Were Matty Healy’s actions at Good Vibes Festival an example of allyship?

Corbett (2022), defines allyship as the act of supporting and advocating for people who are marginalised or oppressed. It involves understanding your privileges and social inequities, and taking proactive steps to equalize them. Privilege is a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people. These benefits can include access to resources and social rewards, as well as the power to shape the norms and values of society. While taking action to disrupt these power structures is a key point to allyship, we should be mindful to always keep our focus on those we are advocating for, and not ourselves. According to Lean In, the danger of losing the focus may result in saviour mentality, or performative allyship.

According to Kalina (2020), “Performative allyship refers to someone from a non marginalized group professing support and solidarity with a marginalized group, but in a way that is not helpful. Worse yet, the Allyship is done in a way that may actually be harmful to the cause. The “ally” is motivated by some type of reward. On social media, that reward is a virtual pat on the back for being a “good person” or for being “on the right side” of a cause, or “on the right side of history.”

Healy did not consult with any queer activists or organizations before making his gesture, which did not actually do anything to change the laws or improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people in Malaysia. In this context, his actions were self-serving due to his inability to recognize his own privileges, which may have further endangered the community.

Similarly in the workplace, ignoring or overlooking privilege and empty gestures of performative allyship further perpetuates inequality. For example, performative allyship can be companies that offer free coffee to all women employees in their organization, while paying them less than their male employees. The lack of acknowledgement of systematic privileges within the organization will only serve to maintain the status quo and inequality.

According to Acosta et al. (2020), institutional leaders must engage in critical dialogue about privilege, intersectionality across different backgrounds, and progress in order to make gender equity a peremptory that takes into account the whole picture. Acknowledging privilege in the workplace requires initiating difficult and uncomfortable conversations, making conscious choices, and modeling best practices from leaders who have made progress in closing the gender gap in their respective fields.

On male privilege, Warren et al. (2022) argues that when male leaders witness sexism in the workplace, they have a unique opportunity to use their social privilege and authority to help. However, this can be a tricky balance. If they are too vocal in their disapproval, they may be seen as unprofessional. But if they don’t speak up, their allyship and commitment to equality may be in question. What other steps can we, as privileged individuals, take to be better allies?

Here are six ways to be an authentic ally at work:

📍 Educate yourself about privilege – Learn about the different forms of privilege, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability as well as how privilege impacts lives.

📍 Be mindful of personal biases – We all have biases, but it is important to be aware of them and to challenge them. Be willing to receive feedback from others and learn new perspectives.

📍 Speak up when you witness discrimination – You can say something directly to the person who is being discriminating, or you can report the incident to a supervisor or HR department.

📍 Advocate for marginalised groups – Support policies and practices that promote equality and justice in the workplace.

📍Use your privilege to help others – Share your resources, your time, or your platform with underserved communities. You can also choose to mentor or sponsor an individual from a marginalized group.

📍 Practice patience and persistence – Allyship is an ongoing process and it takes time and effort to build trust and create change.

Not sure where to start? LeadWomen has been a consistent voice for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion since 2011 with various training modules tackling the topics of allyship, inclusion and privilege. For more information on our offerings or customized programs, visit our website www.lead-women.com or speak to Liza at liza@lead-women.com


1️⃣ Acosta, D. A., Lautenberger, D. M., Castillo-Page, L., & Skorton, D. J. (2020). Achieving gender equity is our responsibility: Leadership matters. Academic Medicine, 95(10), 1468–1471. https://doi.org/10.1097/acm.0000000000003610

2️⃣ Corbett, H. (2022, October 12). 6 ways to be an authentic ally at work. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/hollycorbett/2022/01/24/6-ways-to-be-an-authentic-ally-at-work/?sh=37f31fa370dd

3️⃣ Kalina, P. (2020). Performative Allyship. Technium Social Sciences Journal, 11, 478–481. https://doi.org/10.47577/tssj.v11i1.1518

4️⃣ Warren, M. A., Sekhon, T., Winkelman, K. M., & Waldrop, R. J. (2021). Should I ‘Check My Emotions at the Door’ or Express How I Feel? Role of Emotion Regulation versus Expression by Male Leaders Speaking out against Sexism in the Workplace. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/jzxmy