I just got my first death threat. I am terrified. It was in response to an article I wrote this week on Toxic Masculinity and how it harms men and relationships. I got a four-paragraph, graphically violent (think men’s genitals) e-mail death threat. Words like “I want to choke you until you die” type of death threat.
But that is not the most interesting part. Most surprising were the responses I received from men and women closest to me. Also shocking was the irony! The article was about how to stop toxic masculinity.
As you look at the responses below (and an excerpt from my article) I invite you to ask yourself this: How can a you help people like me feel safe enough to challenge our (patriarchal) society and toxic masculinity? Just so you know, today I asked the editors to remove the article totally. I don’t feel like being a lightening rod.
Here are a few of the responses I received:
The seasoned publisher was upset. She felt the article was very well researched and written and not at all offensive. She asked me to keep it posted but suggested I take on a pseudonym (which I did). So I get no credit or pay for a week of research and writing. She called the FBI. I called the RCMP (who have not yet returned my call).
My male friend was not upset at all and simply said: “He’s in the 1%, I hope. Sorry you got that. Lots of crazies out there.”
My best friend said, “WTF, I am calling you right now. I am there for you.”
My other friend said, “WTF, I will come over immediately until you feel safe.”
My web-guy said, “Maureen, you are a change agent! If someone is not offended by what you write, then you are not doing your job.”
A colleague (man) from a leading national men’s group said, “In my judgement, the response you got from Jason is an angry juvenile rant, telling you that your opinions and words are wrong. Unfortunately he is an over-baked toxic bully. Having said that, much of your article, even though you have selected quotes to support your premise, is unfounded personal opinions, suppositions, and negative projections. I live in a different men’s world than you describe.”
Here is what is interesting. My WHOLE article is based on research and does not really include my personal opinions. It is based on the work of many academics who discovered that our whole society (not a few crazy men) reinforces toxic masculinity (think of the multi billion dollar “normalized” pornography industry and constant violence against women).
I am a bit surprised when educated people suggest that the problem is just a “few sick men” or that my critique on patriarchal masculinity is somehow an attack on men as individuals. Most undermining to me (and other women who bravely speak truth to power) are comments like “it’s not my reality” or “I live in a world different than what you describe.” As if somehow an individual personal experience trumps all the research. That’s like saying, “I don’t have cancer so it does not exist.”
More troubling (and most hurtful to me) however is the comment that my writing is “unfounded personal opinions, suppositions, and negative projections” (holy cow!). Although buried in other nice words it is a very direct hit on me and a very effective way of shaming and silencing me. I am not perfect. I am trying my best. I am tired of being afraid to say anything that might potentially offend. I do want a more loving world. I think we have a long way to go. I don’t want to have to keep proving myself since I already have a PhD degree, 11 books, many articles and law practice (for 20 years). I believe my writing is valuable. I would love it if someone to said to me, “Good job! I think your writing is brave and important. We all need you to challenge the status quo!” Just once in a while.
Here is an excerpt in case you are wondering what evoked such hatred:
“As a result [of being raised according to the “boy-code”] many men are harmed both emotionally and psychologically and often find it difficult to relate on an intimate level with others. Most harmful to relationships is the pressure to reject and despise all that is feminine (including women) and fear emotions. The rules are essentially as follows:
· Reject all emotions except anger
· Despise all that is feminine
· Be in complete control
· Make no mistakes
· Always be in the dominant position
· Use aggression to assert authority
· Be overtly and aggressively sexual
For most males of the last few generations, these ideas have been instilled since they were little boys and continue to be reinforced in our patriarchal culture every single day. Indeed it would be nearly impossible for a boy to reach manhood unscathed by his gendered upbringing. The sad fact is that far too many kind-hearted and compassionate boys get so severely indoctrinated by our sexist culture that they lose a huge part of themselves. No man survives sexist-free.
Although all men want to be loved, and they ache to be intimate, many find it hard to express this love in a relationship. This is not due to genetics. Our society does not allow men to act this way…. “
So the question remains: What can you do to create a world where women like me are SUPPORTED (and not attacked) for telling truth to power?
This article was published in a different version on Medium. https://medium.com/@maureenfitzgeraldphd/i-just-got-my-first-death-threat-29d1c7200b92