Professor: ‘Toxic Masculinity Is Killing Everyone’

Kutztown U director of women's and gender studies slams 'construct of masculinity that asks men to be inhuman'

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The director of women's and gender studies at the Kutztown University of Pennsylvania said "toxic masculinity" is driving both mass shootings and terror attacks in the United States.

Colleen Clemens, who tweeted repeatedly "Toxic masculinity is killing everyone," in the wake of the shooting Sunday in Texas during which 26 people were killed, told the Washington Free Beacon that both yesterday's massacre and the ISIS-inspired terror attack in New York City on Halloween were the result of a "construct of masculinity that asks men to be inhuman."

"When men feel disenfranchised, and usually it's white men, they will find a way to feel enfranchised—and killing a room-full or street-full of people is them trying to fill that empty feeling," said Clemens. "That drive is motivated by a toxic masculinity and a person who is deeply effected by that toxicity can fall prey to any kind of fanaticism. It can be rabid white, misogynistic nationalism and it can be ISIS."

"There's a similarity in how America and ISIS teaches men to be: men must be virile, strong, powerful," she said. "And men are convinced that the reason they don't have that [power] is because of gains made by women. There's a lot more space now at the table for a lot of different types of identities, and the anxiety that comes of that heightens a specific type of masculinity that thinks masculinity should always be in a place of power."

Clemens, who cohosts a feminist activism podcast, recognized that the Texas shooter and the New York attacker were of "different ideological backgrounds," but maintained that "contributing to both stories is men feeling something is being taken away."

"It's a response to a devaluing of a specific kind of privilege, specifically white male privilege," she said.

Texas shooter Devin Kelley killed 12 to 14 children, one as young as 18 months, when he opened fire on the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Spring. Kelley was court-martialed from the Air Force  five years ago for assaulting his child and then wife, it was confirmed Monday. He died after the attacks; it is unclear if he was wounded during the assault or if he took his own life.

In Manhattan last week, Uzbek national Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov killed eight when he drove a truck into a bicycle lane.

Clemens said America's "structural construct of masculinity" is as harmful to boys as traditional views of women are to girls.

Girls are taught to be "sugar and spice and everything nice," to be quiet and pretty, and so women grow up to "enact" those messages by eating and talking less.

Clemens cited the "fat positivity movement" as part of the effort to teach girls to be "bigger and louder."

She rejected the notion of biology underlying any predilection toward any action.

"We have to undo the idea that women are naturally peaceful and males are naturally violent," she said.

Clemens said she is not attacking all men, or all white men, but that she believes men who commit acts of violence have been indoctrinated by a culture that is "quelling boys' humanity."

"We are ignoring the biggest part of the conversation if we are not talking about what we are doing to these boys when we ask them to participate in a rigged game that creates a space where they feel like they have only one thing left to do," she said.

Clemens retweeted a 2015 article titled, "White guys are killing us: Toxic, cowardly masculinity, our unhealable national illness." More recently, she responded to Vice President Mike Pence during February's Black History Month with, "Thank you, white male savior."

Rachel Frommer

Rachel Frommer   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Rachel Frommer is a staff writer with the Washington Free Beacon reporting on campus issues, including anti-free speech and anti-Israel activity. Prior to the Free Beacon, she was the senior campus correspondent at The Algemeiner. Her work has been picked up by Fox News, Newsweek, and the New York Post. She graduated from Touro College in 2016 with a BA in English literature. Her Twitter handle is @Rachel_Frommer, and her email address is frommer@freebeacon.com.

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