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Friday, October 28, 2016

Dear Ashley Judd:

I guess this is a fan letter, though it is not written in praise of your work in movies like Insurgent, Divergent, or Tooth Fairy. Rather, it’s in response to the headlines you made last week when you called out Internet trolls who defamed you as a “b—h,” a “whore,” and a “c—” and threatened you with rape after you tweeted an opinion about an SEC basketball tournament.

Specifically, you accused the University of Arkansas Razorbacks of playing dirty against your University of Kentucky Wildcats and suggested they kiss your team’s backside.

Not particularly polite, no, but not out of bounds, either. Male fans shout and tweet much worse about pretty much every sporting contest down to and including church league bowling. Indeed, male sports fans are the reason foam bricks were invented. Yet we are allowed to scream for the home team without being called vile names, much less threatened. So I was glad to see you use your Twitter account and media access to highlight this misogyny — and your intention to press charges.

I have to tell you, Ms. Judd, this hits close to home. Three times in the last year or so, I’ve had the difficult experience of learning that female colleagues had been threatened with rape because of something they wrote. I had not realized such things happened.

I mean, you get used to being called names when you write opinions for a living. It’s a rare day when I have not had my parentage, intelligence or cleanliness coarsely questioned a dozen times before lunch by some preliterate gasbag on the political right. But there is, it seems to me, a qualitative difference between that, unpleasant as it is, and the experience of being a woman on the receiving end of gender-specific insults and promises of sexual violence.

Women, in the aggregate, are smaller and physically weaker than men. I’ve always suspected that that comes with a sense of perpetual vulnerability, of constantly sniffing the air for potential danger, that men, being men, find difficult to appreciate. The threat of violence is harder for women to shrug off simply because, even on a good day, they feel so much more exposed to it.

As a human being — and specifically, as a man — I am appalled by what some sexually insecure troglodytes of my gender said to you over a basketball game. But this kind of thing is apparently not uncommon. Besides you and my colleagues, we’ve seen actresses Lena Dunham and Jennifer Love Hewitt and several female makers and critics of video games report being subjected to this sort of emotional terrorism. Former baseball star Curt Schilling recently got one man fired and another suspended from his job when they attacked his 17-year-old daughter online.

I’d love to see you do what he did, but take it a step further. Not simply identify the punks who made the threats, but hold a press conference on the sidewalk in front of their homes or in the lobby of their workplaces. Let them face microphones and cameras and explain themselves — to the world, and to the women in their lives. Give them an accountability moment.

Such a moment could be valuable for a generation in which technology has advanced simultaneously our ability to say and do despicable things and our ability to avoid taking responsibility for them. That’s a godawful combination. We have inadvertently built a world full of dark hidey-holes of anonymity to shelter the droppings of our primitive lizard brains — and eroded simple decency and basic humanity in the process. It is a trend that needs to end.

So I write to thank you for the stand you’ve taken and to let you know there are those of us who value women and girls and think they deserve a safe place to be amazing. Please know that I’ve got your back.

That’s something else I say as a human being — but specifically, as a man.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132. Readers may contact him via email at [email protected]

Photo: Genevieve719 via Flickr

  • Allan Richardson

    Ever since I saw one of the Judds trace her ancestry on “Who Do You Think You Are?” and find out William Bradford, leader of the Mayflower party, who had been imprisoned in England for his religion, was her ancestor, I have known that you don’t mess with the Judds, men or women!

    The behavior of these “fans” is inexcusable, and would be even had it been in relation to a public issue (as the Dixie Chicks were treated when they disagreed with the war policy of President Bush), but in relation to college sports? Only idiots would think that whether “their” team won a certain game is THAT important! And this is coming from a Florida Gator who doesn’t like my team being beaten by Kentucky, but that’s just a game and the rivalry is just for fun. Ashley, cheer for Kentucky all you want! I know you would never stoop to their level and insult them for being fans of their team.

    PS: UK dominance in basketball has been known, respected, and imitated for many years. In 1965 I found Coach Adolph Rupp’s book on how to coach basketball in the stacks of the library at the University of Florida (and it’s probably in most college and high school libraries in the Southeast)! Every year we hope to beat Kentucky, as with all our rivals, but if not, we praise them for being good enough to beat us! And of course, wait till next year. 🙂

  • nancyminter

    It’s like road rage. As long as no one turns over the rock they are hiding under it will continue.

    • Liberals, no doubt.

      • Sand_Cat

        ;-)) (laughing)
        Are we getting a little desperate?
        Shame on you for turning what should be a non-partisan issue into one. No surprise there. No article anywhere without some right-wing jackass trying to make political hay from someone else’s tragedy.

        • BillP

          Sand_Cat that is all that kenndeb can do it write short nonsensical sentences. Anything longer would require some intelligent thought and that is too much for this troll to do.

      • Insinnergy

        .. and once again we find the barrel has no bottom.
        Keep digging Kenny.

  • tdm3624

    Little Gollum’s crouched over their keyboards typing out hateful things.