Writing any sort of criticism or opinion piece, especially as a journalist, is bound to get under someone’s skin. I’ve only ever been confronted once. Despite the heated introductions, the entire ordeal ended in a handshake. They never threatened me. I never threatened them. The entire thing was resolved.
Yet when it comes to certain topics, all of a sudden your life becomes fair game. “Next week when a feminist at the University of Toronto tries to ruin your life with false rape allegations, rent a gun from a gang and start firing bullets into these feminists at your nearest women’s studies classrooms.” This is the comment that was posted on a blogTO article, screenshots of which are now circulating on the Internet. It was posted on the article “15 Instagram accounts for Toronto vegans to follow” by an anonymous source dubbed “Kill Feminists”.
It’s really easy to tell someone not to worry. They’re online comments. They’ve been made before and they’ll be made again. Nothing ever comes of these things. It’s all a part of the online culture. But what about the times when they’re the catalysts for a massacre? Dubbed “the first sexist crime in history”, Marc Lepine was responsible for the 1989 Montreal massacre, when he gunned down 15 women and injured 14 others. In his suicide note, he wrote, “I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker.”
Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old responsible for the 2014 Isla Vista killings, uploaded his manifesto to YouTube before going on a shooting spree, murdering seven and injuring 14. He stated, “I’m going to enter the hottest sorority house of UCSB and I will slaughter every single spoilt, stuck-up, blonde slut that I see inside there. All those girls that I’ve desired so much, they would’ve all rejected me and looked down on me as an inferior man if I ever made a sexual advance towards them.” He blamed his loneliness on women rejecting him, warning them that, “You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me. But I will punish you all for it. […] Tomorrow is the day of retribution.” I don’t need to give my stance on feminism to explain why one comment, one time, is a problem.
I understand that comments made online are often ignored due to their immature nature. But when they promote violence, it’s time to look into it.
When the case was reported to the students, crucial details were left out of the report. The provost’s email last Thursday stated: “The university is currently working with Toronto Police Services and Peel Regional Police Services to support an investigation into anonymous threats made on a public blog against the University of Toronto. We take these threats very seriously and want to ensure that we have a safe campus community.”
This was sent five days after the comments were posted and students were left in the dark as to who was being threatened. Regardless of whether or not this was a misguided attempt to ensure students didn’t go into a panic, the non-disclosed information only served as proof that our university wasn’t doing all it could to protect us and inform us.
When the news from CUPE came out about the nature of the threats, a new fire started. The vague email swept the true danger under the rug completely, which introduces the idea that a threat against women isn’t worth mentioning.
We need to talk about these problems in depth. Women are being targeted by those who don’t understand, support, or care about feminism. It isn’t a movement based on becoming the superior overlord of the universe. It’s about equality. You’d think something as simple as, “We want respect and equal rights”, wouldn’t warrant online threats, deaths, or a “meninist” movement, but here we are.
Why aren’t we talking about it more? Well, there is an entire Tumblr blog dedicated to cases on violence against women when they reject men. Everything from men dumping their drinks all over women to men going on killing sprees and women being victim-shamed and having threats hurled at them are all over the blog. So far, there are 54 pages of content beginning only from May 26, 2014. There are countless other blogs: feministing.com, tfbomb.org, and geekfeminism.org are a few. People are talking about it. People are trying to bring light to the issue.
But more needs to be done. One comment is enough to support that women are constantly facing threats like this. Disagreement doesn’t warrant death or rape threats. Does our school need to become a headline before more people acknowledge that there’s a problem? Campuses need to keep students informed so we can work together as a community to keep one another safe.
Students, anywhere, should never be afraid to come to school. They should never feel as though their safety has been compromised. Young women were the target of this commenter’s threats, and this is just a drop in the bucket.