The Story My Male Editors Kept Killing
While women have made strides in media and publishing, it seems we’re still often subject to the whims of men
A year and a half ago, in the wake of the tragic Las Vegas shootings, I was struck by a single idea: If mental illness is such a prominent culprit in the phenomenon of mass shootings — as so many politicians and media pundits claim it to be — where are all the female mass shooters? After all, we have mental illness too, in arguably much greater numbers than men (at least according to the best available data). And yet, almost all mass shootings to date have been committed by cis men (most of them white).
In October 2017, I shared my idea with AlterNet. The female editor I emailed enthusiastically accepted my pitch and, after a couple of weeks of rigorous research and interviewing, I filed it. Her initial remark was that it looked good to her as is, and she would be passing it on to her superior for a final review. Then something strange happened. She came back with a slew of criticisms, copy and pasted from her supervising editor, and the outlet’s publisher: a man.
After perusing his comments, the first thing I understood was that he hadn’t read my piece thoroughly. This became clear when he scolded me for blaming gun violence on mental illness. He then asked me to insert commentary and quotes that were already in the piece. But the most distressing part was when he began making grand — and factually incorrect — assertions. For instance, he said that women didn’t commit mass shootings because “women don’t own guns.” Additionally, he wrote that men often begin to become violent with women when they try to leave the relationship. Though women on the whole own less guns than men, 22% of adult women still do — far from none. And while men with a history of domestic abuse are more likely to try to murder their female partners when they attempt to leave or succeed at leaving the relationship, the first instances of violence often begin far earlier than that.
I found this editor’s comments jarring, even offensive. Nonetheless, I wanted to try to maintain a working relationship with the publication, so while I gently pushed back on some of his false claims, I assured the female editor I would try to address some…