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Posted under: Culture Opinion

My journey through confronting my misogyny

My name is Joshua Everett and I'm a misogynist. I don’t say this to be dramatic or self-deprecating. However, ideas about male supremacy are so firmly embedded in our culture that no man can claim innocence in the pain caused by sexism. It's my belief that until we as men own this fact, we will continue to perpetuate unspeakable physical, psychological and emotional violence against women. The following is part of my attempt to take ownership. I grew up in the South. Goodwater and Leeds, Alabama to be exact. The living was slow, the weather was humid, and the men were missing. I was the only man in a household with my mother, grandmother and sister. Later it was just my mother and sister. This family dynamic made the magic of black women normal to me at an early age. Despite having my sister and I before she graduated high school, my mother defied statistical probabilities by finishing college and getting her master's degree. My grandmother was our primary guardian during this time while also holding down a full-time job. Even through witnessing these tremendous feats, I was not shielded from developing ideas of superiority in relation to women and girls.

Though we never went hungry or unclothed, television shows and news media made it clear that my family structure was not ideal.

Even though my sister and I were honor roll students, pastors, educators and other community leaders were quick to point out that adult versions of me were what made families whole. This put into my subconsciousness that matriarchs were inferior to patriarchs. So women must be inferior to men. To be clear, I was still a southern gentleman by most standards (that’s another blog post). However, that didn’t stop me from staying silent when boys and men I was close to were disrespectful toward the women and girls we knew. I assumed they must be right in their anti-woman convictions because they were only reinforcing the dominant narrative I was being taught already.

My silence became compliance, and I felt comfortable with with hearing and even expressing certain toxic ideas about women.

I didn’t think anyone should be raped, but maybe “she shouldn’t be drinking so much” or “she was asking for it with the way she dressed.” I didn’t think domestic violence was right, but at the same time “nobody is above an ass-whooping” and “if you bucking like a man, I’ll fight you like a man.” I had convinced myself I was a nice guy because I didn’t participate in the most brutal forms of violence against women. But my silence spoke loudly to folks who intended on inflicting this kind of abuse, and it made me less reflective on how many of my actions, or lack thereof, were harmful toward women as well.

Fast forward to college, otherwise known as The Great Awakening.

It was at this point that I became seriously invested in social justice and community organizing. This passion led me in the direction of many feminist scholars like Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Dr. Angela Davis, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — just to name a few. I began taking more classes centered on the experiences of women. I also got involved with campaigns on campus around sexual assault. Someone reading this might think that this meant I was becoming more aware of women’s issues and behaving accordingly, but that was only partially true. It's more accurate to say that, like many male feminists, I became self-righteous about my knowledge of women’s issues and shirked accountability whenever my sensitivity towards women was questioned. My mentality could best be summed in a claim from a Southside Chicago philosopher, “Uhn-uhn you can’t tell me nothin’.”

Despite my alleged wokeness, my self-righteousness kept me blinded to the ways in which I was hurting women.

But the evidence was damning. After all, I was the person who wrote a series of Facebook couplets about a female friend which concluded with me insinuating she was a gold digger and hoodrat simply because she didn’t like me back. And I had the nerve to be offended when she publicly clapped back in spectacular fashion. I was the guy who performed a piece fetishizing plus-sized women and got defensive when some folks deemed its content offensive. I was the guy who sometimes chose to ignore women until I felt like talking instead of engaging with them in healthy dialogue around our conflict, and I couldn’t understand how that was demeaning. I was the guy taking up space in activist circles with my charisma and straightforwardness while also stigmatizing the women who did the same as difficult and un-coachable. Then I would wonder why they left the space without notice. I had convinced myself that I was doing a good work and thought everyone else should focus on that as well, even the victims of my sexist actions. Part of the reason I had become so casual with my own sexism is because I had made monsters of men. R. Kelly was a monster who preyed on underage girls. Ike Turner was a monster who beat Tina Turner. Floyd Mayweather was a monster who abused the mother of his child. However, painting these people as monsters vacated me of all responsibility. It kept me from having to wrestle with how my actions could help foster an environment that permitted the offenses of men I had deemed most violent.

I had to realize that I, a “good man,” was complicit or directly responsible for the pain some women felt living in a society that doesn't value their lives beyond the way it could serve men like me.

I feel like this is the part where I’m supposed to write a triumphant ending. I’m supposed to say that I moved to Jacksonville and found the Fountain of Responsible Male Feminism, and now the patriarchy has left my body forever. In truth, this is an internal struggle that never ends. I have to work daily to unlearn and deconstruct the toxic masculinity I was conditioned to value. This work is not easy. It’s riddled with error and missteps. However, it is absolutely crucial for those of who consider ourselves revolutionaries, freedom fighters, brothers in the struggle, or just plain human to amplify the narratives of women who have suffered in silence for too long and also work to minimize the amount of pain we as men are responsible for.

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