Check out these 8 great ways to support women and gender minorities (WGMs) and increase your cultural competence!
- Ask questions
Being afraid to engage in difficult conversations for fear of being shut down is the worst, and as someone with many marginalized voices, I know this for sure. You may feel this kind of worry when curious about a concept but unsure how to approach learning about it. I think it is important to recognize a people as the best source of knowledge on a topic directly affecting them, especially if in a harmful way. Asking questions can be a good way to engage and discover different perspectives. But keep in mind: a) one person cannot ever represent an entire community, and b) how you frame your questions matters. Further, intellectual labour is a real thing and being exploited for it is no fun. In this case, you may want to…
- Conduct your own research
The internet is a gem – use this beautiful tool to learn all the things you’ve been so curious about! But beware, the internet is also a dirty trickster because anyone can claim anything. It’s also important to pay attention to who is authoring content. After all, who would’ve thought that articles on reproductive rights by old, cis-het men could be full of inaccuracies and bigotry?
- Find spaces dedicated to social justice education
A great way to avoid placing intellectual burden on WGMs and receiving questionable information is to seek spaces hosted by us like community events, workshops and lecture series. This is different because, in settings like these, a dedication to education is the main purpose of the gathering. Whereas, cornering a minority student on their way from Tim’s with your pen and paper is not the way to go. Laurier’s various EDI spaces (equity, diversity and inclusivity) host some pretty amazing events, such as the Food Justice Workshop Series, Intercultural Certificate, and Bystander Intervention Week on consent education. Keep in mind: some spaces are explicitly not open to cis-het male attendance for reasons of safety or solidarity, depending on the community’s needs at the time.
- Get down with the lingo
There’s going to be plenty of new words to understand, and doing so is important in acknowledging the existence and/or validity of persons and their experiences. For example, understanding “they” as a singular pronoun and respecting it is key in acknowledging that identity. Equally as important is understanding what words not to say and why. Many marginalized groups have reclaimed once-derogatory terms as colloquial greetings or identities. But just because those folks have, does not mean you get to. And no, no one can ever give you a pass.
- Remember it’s not personal
It’s important to understand that because of the political identities attached to us, we constantly represent and carry the legacy of our ancestors and institutions that privilege or oppress our being. When there is a call to privilege WGMs’ voices, no one is saying you don’t matter; we are saying that for centuries long, these voices have mattered far less than yours, and it is time to change that. Think: what can I do to ensure this person’s needs/concerns are met as mine would be?
- Call out your male friends
When they start a story saying their ex-girlfriend is a psycho. When they catcall students on their way to class. When they body-shame women on TV. When you find out their new partner is a junior in high school. Call. Them. Out. I believe a part of breaking oppressive cycles is accountability between privileged groups. The ability for one man to positively inform and influence another in this context is an underestimated connection. And by the way, if you’ve made it so far to be brave enough to speak out with your loved ones, but they clap back at you with more harmful thoughts, consider: is this really someone I want to be around? Do they have a history of demeaning WGMs?
- Reassess your own beliefs, thoughts and behaviours
Taking everything you’ve learned in your allyship journey thus far, you should take time to meditate on your beliefs and practices and call yourself into question. Are the things that I do or say supporting WGMs or harming them? Am I doing more of one than another? What might it look like to turn the harm around? (Advice: head back to point one and work your way down!)
- Bonus: Follow Her Campus Laurier Brantford!
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