This month’s True Ally is someone you have probably seen or heard on HLN before. I often call on him to speak on issues of male anger, violence or gender stereotypes. If you haven’t, meet Professor Hugo Schwyzer. He teaches, writes books, columns, articles, is a speaker, husband and father of two. And yes he is a friend of mine and an ally of women and girls.
I met Hugo last year when he accepted an award on behalf of the Good Men Project at the annual Men Stopping Violence dinner I co-chair every year. I was already familiar with his work.
He did not disappoint with his remarks to the audience about not lowering the bar for men’s behavior. They were insightful and challenging thoughts that called for the best in all of us.
I asked Hugo to share what it means to him to be an ally to women and girls. In true Hugo fashion, he delivered words that are relatable, compassionate and challenging:
“At the heart of what it means to be an ally is congruence. We have to match our language with our lives. There’s an old saying that “justice is what love looks like in public.” To me, that means that it’s not enough for me to be a good husband, a good father, a good brother, a good friend. As male allies, we have to do more than honor the women and girls we already love. We need to advocate for the women and girls whom we don’t even know.
I also think that the acid test of a man’s commitment to justice often comes not only in terms of how he treats women, but how he speaks about women when he’s in all-male spaces. Many men are kind, even gentlemanly, when around women they know and respect. But get them around their “bros” and their words change. Or, as is more often the case, they may not join in on sexist banter — but they fail to raise vocal objection to it. Being a real ally means challenging the jokes and complaints and objectifying remarks that are so much a part of the conversation in all-male spaces.
As a father to a girl and a boy, I want both my children to know that their biology isn’t their destiny. Women can be strong and men can be empathetic (and vice-versa, of course.) Gender roles can be fun, but they can also be straitjackets that limit our potential to be fully human. Good allies always push to expand the spectrum of what’s possible.”