Friday, June 14, 2024

‘We’re sexist, but not misogynist’: A Virginia Beach Proud Boy explains

VIRGINIA BEACH — The Proud Boys are, by all accounts, a fringe group. In a story Southside Daily published about the local chapter last week, the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center were both quoted condemning them.

To many observers, they’re just another alt-right group with a history of violence. Their members are quick to deny and clarify those claims, respectively. Their beliefs are perhaps best defined by their opposition to liberal and progressive politics like feminism, political correctness, and “racial guilt.”

What, according to Proud Boy lore, started out as a joke by right-wing media provocateur Gavin McInness, has grown into a men’s club with chapters across the country and a presence in several European countries.

When Southside Daily attempted to contact a number of local and national leaders of the group, all requests were either denied or went unanswered. After publication of the article, Jordan Gray, one of the leaders of the local group reached out to clarify a number of claims that were made.

To begin with, the Proud Boys do not refer to themselves as a political activist group, but a fraternal organization. McInnes has likened them to the Elks Lodge and Shriners. Gray compared them to the Moose Lodge.

“The whole concept was to have something where guys could get together, share ideas, drink beer, get away from the wife and kids for a minute, and go back home,” Gray said. “That’s all it is really … it’s a men’s club.”

The group’s central tenet, espousing the virtues of western civilization, is primarily a response to the modern liberal approach to history.

“For example, there are people who protest Columbus Day, claiming he was responsible for plights upon natives; sure, it might be valid, but, we’re no longer living in teepees and warring with neighboring tribes,” Gray said. “Western Civilization brought along safety, order, paved roads, indoor plumbing, air conditioning; all great things, and we can thank Columbus and other historical figures for getting us here.”

“We’re neither hateful of women nor fearful of Muslims,” Gray said, referencing the quote from the ADL in the original story. “Concerning Muslims, I’d say we’re wary. We’re not going to let the word Islamophobia prevent us from talking about an obvious problem. There is a problem, we acknowledge a pattern exists, and it’s with one particular demographic.”

The group wants to go back to the 1950s — though Gray was quick to clarify that he wasn’t including the racial politics of that era.

“I’m referring to the home life, an era of truly wholesome America, ya know?” he said. “That is, I suppose, one underlying spirit of it.“

According to the Proud Boys, feminism is a cancer that threatens the stability of families and the happiness of women.

“Modern feminism belittles the choice to be a housewife or stay-at-home mom, they’re making those women out to be losers,” he explained. “And, we’re not saying that women should be limited to one choice –there’s certainly exceptions … there are CEOs and successful women out there for sure — but we’re saying becoming a housewife is a noble choice and a difficult job.”

“We should be putting these women on a pedestal. They are responsible for creating western civilization as well. If you’re a housewife, you’re in the home, you’re the glue of the neighborhood. You’re talking to the neighbors, feeling out the community, you know. There is a lot more to it, on top of being the primary influence in raising children. It’s a huge, huge task. We’re not saying that you have to fit in this box, we’re just saying that the woman who goes this route, she has something to be proud of. Not something to be ashamed of.”

“You can definitely say we’re sexist, but not misogynist,” Gray added.

While some may be apt to rope them in with other fringe groups on the right, McInnes has repeatedly made a point to differentiate the group in social media posts.

One major difference is in who is allowed to be a member. While alt-righters support a white ethno-state, to varying degrees, the Boys are open to anyone (who is, by their definition, a man). They also don’t bar members based on religion or sexual orientation.

“We’re all human beings, but more importantly we’re all westerners … or, I’ll say all Americans, because we all kind of share that common creed,” he said.

That difference, though seemingly straight-forward, is presenting an obstacle for the local chapter. After leaving the group for a time, Gray is leading a new faction to oust members that identify with the alt-right. In a statement his group declared:

“We, Proud Boys Virginia v2.0, publicly distinguish ourselves from VA v1.0; they are not Proud Boys. False accusations of what Proud Boys stands for has been diluted because of people like them; ultimately caused by weak leadership at the local level that’s not carrying out the vision from the top. Virginia v2.0 firmly does not tolerate any association with alt-right/white nationalists/Nazis. Tolerating any of these ideologies is a slap in the face to Proud Boys; especially the Jewish community and people of color who chose to join Proud boys. This disrespect will not be allowed by Virginia v2.0; the real Proud Boys.”

“To me, if you’re gonna claim your group is not alt-right and then admit alt-right members into your local chapter and be comfortable to keeping them around, to me, you’re one in the same. You’re aiding and abetting the enemy.”

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