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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2007

    What about the Men? On Masculinity and Mass Shootings.

    An excellent article asking the question as to why in the last 30 years, out of 62 mass murderers only one has been a woman. Imagine if 61 out of 62 mass killings were done by women, what would men say?

    Full article by Meghan Murphy found here.

    In 31 of the school shootings that have taken place since 1999, the murderers were all men. Out of the 62 mass murders which happened over the past 30 years, only one of those shooters was a woman. The overwhelming majority of the gunmen were white.

    Jackson Katz, an author, filmmaker, social theorist, and anti-sexist activist, whose work has focused on manhood and masculinity, is baffled: “The gender of the perpetrator is the single most important factor, and yet it’s not talked about in that way in most mainstream conversations.”

    So liberals have, once again, jumped on the gun control issue (and I won’t deny that guns are an important issue here) and the right have reached for their handguns, arguing that the only way we can protect ourselves is to be armed (as Ann Coulter tweeted, mere hours after the shooting: “more guns, less mass shootings”). Others still, want to talk about mental illness and the health care crisis in America. It should strike us all as more than a little odd that, amidst all of these conversations, whether it’s the progressives, the right, or the mainstream media – no one is talking about gender.
    “Imagine if 61 out of 62 mass killings were done by women? Would that be seen as merely incidental and relegated to the margins of discourse?” Katz asks, “No. It would be the first thing people talked about.”

    In the U.S., where health care is privatized, it’s true that many people don’t have adequate access to mental health services. Racial and ethnic minorities are even less likely to have access to health services, as well as, more generally the poor and unemployed. But not only are these mass shootings committed largely by white men, but by middle class white men. If this were primarily an issue of people not having access to mental health services, it would stand to reason that far more mass shootings would be perpetrated by poor minorities, particularly women of color.

    But we’re talking white, middle class men — the members of this society who have the most privilege and the most power. The question everyone should be asking is not: “Where did he get the gun?” or “Why wasn’t he on medication?” But: “What is happening with white men?”

    This isn’t to say that men are somehow naturally inclined towards violence. It isn’t reasonable to argue that men are born angry or crazy. Masculinity, on the other hand, is something worth thinking about.
    “It’s hidden in plain sight,” Katz says. “This is about masculinity and it’s about manhood.” Other factors are important too, for example, how masculinity intersects with mental illness or emotional problems or with access to guns. “But we need to be talking about gender front and center.”
    Even the gun debate needs to be gendered, Katz points out. “So much of gun culture in the U.S. is about masculinity but it’s unspoken.”

    What is it about masculinity that leads to these kinds of tragedies? Katz argues that violence is a gendered way of achieving certain goals. Femininity simply isn’t constructed in a way that teaches women to use violence as a means to an end.
    “One of the ways we can understand violence is as an external manifestation of internal pain” Katz says. Men, according societal expectations and norms, are only allowed to experience certain emotions – one of those being anger. Violence and anger are accepted and expected forms of men’s emotional expression. “Men are rewarded for achieving certain goals and for establishing of dominance through the use of violence,” Katz says.

    Just look at war.
    Of course war is yet another factor that is left out of these conversations. The U.S. is a militarized state. America, as a nation, establishes dominance through the use of violence and war is distinctly a male domain. Men wage war and men fight in war. Men run countries that go to war. Men make decisions about whether to continue drone strikes and about where to fire missiles. War is a man’s game. Winner takes all.

    “Militarism is, in a sense, a projection of force and power as the assertion of national manhood,” Katz says. There is no way we could live such a militarized culture and not see that manifested in our understandings of manhood and culture at large.
    And what of revenge? We often talk about revenge as a reason behind these kinds of attacks. “ Violence is a form of revenge. So often men are enacting violence as a way to take back something they believe as been taken from them,” Katz says.
    “Often these shooters are harboring resentment — they retreat into themselves and then develop these revenge fantasies,” Katz says. “Most of the school shootings over the past couple of decades have been revenge killings.” The innocent victims are just “props in the shooter’s theatrical performance of his anger and his resentment,” he says.
    When men commit violence, they’re fulfilling expectations of their gender.

    “Caring, compassion, and empathy aren’t innately feminine characteristics. Those are human characteristics,” Katz says. Yet men learn the opposite. They learn to shut up and take it like a man. They also learn that they are entitled to certain things in this world: financial success, access to women, power – when they can’t acquire these things, what happens? Well, sometimes, apparently, they seethe. And without any other tools to deal with their anger and resentment, some men resort to violence.
    “As a white man, the assumption is that you are the center of the world. Your needs should be met. You should be successful,” Katz says. When that doesn’t pan out men will often end up seeing themselves as victims. “This explains the cultural energy on the right in this past generation – so many of these men see themselves as victims of multiculturalism and of feminism,” he adds. “It’s undermining the cultural centrality of male authority.” Katz points out that we can see this worldview manifesting itself in the Men’s Rights Movement. “They are at the front line making the argument that men are the true victims.” All this isn’t to say that all men who feel they are losing grip on their perceived entitlement to power and authority will become perpetrators of mass shootings. But these broader patterns are something to consider.

    Are these shooters psychopaths or sociopaths? Maybe. But what’s a sociopath? It’s a person who lacks empathy. “Well,” says Katz, “we socialize empathy out of boys all the time.” If we aren’t allowing boys to experience and express vulnerability, pain, and fear because that’s somehow connected to weakness (a feminine quality), then how are they going to be able to relate to the experiences of others? “Sociopathy is the extreme manifestation of the way we socialize boys in our society,” he says.
    The question of not only: “What about men?” But “What about white masculinity?” should be, according to Katz, on the front page of every newspaper and on every talk show.

    Somehow, people seem more comfortable seeing these shooters as twisted psychopaths. We’re more comfortable blaming objects – guns – than we are asking: “Who’s behind the gun?”
    Never trust anything you are afraid to question ~

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Mio, Michigan
    Hi Rose

    Very interesting. Coincidentally I just posted Ravi's Newsletter before I saw your article. Ravi focused on the demographic as well.

    His best to you.


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