Downloadable version of our Ally Skills 101: Why Allies? presentation (adapted from Frameshift Consulting's Ally Skills Workshop Handout, CC BY-SA 4.0) Basic concepts Privilege: an unearned advantage given to some people but not all Oppression: systemic, pervasive inequality present throughout society that benefits people with more privilege and harms those with fewer privileges Marginalized person: a member of a group that is the primary target of a system of oppression Ally: a member of a social group that enjoys some privilege that is working to end oppression and understand their own privilege Power: The ability to control circumstances or access to resources and/or privileges Intersectionality: The concept that people can be subject to multiple systems of oppression that intersect and interact with each other, coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw
Terminology Using the right words and keeping up with changes is important ally work. If you make a mistake, that's fine! Just apologize, correct yourself, and move on. Members of a marginalized group can agree to call themselves anything they want. This is part of the process of "reclaiming" slurs, part of which is members of a marginalized group agreeing to use a slur to refer to each other positively, gradually neutralizing the slur, and after which everyone can use it. For example, "queer" is in the process of being reclaimed.
Gender ● Cis: your gender is the same as the gender that was assigned to you at birth ● Trans: your gender is different than the gender that was assigned to you at birth ● Use "trans" or "transgender" but do not use "transgendered" or "transsexual" ● Non-binary or genderqueer: "male" or "female" doesn't describe your gender accurately ● Use men for cis and trans men, women for cis and trans women, non-binary people/folks, cis men/women, trans men/women, people of all genders, folks, people, everyone, all, y'all, all y’all, yinz... ● Don't use "girls" for women 18 years of age and over, "females" for humans, "guys" for groups that are not all men, "ladies", "people with [BODY PART or CHROMOSOME]" instead of "men" or "women"
Sexuality ● Use straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual/pansexual (attracted to people of all genders), asexual (little or no sexual attraction to anyone) ● Queer: catch-all term for anyone who is not a straight cis woman or man (recently reclaimed, may still be offensive in some cultural groups)
Racial and ethnic groups ● Avoid abbreviated forms of names of racial or ethnic groups ● Use Wikipedia to find preferred terms for racial or ethnic groups ● Don't use "ethnic," "urban," "inner city" or other euphemisms to designate people of a particular race or ethnic group ● Remember that "African-American" only applies to Black Americans; use "Black" for all people of (recent) sub-Saharan African descent 2 ● Remember that some people are multi-racial or multi-ethnic; e.g., someone can be both white and Latinx, or both Black and Jewish
Disability and neurodivergence There is an ongoing debate about which is preferable, "person-first" ("I am a person with disabilities") or "identity-first" ("I am a disabled person") language. While many disabled people strongly prefer identity-first language, person-first is a reasonable default. When referring to a specific person or group, ask for their preferences and respect them. ● Use "abled person," "[NAME] is disabled," or "person with disabilities" ● Don't use "the disabled" (referring to a group) or "handicapped" ● Use "wheelchair user," don't use "wheelchair bound" or "confined to a wheelchair" ● Use Deaf for someone who is culturally Deaf (uses sign language, etc.), "deaf" or "hard of hearing" for any person with any level of hearing loss, and "hearing person" ● A person is "neurodivergent," a group of people with different neurotypes is "neurodiverse" ● Only use respectfully in cases of self-disclosure: ADD/ADHD, Autistic, autism spectrum, schizophrenic, bipolar, etc. ● Don't use "lame," "dumb," "retard," "stupid," "crazy," etc. - instead use "foolish," "wild," or a specific adjective like "crowded" or "disorganized" ● Don’t use names of specific disabilities as metaphors or similes to indicate badness
Body size ● Describe body size using neutral descriptions: "higher weight," "lower weight," "larger body," "smaller build," "medium size" ● Don't use medicalized or value-judgement terms for body size like "healthy weight," "obese," "struggles with his weight", "normal weight," "overweight" ● The word "fat" is in the process of being reclaimed; if your audience understands that you aren't using it pejoratively, go ahead and use "fat" and "thin" ● You can't tell by looking at someone whether they struggle with an eating disorder or body image disorder
Religion, class, age, family role, etc. ● Speak respectfully about religious or spiritual beliefs, with the exception of any bigotry or intolerance that is part of those beliefs ● Don’t use stereotypes about working class people (e.g. janitor), adults of particular ages, people with family roles (mother, grandparent, etc.), or caregivers ● Don't use "politically correct" in a serious or literal way, as it is a derogatory label created to criticize and deride the concept of "treating people with respect" ● Use "undocumented" not "illegal immigrant" or "illegal"
Guidelines for responding to oppression Be short, simple, and firm Humor usually backfires, avoid it Play for the audience Practice simple responses Pick your battles Don't be sexist, homophobic, transphobic, racist, ableist, classist, ageist, body-shaming, or make fun of people for being sexually undesirable, unattractive, etc.