In light of recent posts by Yamahog and others, a number of trains of thought collided in my head and I felt compelled to put them to writing. Trigger warnings for religious abuse, misogyny, and homophobia.
I'm a white cisgendered asexual male, in my early 30s. When I was very young, my devoutly religious parents decided to homeschool my sister and I. My dad in particular was taken with the teachings of one Bill Gothard. Yes, that Bill Gothard. I was homeschooled from age 5 all the way through my senior year of high school, using a combination of religious textbooks from Bill Gothard's ATI program, Bob Jones University religious textbooks, and at my mother's insistence, actual real scientifically accurate public school textbooks.
If you're curious about the things I was indoctrinated with from the age of 12, hop on over to this guest post over at Love Joy Feminism. Short version, Christian Fundamentalism and misogyny out the wazoo.
After I graduated high school, I volunteered at one of Bill Gothard's "training centers" for about 2 years before attending college at Bob Jones University. Yes, that Bob Jones University. Here I got my A&P certificate, an unaccredited degree worth less than the paper it's printed on, and a continuation of the indoctrination I'd experienced growing up...
...right up until my junior year, in which I got into major trouble for breaking a rule that I hadn't actually broken. It was a huge shock to me that, despite my earnest attempts at butt kissing and line toeing, I could get in trouble with no more evidence against me than the word of another student. Looking back, this was the beginning of the end for me. I began to notice other cracks in the facade of religious fundamentalism.
I had people accuse me of being gay (I say "accuse" because being non-straight is the worst thing you can be to a Christian Fundamentalist - it's literally worse than being a rapist) because I didn't have a girlfriend. As you might imagine given my background, I'd never even heard of asexuality before, so I assumed I just wasn't trying hard enough in the girlfriend department. I ended up making solid friendships with a number of blue-collar women, but nothing romantic.
After graduation, I spent a couple of years as an A&P mechanic in Alaska. The isolation from my past was good for me; I got to stew in my own juices as it were. I kept finding more and more things that I had been taught that seemed like they might not be true.
Finally, I ended up moving to Southern California and got a job with a CAD/CAM company. In the meantime, things kept getting worse for my worldview. I eventually found out that one of my good friends at the office was openly gay (it had never really come up), and he was nothing like what I'd been told gay men were like.
I determined to researched this contradiction. To my utter astonishment, I found that bible scholars can't actually agree on whether or not the bible forbids homosexuality at all, and an increasing number of scholars are very clear in their support of LGBT+ people. With that information, I found that I could no longer in good conscience consider homosexuality to be wrong or "sinful." I felt like a complete idiot. I'd been manipulated into following a political agenda by those claiming they knew what God wanted me to do. And I had willingly believed what I was told, without doing even basic fact checking.
With this concrete fact in my mind - "I was lied to about LGBT+ folks" - everything collapsed. What else had I been lied to about? I questioned everything, literally everything, that I had been taught growing up. With the Internet's wealth of information at my disposal, belief after belief crumbled before actual evidence.
I soon found myself in an odd position. I had spent nearly 30 years of my life being absolutely certain that I knew all the right answers, and in the space of less than a year I transitioned into not being certain about much at all. I am still a theist. I still believe in the Christian bible, but I believe that Christianity in America has gone completely off the rails by dishonestly twisting the bible to mean whatever they want them to mean.
Going through my long-held beliefs, of course patriarchy and the comparative worth of the genders came up. There are many in Christian circles who say "Well of course patriarchy and misogyny is wrong, but really it's OK if you're only a little bit of a misogynist." Most prefer to call it by other names that sound less objectionable, complementarianism being one of the most popular terms. It's pretty easy to justify this position with a strong dose of "the bible clearly says."
My research utterly convinced me that all people are equal, full stop.
Helping me along my journey were strong women like Rachel Held Evans. Sadly, in a much darker way, also helping me were women like Hannah Hettinger and Captain Cassidy, who were deeply hurt by men who used the bible as a weapon to justify their behaviour. Men who looked a lot like me, if I was totally honest with myself.
Unfortunately, from my white male privilege perspective, I didn't want to believe that feminists were right. The thought that I hadn't achieved my own relatively minor success by "pulling myself up by my own bootstraps" was profoundly uncomfortable to me. The thought that, despite claims to the contrary, women really do have a harder time of it than men in American society, took longer than it probably should have to get through my thick skull. But the more I read, the more convinced I became: Given that all people are equal, the current system does not reflect that reality.
So yeah, I'm a feminist.
I can't claim to be a good feminist. I'm well aware that 30 years of wrong thinking has made certain ways of thought habitual for me, and I struggle every day to identify these and correct myself.
Please, if you see in my writing anything that you find offensive, alert me to it. I very likely said what I did in ignorance, or without thinking it through. I will do everything I can to graciously receive such correction.
Please, continue to post pro-feminist articles. I find them to be valuable guideposts to help correct my own thinking.
Please, if you yourself side with the MRA crowd, stop and take a step back. Re-evaluate your thinking. This type of thinking will ultimately lead you to a very dark place. I say this with authority, because I've been there.
Please, women, accept my heartfelt apology for my own 30+ years of misogyny. I can offer no excuses; this article was intended only as an explanation.
Please, LGBT+ people, accept my heartfelt apology for 30+ years of active homophobia. I have hurt you through my actions and attitudes, and I wish I could make it up to you somehow.