What’s in a Name? A Synthesis of “Allyship” Elements From Academic and Activist Literature

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Within men’s activism to address gender inequities and prevent gender-based violence, and social justice movements more broadly, questions about the usefulness and limitations of the term ‘allyship’ have surfaced. Moreover, studies demonstrate that social justice activists with privilege often perpetuate inequalities, perhaps despite their best intentions. To explicate the current understanding of allyship and to apply it to male activism, this paper synthesized the primary elements of allyship as defined by 40 activist and academic sources. Eight unique and discrete themes surfaced: constant action of the “everyday ally”; prioritizing a structural analysis of oppression and privilege; non-self absorbed and accountable self-reflection; amplify marginalized voices; welcome criticism and be accountable; listen+shut up+read, ally is not a self-adhesive label; and allyship: unlikely or undesirable?. While surfacing as discrete concepts, the themes inter-relatedness and interdependence appeared equally crucial. The implications of this synthesis for allyship discourse and scholarship are offered. This synthesis provides conceptual and practical insights that can be applied to men’s gender equity promotion and gender-based violence prevention work.

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Journal of Family Violence

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