The height of the 2016 presidential election was a time of intense political polarization. It was a time where a presidential candidate had apparent free will to claim it was okay to grab women by the pussy because he was famous. It was a time where a years-old email scandal overshadowed sexual assault allegations. It was also when the Proud Boys was founded by conservative online talk-show host Gavin McInnes. The group metastasized in Wisconsin in May of this year, when eight men sat down at a bar in Milwaukee and established a new chapter celebrating their masculinity.
Estimated to have about 5,000 members nationwide, Proud Boys believes that there are ten ways to fix America: Abolish prisons, give each American a gun, legalize drugs, end welfare, close borders to illegal immigrants, outlaw censorship, venerate the housewife, glorify the entrepreneur, shut down the government and declare the “West is best”. In a perverse dichotomy, the Proud Boys simultaneously believe that there is a war on masculinity that starts from the time boys are young and continues throughout their lives, while also holding that men have the power and means to “create the modern world” and will not apologize for doing so.
While the entirety of the ten “fixes” for America proposed by the Proud Boys is problematic, their attack on women raises questions in a society that already marginalizes and objectifies female bodies, minds, and capabilities. A female reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was asked by a Proud Boys member if he should bring condoms to the interview. McInnes told a female reporter in a later interview that she should give up her job and focus on becoming pregnant, as her eggs weren’t going to last forever.
All of this while 98 percent of Proud Boys members support President Donald Trump, a man with a long list of sexual assault allegations against him, a man who endorsed Roy Moore, an alleged pedophile and a man who repeatedly denigrated female reporters and his opponent Hillary Clinton for the sole reason that they were female and not male.
For centuries, women have been cast aside by male-dominated hierarchies of power as nothing more than baby vessels and demure arm candy at events men use to show off their business and relationship prowess. I demand myself and all women start standing up to men like McInnes, Trump and all other men who believe women are somehow lesser than them.
“Venerating the housewife”, one of the Proud Boys “ten commandments” is code for a reversal of feminist movements that have tirelessly worked to get women into the professional workforce, to break the age-old rhetoric that women are meant to clean, care for kids and put a hot dinner on the table for their husband to come home to. As it stands today, Congress is comprised of 80 percent men. All ten of the highest paid CEOs are men. In 2017, women are still earning only 80 cents to every dollar men earn for doing the same job.
While society has made leaps and bounds in granting women rights and opportunities, we have leaps and bounds left to go. Progress starts when men like McInnes get it through their heads that they are not victims of some tirade of oppression. White men hold unfathomable amounts of power and have systematically used it to work towards stripping women of bodily autonomy, access to equal pay and other rights that, were taken away from men, would be unthinkable. While not all men use their power to oppress, it is important for society to recognize that some do and that those men enact detrimental policies and social norms that are constantly are affecting women.
Proud Boys is one of many manifestations of men who refuse to acknowledge that masculinity and the patriarchy can and do have negative connotations and consequences for this country. Trying to champion this ridiculous notion that “West is best” by excluding half of the population from the narrative is counterintuitive and serves as yet another reminder that, until women gain more representation and are given a serious platform to enact change, male-dominated politics and norms will continue to dominate society.
Aly Niehans ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in international studies and intending to major in journalism.