It’s a world that’s lived mostly on Twitter—-a world where women become easy targets, offensive terms like ‘feminazi’ are coined—- and angry women are now caricatured and slotted into one narrative—-they hate men. So an aggrieved section of men rose up and called themselves ‘meninists’ to counter the feminism movement. The end result? Women’s voices get further subsumed in this shrieking chaos and continue to be far easier targets.
Hira Ali in her book, ‘Her Allies’ uses clear and simple words to just address how men can actually be of support to the movement, rather than normalising the inequality and discrimination with silence. With careful and meticulous research, Ali shows how the innumerable sections of women from around the world, the marginalized, under-privileged and the women of color combat numerous challenges on a daily basis including workplace sexual harassment without little or no social support. This social exclusion causes enormous devastation to the human psyche, as she notes. The dehumanizing stereotypes of race and color isolate them further. Thus, the challenges are a debilitating combination of both internal and external.
Hira Ali doesn’t mince her words and shy away from the truth in her book——she places the cold reality as it is, without any beating around the bush. After laying to the facts, she crafts the ‘toolkit’ on how to be an actual ally. She is not expecting the perfect allies in the beginning of course; people will stumble across the way—-but here’s the broad idea. You’re always learning, she points out. Just be conscious of your inherent bias, privilege and contribute to being a strong ally—educate yourself, ask the difficult questions, and more importantly, show empathy rather than trying to walk on eggshells and being cautious.
She makes it clear that stereotyping and generalizations need to be terminated for good, as it is particularly harmful. One particularly illuminating aspect of Hira Ali’s book when she explains the seemingly insignificant small talk that actually contribute to the bigger problem of discrimination How often have we heard, ‘I am not being racist but…’ and then the person proceeds to say the most racist statements. The seemingly innocent ‘Your English is so good’—the number of times I’ve heard foreigners say that to Indians abroad is sickening. In a tabular form she shows the discrimination that both genders face—the nauseating male chauvinism and macho ideas of masculinity, especially when men are told ‘don’t cry like a girl’. This stimulates further the toxic ideas of masculinity, apart from of course being derogatory to women, the refusal to acknowledge that men can be vulnerable too, thus preventing them from being allies to women in this long war that they have to fight.
The line ‘Not All Men’ raised so many hackles, as so many offended men protested especially after the MeToo cases—‘not all men are rapists’. Not all Men are harmful. This particular take is so jarring as Hira Ali explains, women already know they aren’t. However, men constantly emphasizing it, takes away from the actual problem. Yet Hira Ali doesn’t bash men as much as the meninists would love for her to do so—she carefully explains why these statements are detrimental for the movement. She elucidates the sheer starkness of the situation—women safety. Men rarely have a problem walking alone at night. Men don’t have to pretend to be talking on the phone in a cab while returning home late at night; neither do they have to share their locations with their friends, just in case something outwardly happens. Women live in this perpetual state of fear, and having non-supportive statements like ‘`Not All Men’ thrown around’ is corrosive and ignites the problem further. And so, she carefully touches upon most of the problematic statements and beliefs, tabulates them and shows people why it’s wrong, without being patronizing.
Hira Ali’s book is an enlightening read as she painstakingly explains steps on how to be an ally, why certain beliefs and thought processes that seem casual but are actually terribly harmful, need to be rooted out. It’s simple and practical, only if people follow this and try to be part of the cultural change.
An aspiring author, journalist and history graduate, Lakshana Palat has written stories for three anthologies ‘When They Spoke’, ‘Mocktales’ and ‘Readomania’s Book Of Romance’. In 2018, she published her first book, ‘The Final Word’.