“I don’t need advice but I will take it”: Allied labor in transgender allyship

Ruth Blatt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Allies play an important role in virtually every fight to end oppression, yet are often criticized by those they are allied with for reinforcing binaries and recreating colonial models of saviorism that maintain their relative social power. I refer to the potential of allies to both help and harm those they are allied with as the “ally paradox.” I analyze the clip “Janet Mock Rejoins Piers Morgan” from February 2014 to identify the issues at the heart of the ally paradox: who knows what is best for the cause (epistemic authority), who deserves allyship (deservingness), what constitutes “good” allyship (intention versus outcome), and how allyship should feel (affect). Paying attention to the affective and emotional components of their interaction, I ask how Mock manages the complexity of the ally-allied relationship that stems from unequal power relations. I coin the term “allied labor” to describe the work of mobilizing allies as a resource while at the same time disrupting power structures. Allied labor is the work of both cultivating and resisting allies. Mock draws on politeness and respectability as resources to educate Morgan and the public about transgender issues and expose his allyship as fragile. In this way, she is both complicit and subversive, leveraging the potential of allyship for social change while engaging in respectability politics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)733-752
Number of pages20
JournalSexualities
Volume27
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.

Keywords

  • affect theory
  • allied labor
  • ally paradox
  • allyship
  • Transgender

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