behavior is funny, tell them it’s not okay, then change the subject

  • Don’t be afraid to stand up for the person who is too scared

  • I have to address my friend 1-on-1 to help them correct their behavior

  • “That is not okay or acceptable”

  • There’s nothing cute about being misogynistic

  • Stand up when you see inappropriate behavior

  • No smiling or laughing [at problematic behaviors]; educate in an appropriate way

  • Ask them to take a minute to think about what they’re doing

  • “Excuse me, would you repeat that?”

  • Education is important. Listen to your female friends, take what they say and apply it to make yourself a better person

Our Walk participants came up with a lot of great ways that they can be an ally in common, everyday situations. For example, if someone makes a rape joke, saying something as simple as “Was that supposed to be funny?” or “Excuse me, would you repeat that?” can stop a person in their tracks. Alternatively, you could say, “I don’t get it. Why is that funny?” Forcing someone to explain why they believe that sexual assault is humorous is a simple way to get them to acknowledge that it isn’t actually funny — and to ensure that this type of behavior does not go unchecked.

Of course, there are many times when simply calling out bad behavior is not enough. Our ally behaviors page explains a number of ways (with examples) that you can be an ally in these situations. We also offer trainings for community groups, businesses, schools, and other organizations on topics such as bystander intervention. In these trainings, we teach individuals how to safely respond in more volatile situations involving domestic, sexual or another type of interpersonal violence. To learn more, visit our Training and Education page.

We believe that each of us has a role to play when it comes to changing our culture. By working together and taking ownership of ally behaviors, we can make a significant different in how our society functions.

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