No Buts: How to be an Ally


I’ve had a red letter week for trolling. First, I managed to shame my own mother into taking down a blog post just because she happened to touch on a personal failing I’m sensitive about. Sorry, again, Mom.

Second, I had my first unfriending. Or she blocked me. Not really sure which. I’m strangely proud of this last accomplishment. I mean, I’m a narcissist. Everyone must like me or else what’s the point. And yet here I am, not mired in self-doubt or anxiety.

Let’s set the stage, shall we? Scrolling through the Facebook yesterday, I saw a post from a college friend stating an unpopular opinion about a subject I’m heavily vested in. And she ended her post with the warning that arguing with her was pointless since it wouldn’t change her mind.

Now, I don’t normally engage in debates on social media. When someone challenges the world like that they aren’t looking for debate. They’re looking for validation. You can bury them in facts all day and they’ll cling to their opinion because it’s a matter of pride. I’m well aware of the pointlessness of such discussions. But the entire post raised my hackles.

Ok, says I, I’ll just comment my experience and go.

Long story short, I tried and failed to either stay out of it or make any dent in her view. As was bound to happen. My experience didn’t matter to her because she wasn’t talking about me specifically. Nor did my expertise on the subject since she just latched on to the information she already knew. In the end it was agree to disagree and that’s the end of it.

Except of course that wasn’t the end of it. I was PISSED. I did my best to remain polite, keep things civil, but the things she said in her OP, responding to my comments, and to other comments just kept circling around in my head until I knew a blog had to happen so I could exorcise the demon. I was going to take her post, break it down point by point and get to the root of what bothered me so much about it.

She took down the post first. Followed it up with a thanks for the lolz, y’all didn’t change my mind even though I read and fully understood all your arguments, and clearly you dissenters just didn’t understand what I meant.

Guys. This is me. LIVID. A: I don’t have the OP or my comments so I can’t fix this bug in my brain. B: She impugned my reading comprehension. (Not by name, but she grouped everyone who disagreed with her into the category of deliberately misunderstanding her.) C: She dismissed everything people had been trying to tell her because she’s entitled to her own opinion and they just didn’t get it. Lolz.

LIVID. So, like the mature adult I am, I posted on my page a crude, boiled down summary of her OP, quoting her out of context and as best I could from memory, and included her inference that my reading comprehension was to blame. Then I tagged my former English professors and some people who had classes with me. I didn’t mention her name or tag her or anything. Still a dick move, I admit that.

Let me tell you, the responses were quite gratifying. Even when she popped up and called me a liar for misrepresenting her. Of course, no one would have known I was talking about her if she hadn’t said anything. And sadly, her response only made her look worse to an audience I had already biased against her. The best response would have been to share her original post and leave it at that or just PM me. Sadly, she did neither and was ridiculed by my well-meaning and frightfully educated friends.

And I bet you’re DYING to know what we were arguing about. I’m not going to tell you. Because this is a post about How to be an Ally and if I tell you the inciting incident, we’ll end up debating it. Or the rage will take over.

How to be an Ally.

What is an Ally? Well, that’s simply someone who supports a cause even if they aren’t directly impacted by it. Straight people advocating for LGBT+ rights. White people supporting the Civil Rights Movement. Men supporting women’s rights. Cat people donating to dog shelters.

Now this young woman claimed to be supportive of a cause. Except she stated point blank there was no reason to demonstrate or protest for the cause since she had never witnessed the type of discrimination that was being protested. Strike one. Then she casually dismissed the struggles of the people affected by said discrimination (so casually she didn’t even realize she’d done it). Strike two. Then she made her support conditional on said people adhering to her standards of morality and common sense. Strike three.

Not. An. Ally.

Rule #1: If you want to be an Ally, don’t add a caveat to your support. Read this very carefully.

I’m all for (insert social movement here), but only if they all wear orange socks on Tuesdays.

That sounds ridiculous, yes? Well so does telling someone you support them but only so long as you can dictate the means by which they advocate for themselves. “I just don’t like how they’re protesting” is essentially “my comfort is more important than those people.” Not “their cause.” PEOPLE. Dismissing the validity of a movement should be conditional on the issues, not how attention is brought to them.

Rule #2: No Modest Proposals. Some of you may remember a post I did on the little word “just.” It’s an insidious modifier which manages to transform Herculean tasks into mere trifles. “If they would just (insert seemingly simple solution to complex issue) I would support them. It’s not that hard.” Here’s a famous satirical example: if the Irish just ate their babies, they wouldn’t be starving. Congrats, you’re blaming the victim for being abused. How very noble of you. You’re also claiming that you know better than they do what they’re fighting for and how they should go about it.

Let’s be clear, any form of protest is met with the same arguments as stated above. Non-violent protesters are tazed, maced, and run over by cars, despite claims that non-violence is the only path to social reform. Ah, well, they must have been doing it wrong, eh? Bottom line: it isn’t the form of protest that bothers those people. They just need the excuse to dismiss the issue because it makes them uncomfortable to question the status quo. And, yeah, that’s pretty harsh. But so is telling a mother her child was probably shot dead for a reason. Conditional support is not support.

Which takes us to the most disturbing part of the OP. The cause is bs, there is no need to “normalize” because it is already normal.

Rule #3: Don’t claim the cause you support is made up.

I have not personally experienced racism, so we live in a post-racial society.

I’ve never met an anti-vaxxer, so the world-wide rise in deadly diseases is probably a fluke.

I’ve never been to China so it doesn’t exist.

Not experiencing discrimination does not mean it doesn’t happen. Just means it doesn’t happen to you. And it’s incredibly insulting to say, especially if you will never have to deal with that discrimination being directed at you. It speaks to a wealth of ignorance on the subject. Imagine having a white person say that racism is a myth and explaining quite calmly that if black people just followed the law, they wouldn’t get gunned down in the street. Oh, wait. I was going for hyperbole and completely missed the mark.

Okay, I don’t suffer from seasonal allergies, but my husband does. Honestly, though, why does he need allergy meds? Why can’t he just stay inside? There’s no point in him going out there to prove it’s an issue. He’s just breaking out in hives to get attention. Nobody’s making him leave the house.

Furthermore, just because you aren’t against a cause doesn’t mean no one is. No, maybe you haven’t personally lynched anyone lately. Guess that means the KKK is totally irradicated. Your support doesn’t magically mean that the struggle is over and overt claims of that kind tell those people you “support” two things. First, you don’t actually know anything about what they’re advocating for. Second, they should be grateful you are gracing them with your approbation at all since it saves them from needing to advocate further for their rights. I’ve never pushed you into traffic. You’re welcome.

Hmmm. Thanks, but no thanks.

To reiterate, don’t use social media to undermine the cause. Don’t blast away on Facebook about how supportive you are unless you actually mean it. And don’t dismiss a cause as bs just because you disagree with the form of protest. Is anyone making you go around with your boobs exposed to protest discrimination against breastfeeding mothers and the sexualization of feeding infants? No? Do you have a neck with functioning vertebrae? Good. Use it to turn your head away like a mature adult.

Breastfeeding in public is the tip of the excruciating iceberg for some mothers in their struggle feed their children in a society that actively encourages them to quit. They fight through latch issues, engorgement, tongue/lip ties, mastitus, nursing strikes, chafed/cracked nipples, biting, yeast infections, under-supply, allergies, and a million other exhausting, painful, and often terrifying circumstances. And that’s just the physical obstacles to simply nursing, without counting the added strain of months of sleep deprivation and wildly fluctuating hormones. If they have 9-5 jobs, they drag pumps to work and diligently pump every 2 hours because if they don’t they risk drying up, even though it’s probably hurting their career. They lecture child care facilities on pace feeding and dispute policies restricting breast milk to babies under a year old. They spend hours crying over their child because it shouldn’t be this hard. They argue with doctors who tell them to switch to formula because it’s easier than diagnosing a problem. They argue with family and friends who tell them that’s it’s weird and gross. And they listen to moronic people who have never done it tell them how to breastfeed. Just use a cover? I’m sorry, my son isn’t an effing doll. He doesn’t like being covered and I can either feed him or worry about your delicate sensibilities. Guess which one is my priority.

Your misguided and ignorant judgment of nursing mothers is repulsive and I’ll ask you to keep your juvenile opinions where they belong: with the rest of the trash.

Oops, I guess I let slip the inciting incident. Probably best that she blocked me.

2 Comments

Filed under Ramblings, Rants

2 responses to “No Buts: How to be an Ally

  1. Yo, kiddo. Every single thing that could go bad with nursing went bad with me. If you ever need some help, call, text, email me. I was nursing when kids were being weaned at 3-6 weeks because that was all the maternity leave they were allowed. And there I was, nursing at 9 months and beyond.
    They didn’t have tents and throwing a blanket over the kid lasted about 2 seconds before they threw it off. All the “nursing friendly” clothes stretched and looked weird in obvious places. My doctor told me that mother’s milk was not good for babies. So if people would “Just” mind their own business, that would be great. Didn’t get the memo?

    • Amen. The struggle now is to undo the DECADES of poisonous rhetoric about breastfeeding and the subsequent backlash against formula from nipple nazis. There are just entirely too many people who aren’t moms trying to tell moms what to do.

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