By Justin Sweitzer
A KU professor found herself the target of death threats after a tweet of hers examining “toxic masculinity” as the motive behind a Nov. 5 Texas church shooting that killed 26 people went viral.
Professor Colleen Clemens, an English professor at KU who also heads the university’s women’s and gender studies program, became a victim of death threats and scorn from right-wing media outlets after sending out a tweet that read: “Toxic masculinity is killing everyone. REPEAT. Toxic masculinity is killing everyone. REPEAT. Toxic masculinity is killing everyone. REPEAT.”
Outlets like Breitbart News, The Daily Wire and Tucker Carlson Tonight were quick to criticize Clemens for her views, with Joseph Curl of The Daily Wire writing in reference to Clemens, “Everyone knows that today’s institutions of higher learning are nothing more than bastions of liberality, where professors with socialist ideologies coddle precious snowflakes with safe zones lest they be triggered… But it’s even worse than we thought.”
Following the coverage from these outlets, death threats began to be targeted at Clemens on social media and through email.
One Twitter user sent Clemens the following: “Hey guess what libtards? I went out and bought a brand new $1800.00 semi auto AR15 this afternoon just for you!”
Tucker Carlson’s show was the only of the three outlets to reach out to Clemens for comment, Clemens said in an interview with Kutztown University Radio, but Clemens declined after being bombarded with aggressive messages and death threats the day she planned to appear on his show.
When asked what she meant by the term “toxic masculinity,” Clemens said, “It’s a specific brand of the concept of masculinity that demands of men to find agency in spaces of power. So when a man might feel a lack of agency that desire for power is going to be filled in different ways,” she said. “So what I’ve been trying to talk about is the mental illness/gun control discussion about these mass shootings isn’t working, and maybe we should be talking about if there’s a gendered component of it.”
Clemens noted that she was not referring to masculinity as a whole when discussing the Texas church shooting.
“The nuanced difference between sex and gender was lost on a lot of the people that were contacting me,” she said.
Clemens was interviewed in-depth on KUR’s campus and community podcast, Kutztown Live, where she discussed her experience as an educator, wife and mother; the feedback she received following the media attention, and her work as a researcher and professor. The entire interview can be heard on Kutztown Live’s official YouTube page.