Okay, so... apologies for the click-bait headline, and let's be very clear: I have no desire to be raped or threatened in any way.
The Internet is a scary realm filled with dark corners that harbor monsters, and I don't want to live in fear of being harassed or violated, period. Nobody wants that.
But see, that's the thing. I don't HAVE to fear it, simply because of my gender.
I'm a bloke. I have man-parts. And those man-parts, bog-standard and non-threatening as they are, entitle me to a precious modicum of respect and to personal boundaries that are denied my female counterparts.
As an artist, I have also written blogs, cartoons and even illustrated books that speak to feminist issues. And having identified myself as a feminist for a few years now, you'd think I'd have at least a few rape threat stories to tell. Imagine my disappointment.
Don't get me wrong, I have certainly received abuse online in my day. When my satirical blog about Disney princesses went viral last year I received all manner of outraged hecklers on both sides of the argument; people falling over themselves to tell me just how ignorant and abhorrent I was for going either too far or not far enough. Poe's Law was rife and I still get indignant messages to this day about my views, particularly on feminist issues.
But... I have never received a rape threat. Not even a little one.
I have never had to flee my home or turn down a speaking engagement for fear of not being adequately protected from a gunman, as in the case of Gamergate critic and blogger Anita Sarkeesian, nor have I ever had my personal information "doxxed" for speaking out against something I felt strongly about, as just happened to actor/writer/gamer Felicia Day.
No matter how much I speak my mind about the exact same issues that women are harassed and bullied about every day, I am safe. I am protected. I am tolerated.
The armies of online trolls, that gleefully do everything in their limited power to terrify women, have extended me that basic, human courtesy. How nice of them.
In fact, the only thing I ever received even resembling a threat was a few months back, in the form a Facebook message from some faceless avatar that said simply: "Fuck you, you hipster faggot; go fuck a tree!" (I am adding the punctuation). And even this hypothetical, albeit bigoted "tree-fucking", was nevertheless, I assume, to be consensual.
What am I doing wrong here, guys? Is it me? (What am I saying? Of course it is. It's my man-parts. Curse them!)
They say that in order to be a male feminist one has to understand his own privilege. And I have more than a few privileges thanks to those aforementioned man parts. But the age of the internet has revealed perhaps the most ugly and insidious privilege me and my man-parts possess.
And that privilege is simple: I can say EXACTLY the same thing a female feminist does, in exactly the same arena, without having to change my address, fear for my personal data, or carry a rape whistle.
Now this realization teaches me two things about the state of men and women today. It's kind of a bad news/good news thing.
So here's the bad news:
There is no space, not by the light of day, not after dark, and not even online, where women have the same luxury of safety that men take for granted. The cyberworld, for all it's freedom and connectivity, is no less free of male violence than the real world is.
There is no corner, in any realm we create, where that shadow cannot reach. And that is a damn shame.
But here's the good news:
The reason I don't get rape threats is more than simply the fact that I am a man.
I don't get threats, because I'M not the threat.
Because NOTHING strikes more terror into the bitter hearts of the insecure, the hateful, and the emasculated than a strong woman speaking her mind and staking her claim.
They may not be scared of me. But women, you'd better believe they're scared of you. The malignant only threaten those who make inroads, who carve out spaces where they can be heard and can affect change, who realize their independent and collective power and wield it, from every dark corner into every dark corner.
They fear you because you're SMASHING IT. They incite fear because they despise your fearlessness. They attempt to weaken you because you are tougher than they are. They threaten your large existence because you threaten their tiny one, and you should CONTINUE to do so, for all of our sakes.
And so I say to the Anitas, the Felicias, the Emmas, and the women I have loved and respected in my own life, the Eleanors, the Rebeccas, the Loris, the Melissas, the Brendas, and all the other Randomkids and Women You Should Know...
You get the rape threats, because YOU ARE THE THREAT.