The best ally you can be

Being an ally is active, not passive. It sounds absurd now, but I’ve only just internalised that you can’t rely on simply knowing that you’re a person with good intentions who isn’t racist, sexist, misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, xenophobic, ableist. Because allyship isn’t about intention. Because declaring “I am an ally” is insufficient.

Listening is vital too, but it’s not enough either, and to be completely honest it hasn’t felt enough to stand by and simply watch as it all unfolds. We, that is myself and other white cis women, need to act without inserting ourselves, to reach out to other white, straight, cis, privileged people, hopefully, to solidify our choice to be and act as allies. To encourage others. Because it’s a choice, and not an identity. It seems that this is what we have misunderstood all along. No one is born an ally.

Being an ally is active, not passive.

In truth, and perhaps it’s selfish too, I also cannot really stand the thought of running a blog where I post about women’s issues and feminism, where I eco-criticise Black Friday and discuss the violence we commit against our environment, if only to consciously and casually decide to skip over racism, or how to be an ally to any oppressed community that isn’t my own, just because I’m afraid to broach the topic, or to mess up my part. So I’ve decided to post and share what I’ve discussed with others, and compiled over these past few weeks. I might fuck up, and I’ll take the risk that comes with change.

Being a better ally

There are perhaps many different versions and definitions of what it means to be an ally. It might seem over-whelming, but the more you research, read, learn, and listen, the better equipped you become, and the more you’ll grow to understand about how to act, and when to act. There will always be more, there will always be ways to better yourself, and diverging advice. Let’s start with advice and pointers that are echoed across the board, and discussed in The Guide to Allyship by Amélie Lamont, and these videos by Ahsante Bean (Ahsante The Artist) and Franchesca Ramsey (Chescaleigh).

  1. Allyship isn’t passive, and it’s not enough to proclaim yourself an ally. Ally is a verb too, so do the work.
  2. You educate yourself, consultation is a job and it’s not free. Education is not static, so keep reading and learning, there’s always more.
  3. Stand up even when you feel scared, especially because you are less likely to be attacked or hurt, and more likely to convince people who share your privilege to become allies.
  4. There is no singular experience of what it means and what it is to be black, queer, trans, black gay/bi/lesbian/asexual, disabled gay, the list goes on. You cannot read one author or watch one film, and understand ‘the‘ black experience or ‘the‘ queer experience, because there is no unified experience, even if there are similarities, recurring themes, or shared struggles that crop up.
  5. Do your part and transfer the benefits of your privilege onto others. Hire, pay, include, insert, promote, support, help and consult where appropriate.
  6. Understand and use your privilege appropriately. Racist people are more likely to listen to other white people, family members are more likely to listen to other family members. Men are more likely to listen to other men. Use your voice where others cannot. Do not insert your voice where others can speak for themselves.
  7. Understand that even if you are an ally and want to contribute positively, the conversation is not about you. As Chescaleigh puts it, you’re the Michelle, not the Beyoncé (sorry not sorry Michelle!).
  8. Don’t take credit. It’s not about intent, it’s about impact.
  9. Own your mistakes, apologise, and de-centre yourself.
  10. Even if the education system is heavily flawed and focuses on straight, cis, white, male experiences, understand that your education, especially if you are privileged, is up to you and no one else. You can google, you can decide what to read in your spare time, you can decide to engage in conversations. You have agency beyond the institution and beyond the curriculum.
  11. Understand what privilege means. Privilege does not mean being rich or not having struggled. You can occupy several positions of privilege even if parts of you or your experience are disadvantaged. This will also help you understand your rights, which is crucial in order to compare them to rights others do not have.

Towards debunking misconceptions I’ve heard as an academic and a writer

Ally resources


Marques Brownlee; on skin colour, and following authentically

Creators & accounts to follow

Ahsante The Artist, kickass art and socio-cultural critique
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whatever your political beliefs
Ashley | Best Dressed, best thrifting and open talks about sexuality
Black Pride NL, on a mission for Black Pride in the Netherlands
Black Queer & Trans Resistance, a Black LGBTI+ political action group.
Button Poetry, inclusive & multilingual performance poetry
Check Your Privilege, unlearn and relearn and dismantle the system
Chescaleigh, socio-cultural critique and comedy
Contrapoints, controversial chats about feminism, inceldom, trans experiences
Feminist, self-explanatory I hope
Free The Nipple, seriously, free it
Ginny Di, astounding female cosplayer, gamer & artist, reviving pin-up
Grace Beverley, sustainable business, fitness, and fashion queen
Hannah | Studyous, my amazing friend & literary queen with an instagram that is to die for, focusing on diverse book reviews
Jazzmyne, aesthetic, style, comedy, socio-cultural critique
Jouelzy, in depth commentary on intersectional feminism & diaspora
Kathy | Kathy Drops A Line, my fabulous friend & pro journal keeper, sharing a selection of personal experiences on her beautiful, minimalist blog
KO Zwarte Piet, against the Black Peter ‘tradition’ in the Netherlands
Life With Lanea, simply hilarious?
Machaizelli Kahey | MacDoesIt, satirical commentary and fun reviews
Marques Brownlee, detailed and honest tech reviews
Michelle Phan, the ultimate OG beauty queen, guru, and makeup artist
Nederland Wordt Beter, towards a future without racism and discrimination in the Netherlands
Phenomenal, female-owned business with a beautiful message & aesthetic
Rain Dove, a rad AF no-labels, fashionista activist & actress
SAARA, great music and weird shit that is wholesome as funk
Sad Girls Club, mental health & feminism
Saima Chowdhury | SaimaSmilesLike, great cultural critique, photography, and podcasts
Salty World, providing a voice to all babes who are justifiably salty
SolangeTeParle, it’s just weird and different and I love it?
StyleLikeU, mother-daughter-run storytelling platform & project
TALA, sustainable, ethical & diverse business headed by Grace Beverley
The Black Archives Amsterdam, cultural centre and archive striving to make hidden history visible
Therapissed, thought- and action-provoking posts on trauma and allyship
The Spark Company, sassy feminist critiques and great apparel
Unapologetic Street Series, storytelling in public spaces
We All Grow Latina, highlighting latina & latinx voices

Supporting in Amsterdam

My 2020 reading list: honest and hopefully improved

  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  • A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  • A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coats
  • City of Ash and Red by Hye-Young Pyun
  • Dawn by Octavia E. Butler
  • Fun Home by Allison Bechdel
  • Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
  • Grand Union: Stories’ by Zadie Smith
  • Hagseed by Margaret Atwood
  • Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall
  • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • In Other Worlds: SF and The Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood
  • Kallocain by Karin Boye
  • Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
  • La Peste by Albert Camus
  • Las Constelaciones Oscuras by Pola Oloixarac
  • Le Deuxième Sexe by Simone de Beauvoir
  • MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
  • Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
  • Rayuela by Julio Cortázar
  • Reflections on the Color of My Skin by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Iljeoma Oluo
  • Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
  • Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
  • The Castle, Franz Kafka
  • The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
  • The Price of Salt, by Patricia Highsmith
  • The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
  • ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
  • Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor


You might be doubting yourself, or feeling guilty. I’m the same; however, putting too much focus on these thoughts risks re-centring the conversation back onto yourself rather than the people you are supposed to be an ally to. If you’re considering writing or talking about your own experience of someone else’s reality, in depth and beyond a superficial disclaimer or footnote, take into account how it might re-centre the focus onto yourself. Ask yourself if that is your goal. It shouldn’t be.

Of course, I don’t deny the existence of a plethora of dichotomies (potential) allies might want to consider, discuss, and conduct research on:

  • Listening vs being an inactive bystander
  • Speaking up vs speaking on behalf of
  • Being vocal and supportive vs inserting yourself
  • Supporting vs exhibiting white saviour complex
  • The social media era: to share, comment, like, and participate, or not
  • Promoting vs seeming insincere and part of a trend
  • Online activism vs IRL activism vs both
  • Asking for advice only vs also educating yourself
  • Educating yourself vs trusting yourself enough to conduct quality research
  • Recognising and accepting the consequences of innate bias vs undermining your capacity to consciously counter and question bias when conducting research
  • Reading only vs also writing on being an ally
  • Being an inclusive & diverse brand or business vs profiting off of someone else’s experiences of oppression & marginalisation
  • Not your conversation vs the vantage point you have in a conversation with other straight, cis, white people

But we do have to remind ourselves, especially in this self-obsessed social media selfie era: this is not about me or you. It’s not about our feelings. It’s not about our experience. It’s not about victimising ourselves. Being nervous or unsure is natural, but it shouldn’t take over your responsibilities as an ally. Use your platform to actively, openly, and selflessly support, uplift, listen to, and promote other voices.

So from hereon out, we drop ourselves from the equation, we move past our (un)related issues, past guilt and self doubt, and past ‘self’. We, for lack of a better metaphor, become humanitarian customer service. Do your own research, stand by to help politely but not overbearingly. Always apologise, always de-centre, always be attentive to feedback, and never be defensive. Your mindset from now on is:

How can I help you?

The value of honest work and how to support your locals

Quarantined amidst (justifiable) coronavirus panic, I am one of the few who can still sit in a café with a cup of tea once a week and watch as passersby pick up their food in bulk. 1.5 meters away from the smallest sign of movement, alone at the closed bar of the Little Plant Pantry, I find it impossible to ignore the thought of other small businesses and how they will be affected by the crisis, some of their owners coming in to share their afflictions. Whereas corporations will lose money and stock value, smaller (local) companies might be forced to lay off their employees, and risk going out of business without fast and creative solutions.

“It ain’t much, but it’s honest work.”

My mind rushes to the irreparable impact the coronavirus pandemic will have, especially on all the honest work that is done (you know, work where you don’t manipulate or oversell, work that is collaborative and caring, or about creating something beautiful without a focus on huge profit, with a love for the job itself). As a result of the lockdown, a great number of honest workers will now be struggling, those exact people who dedicate their lives to contributing to greater good, however big or small their service may be. And there it is: however big or small their service.

I wonder why we entertain the idea that honest work isn’t worth much, that the service isn’t always big, and that some jobs are more important than others because of their title or socio-economic standing. It is clear to me now more than ever how much we rely on honest and dependable work: nurses and service industry staff are getting us through this crisis, and so is a hell of a lot of pro bono work.

Devaluation of honest work makes me think of this meme of a farmer who’s undermining his own contribution to society. He seems so convinced that all he slaves away for really isn’t much, but at least it’s honest. A sad disclaimer and an almost insignificant defence, separated by a measly comma.

Honest work and segregation

Part of me understands the disclaimer “It ain’t much”, having been taught to strive for great success, the kind that will leave a lasting impression. Striving for greatness has me necessarily compare to ‘that which is not great’, and it has conditioned me to think that a lot of work is, frankly, not worth much.

None of us are blind to the segregation we create between important and unimportant jobs, and to the value we impart on honest careers we consider impressive, such as being a doctor. Yet the list of honest jobs that many of us rely on enormously but take completely for granted is endless; that’s a heartbreaking shout out to all the small food businesses and artisans, for example.

What surprises me is how little credit and consideration we give to jobs that are both honest and essential to our society (what a feat). As a (pre-corona) part-time cat sitter and full-time volunteer at a packaging-free and zero plastic, minimal waste vegan bulk store, I feel now how satisfying it can be to give back, our shop flooded with those who couldn’t find pasta on the empty shelves of their neighbourhood supermarket. We are considered essential work. I, not hired during the course of my 5-month application spree, am considered essential. Yet, only a handful of people see it that way.

Courtesy doesn’t cut it, but a title will

Only now do I see the irony in the constellation of hierarchies we have made for and of ourselves. The laziest professor in the world would still impress me. The idea of intelligent work impresses me because we have somehow tricked ourselves into thinking that the more we hyper-particularise and climb a fictitious ladder, the more special we are, and the more knowledgeable we are. The more valuable we are. The more we are worth. This is not necessarily true.

I’d walk the aisles of an unflinching classroom, small limbs sheepishly pinned to their sides, should I be so bold as to ask: raise your hands those of you who consider impressive cat-sitting, cooking, farming, making coffee art, owning a small business, creative writing, doing honest work.

Why is what we do “not much”? And can I convince you to think otherwise, to support us now when we need it most?

Subjective suggestions: Amsterdam businesses you can support right now

Little Plant Pantry: For your pastas, grains, beans, rices, nuts, chocolates, soaps, deodorant, moisturiser, vegan milk and cheese, teas, coffees, cookies, granolas. All the basics you’re looking for, all organic, homemade, vegan, natural! Visit in store, or order to collect at

Screaming Beans: A speciality coffee café with a house blend and some of the best, ethically-sourced coffee in Amsterdam, dare I say. If you’ve always wanted to make amazing coffee at home, SB has a sale of 21% on their Brew At Home set right now. And they’re now back with takeaway!

Willem-Pie: Delicious vegan cakes, including the typical Dutch roze koeken. Now delivering through Life of Pie to supply you with STAY OCAKE. Pun-tastic.

Holy Nut: Bite-sized plant-based goodies run by a one-woman show!

Max & Bien, and Rosie & Riffy: Amazing vegan cheeses, enough said.

The Very Good Candle Co.: Cruelty-free, eco-friendly candles and fragrances.

Yerba Restaurant & Bar: Seasonal dishes, with à la carte weekly menus. Order to collect!

SauerCrowd: Naturally fermented plant-based food sourced from organic farms.

Obacht: Maria is an Amsterdam-based freelance graphic designer doing top quality creative work! And, Obacht’s instagram is so aesthetically pleasing.

Eat Mielies Weird Illustration: Fun and weird illustrations on socks, key rings, mugs, you name it (a lot of genitals and pet portraits, folks).

DIYSoaps & Het Zeeplokaal: The names speak for themselves, and their soap is great.

Kind Words: Okay this one is not local, but if you’re a Steam gamer who enjoys niche cute vibes, lo-fi chill music, and writing sweet letters, this is it. It’s a game about writing and receiving nice letters and is particularly uplifting right now. Consider investing in some fun indie games.

Plastic Free Amsterdam: Your guide to a zero plastic, zero waste shopping experience.

Plant Ahead: Handmade sustainable products, including the cutest coconut bowls and candle lights.

Gift cards & vouchers : Can’t visit your favourite place right now? Are they not delivering (yet)? Consider purchasing a gift card or voucher you can use later.

Cat-sitting: You might not be going anywhere now, but you’ll book a vacation one day, and your cats will thank you later for having thought ahead. If you want to support me as a cat sitter for your future travels by way of voucher, send me a message!

Basic Snitch & Quibbsy: Looking for some (creative) writing, graphics, or cool postcards? E-mail me at:

At the very least, consider ethical consumerism, shopping with Etsy and Bol, or directly from the business, and avoiding Amazon. Bezos has enough $$$, and enough to think about too: employment conditions, packaging, carbon emissions.