'You've Got a Friend in Me?': the Politics of Allyship and Privilege Negotiation at the Intersection of LGBTQ and Feminist Activism

Hartless, Jaime, Sociology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Pugh, Allison, AS-Sociology, University of Virginia

“'You’ve Got a Friend in Me?': The Politics of Allyship and Privilege Negotiation at the Intersection of LGBTQ and Feminist Activism” explores how activists collectively use the rhetoric of allyship and privilege to blur and reaffirm the boundaries of social movements. Using data from 1.5 years of ethnographic fieldwork with six LGBTQ and five feminist groups across two cities and interviews with 106 activists, this dissertation argues that identity politics and post-identity models of mobilization offer distinct tradeoffs for activists as they attempt to bring about social change without being derailed by internal conflicts over inequality and privilege. LGBTQ and feminist activism are ideal cases for examining these tradeoffs due to their divergent approaches to identity politics. Even as LGBTQ people increasingly build community with straight folks in social venues, the mainstream movement has remained deeply influenced by essentialist models of identity politics that keep straight people ‘outside’—a mobilization strategy that creates a gay/straight binary which also excludes bisexual and transgender people and complicates cross-movement mobilization. In contrast, feminist organizations have begun to increasingly mobilize around egalitarian ideology rather than shared sisterhood in response to accusations that woman-centered activism is non-intersectional and trans-exclusionary. This strategy has generated new opportunities for men to adopt the label of feminist, but also created challenges for the movement since neutralizing male privilege in activist work becomes difficult in the absence of firm insider/outsider barriers. By comparing allyship politics in LGBTQ and feminist activism, this dissertation shows how activists in different kinds of identity-based social movements build solidarity by collectively constructing who has a stake in a given movement and who is an outside supporter. Such boundary-drawing processes have important implications for how movements advocate for social change and their prospects for success.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
LGBTQ , Feminism, Allies, Social Movements
Sponsoring Agency:
Raven Society (University of Virginia)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
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