Man Ally Monday: Balkaran
A few months back, someone asked me why I am an ally, and my response was, ‘the question for me is why shouldn’t I be one’. I find it rather natural to be an ally rather than otherwise.
My childhood and youth, in most ways, was a somewhat traditional Punjabi one, and I grew up with non-inclusive and patriarchal gender values. However, there were also Sikh tenets of equality of gender, that I learnt from the saakhis and parables that my Nanaji and my ma introduced me to, and I think I acquired more guidance from those stories growing up than from some of the behaviours of men around me. Also, Norway, where I’m from, ranks extremely high on gender-equity, so that culture and its norms definitely had an impact on me. But most of all though, raising two well-rounded and strong girls influences me a lot, as does knowing and being good friends with so many intelligent, hardworking and bold women.
For me, being an ally means to respect women’s individuality, expression and space, be open to learning and be understanding of the different lived experiences of women, and importantly, as a man, always be aware of traditional structures of privilege – this recognition of privilege is essential to being an ally, I feel. I believe more in deeds than words, so I show up not only support women and their work, but also advocate for their work, rights and freedoms (all of which are still impeded by traditional social structures). Another couple of factors for me in being an ally is being able to check my privilege and unlearn some of the acquired behaviours that are a result of my upbringing or current environment.