A Female perspective: How it has made me a better ally
By Grace Davis
Published April 3rd, 2021
Recent studies have found that 97% of young women have been sexually harassed and nearly 20% have been sexually assaulted in their short lifetimes. These findings have brought a new light to the struggles that women worldwide have to deal with, but to the women all around the world, these struggles are anything but new.
At just 16 years old, I have already become 97% of women, as have my sisters, mother, and almost every other woman in my life. In order to hopefully use my point of view to help other people, I will be answering questions from the LLM team about how my experiences as a young white woman have helped shape me as an ally to women of color. I hope that sharing my experiences will help others become allies to all women and especially women of color.
What do you wish more people knew about dealing with sexual harassment and the fear from a woman’s perspective?
I know that myself and a lot of the other women in my life are very afraid when going on a run because we feel vulnerable to our surroundings. Although I only participated in running for a short time during quarantine (exercise of any kind is not my specialty), I remember always feeling on edge, as have most other women. I have heard of other women putting their identifying information in their shoes in case something happens to them and having their music on low volume so they can’t be snuck up on.
Women are taught by other women to never walk home alone in the dark. We are taught to watch our drinks at parties so they aren’t tampered with. We are taught to be extremely cautious when meeting up with people we have met online. If any of these seem extreme to you, then you do not fully understand what it is like to be a woman and have to constantly be thinking about the worst case scenario in order to protect yourself.
What lessons have you learned from women of color?
One of the biggest things that I have learned from women of color is that although it is hard for me as a young white woman, it is undoubtedly harder for women of color, as they have to not only face the danger of being a woman but also the danger of being a minority in America. When a white woman goes missing, she is generally given a lot of media attention and her face is plastered everywhere on the news. When a woman of color goes missing, however, she likely doesn’t receive as much media attention and can often be assumed to be a runaway. Realizing this was really eye-opening for me because it made me realize that even in the worst case scenario, I would still be favored by the public, press, and police as a white woman in ways that a woman of color unfortunately never would.
How do you keep yourself in check, activism-wise, to avoid having a white savior complex?
The best advice that has ever been given to me is that my job as an ally is to amplify minority voices and never to talk over them. Minority voices in America have a long history of being silenced by white people, so being an ally requires me to break this pattern and instead raise up minority voices. I always make sure to remind myself that just as I wouldn’t want a man to take away my voice by speaking over me, people of color do not want white people speaking over them and not allowing them to share their unique experiences.
In what ways can other white citizens become allies?
As an ally, I would say the best thing you can do is educate yourselves. I believe that human nature often makes us tempted to only look at our side of things and not consider what others are going through, which can be incredibly dangerous. It requires effort and commitment to educating yourself to truly overcome this cycle of selfish thinking, in my opinion. Besides educating yourself, I also think it is important to not stay silent and hold those around you accountable for their ignorant or hurtful behavior.
In what ways do you think society can grow to be more inclusive of not only women but the intersectional communities within?
I love this question because I feel it is a topic that is not talked about enough. There are unfortunately many women who are more vulnerable to violence because they are a part of certain communities; transgender women, women with disabilties, sex workers, to name a few, are preyed on or become victims of hate crimes because they are considered easy targets. I recently heard the story of a young blind woman who went missing and I remember feeling so anxious when I thought about having to live my life as a woman without being able to use my sight to protect myself. This is just one example of how much more vulnerable the women of these communities can feel. I truly feel like there should be a larger conversation around these intersectional communities and I feel that society as a whole should pay more attention to these communities in order to make them feel safer.