This week for our community male ally feature, we sat down to chat with Samuel Yoon, an undergraduate student at WLU.
Tell us about yourself, Sam.
I am currently a 4th year student in Communications and Women and Gender studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. I am a dancer, choreographer, avid Wes Anderson fan, and I also love Corgis.
Who are you in the Waterloo Region?
I am primarily a student although the most meaningful aspects of being a student is the chance to organize with like-minded folks who want to combat gendered violence. I guess I would call myself a student organizer!
Tell us about why you’re an ally.
I am an Ally because we live in a society where women and trans folks experience violence because of the gender binary and the expectations that are attached to this binary. At this point, not being aware and/or trying to address the ways that these communities disproportionately experience violence would make me a part of the problem. I think one of the main reasons I engage in this work is because from listening to friends and activists there is a call for men to take responsibility. Women and trans folks have demonstrated such resilience and strength in organizing against the violence they experience and I feel as if being an Ally can amplify and support them. The mentality needs to shift away from individual men thinking they are not violent to considering how there are larger social and cultural problems that they can actively address and resist!
How did you hear about SASC or the Male Allies program?
It was in my Introduction to Women Studies course where an employee of the Male Allies Program came into my class and discussed gender violence and I continue to hear and work with them on the Laurier campus.
What does it mean to you to be a male ally?
1. Acknowledging male privilege
2. Support and be accountable to women and trans folks
3. Actively challenging friends when they are being sexist, transphobic and/or homophobic
How do you live this out in your current role in the community?
I am currently the president of Not My Laurier, an action group underneath Laurier’s Students’ Public Interest Group. We are the only student led group that addresses gendered violence on campus, and we provide opportunities to for students to learn more in how they can combat gendered violence. Beyond this role, I try my best to engage with others and provide a perspective that they may not have considered before, one that is prioritizes anti-oppression and social justice.
Can you tell us about a time when you spoke up?
Post Women’s March 2017 I heard a friend talk about how these marches are unnecessary and that equality has been achieved. I attempted to provide an alternative perspective and how the patriarchy and male privilege is very real. How well this went is debatable because I could not develop his empathy. He continued to argue and debate around social issues from a position and experience that is not the whole picture. As a white, straight, cis, upper middle-class man, your rights will never be taken away although your privileges to get jobs, speak over, and occupy space at the expense of marginalized communities, should be taken away. I think this is one of the major barriers to this work; how do we get people to care and/or think about something beyond themselves.
Can you tell us about a time you didn’t speak up?
I believe there are a lot of layers to this and there are times where it is safer to speak up.
As a male ally, there are differences in my capacity as a gay, Asian man to speak up versus a white, straight man. I think the bar is the main example where I usually don’t speak up because of the real chance I might get punched in the face since masculinity is so tied to violence and homophobia. I think there are a lot of conversation to be had, especially in the university context in how parties are an opportunity for male allies to be prosocial bystanders.
What would you like to see change in your family, school, or workplace?
I would like people to be more open and less defensive when they are challenged. A simple thought is that when someone tells you that you said something harmful, why wouldn’t our first reaction be to legitimize that versus sparking an unproductive conversation.
What would you like to see change in your community?
Hmm… a lot aha. It would be cool to see more students critical and reflective of the work they are doing and consider how they are working towards social justice. I think there are conversations to be had about what is seen as valuable and important to the Laurier community. Specifically, what voices and individuals hold the most power and what communities and individuals are pushed to the fringes.
Do you have any tips or ideas on how to reduce isolation amongst allies?
Find people with similar politics and hold onto them and be willing to grown and learn with them.
What would you say to a young ally?
Reflect on why you are an ally. Being an ally is not about making yourself feel better about possessing privilege, it is about having honest intention to create meaningful change for the most marginalized communities. Being an ally means changing your behavior not simply calling yourself one. I would also say that there is lifelong learning in this. No one knows everything and being humble and open minded will go a long way.
Finally, is there a picture, quote, meme, etc. that represents your allyship?
In my 15 minutes search on google I came across this and I am content with it representing my allyship:
“My issue is that masculinity acts as oppressive force, and any conversation about oppression that leaves out the oppressed is not one I find worth having. What masculinity does to heterosexual cis men is important to discuss, but what it does to everyone else, especially women, is far more important. Because while it can leave us men broken in many ways, the privilege to be able to move through the world adopting this masculinity bestows upon us a tremendous amount of power. That power has been used to render everyone else second- and third-class citizens. This is the true danger.”
Mychal Denzel Smith
Thanks very much, Sam. We look forward to working with you on campus in the coming year!