I’m Mad as Hell at Conventional Manhood

Monument to the Montreal Massacre

There are too many damn tragic anniversaries of men killing women. Pick any month and you’ll find them. Take today, December 6–it’s the 23rd anniversary of the Montréal Massacre. Marc Lépine  stormed into the city’s École Polytechnique and murdered 14 women, wounding 10 others. The mass-murderer, who then killed himself, was  25–the same age as Jovan Belcher, the Kansas City Chiefs linebacker who murdered his girlfriend and committed suicide December 1.

Most of us expressed horror at this latest tragedy, but distracted ourselves with cries of “Gun control now!” “Reform violent sports culture!” or “Shame on the NFL!” (The league ordered Kansas City to play its regularly scheduled–and highly lucrative–game the day after the murder-suicide.) The old adage “Follow the money” comes to mind, but let’s put a bookmark there; I don’t want to get distracted, too.

Let’s stick with the facts: It was domestic violence. It was murder. Belcher killed his “beloved” Kasandra Perkins, the 22 year-old mother of his three month-old daughter Zoey, at their home and then drove to team headquarters and killed himself in front of his head coach, general manager and other staff. Missing from the news accounts? It’s the masculinity, people.

In the aftermath of the murder-suicide, I can’t get the mantra “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” out of my head. That famous line from the classic film Network just won’t go away. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe millions of us should open our windows and stick our heads out and yell it, adding this additional phrase: “I’m mad as hell that we keep ignoring the shadow side of masculine culture, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

Just as they did after the mass killings last summer in Aurora, Colo., the media and elected officials have again failed to focus on the twin root causes of such violence: men’s mental health and how men are socialized. Memo to songwriters: How about a new anthem with some bite? It’s time to move beyond Monty Python and Two and a Half Men singing about “Men, men, men, men, men, men, men…”

Just as it was at Columbine in 1999 and Virginia Tech in 2007 and the Sikh temple outside Milwaukee last summer–and all the other school/temple/cinema shootings–it’s not about where the tragedies happened but about the men who pulled the trigger. It’s not about the vast majority of good men. Still, by our inaction we allow wounded, at-risk men to take center stage.

Belcher was part of Male Athletes Against Violence (MAAV)–a peer education class at the University of Maine–while starting on the varsity football team in 2007, which only makes the tragedy more poignant. What unhealed wounds were festering beneath the surface of his reputedly successful life? Among the lessons we must learn from this tragedy is to dig deeper before anointing young men with the honorific of peacemaker.

For many years, I facilitated batterers’ intervention groups at an anti-violence men’s center and saw plenty of seemingly high-functioning men who were there because they acted abusively. Educating and encouraging men to unlearn 20, 30 or 40 years of male socialization in 20, 30 or 40 weeks is among the most challenging work I’ve ever done. It felt a lot of times like trying to climb Mt. Everest in shorts and sneakers.

For Jovan Belcher, being part of an anti-violence class should have only been the beginning of his education. Clearly, he needed much more help. And, as a society, we have to do much more. All the literature at campus information tables or community anti-violence rallies, all the pledges men sign, all the women’s groups we support, only scratch the surface.

We need a sustained, nationwide education campaign that begins in elementary school and continues through college.

For starters, how about middle school, high school, college and university administrators and faculty spending time over the holidays planning teach-ins to begin next semester? How about a New Year’s resolution that educators take the lead in promoting a violence-free atmosphere on campus? How about a parallel effort among mental health professionals to begin a major study of male socialization? Hospitals need to restore the money they cut years ago from classes for expectant fathers. We can’t begin early enough.

We need an all-out effort, one that includes an array of allies from gun-control campaigners to sports broadcasters who air anti-violence commentaries. But none of it will matter if we don’t fundamentally redefine masculinity. Now. It’s late in the fourth quarter. We have no more time outs. The game is nearly over. Just one more thing; It’s not a game.

Photo of the Montréal Massacre Monument via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo of Kasandra Perkins and Jovan Belcher with their infant, from Instagram

Comments

  1. Nice Job Rob…
    Keep up the great work you do. This all goes away when us guys all collectively agree it’s over. All the power, sex, wealth and booze mean nothing without giving our lives meaning, purpose and character. That’s right, Character matters…
    Time to stop the blame, shame, minimization & denial game. Two thumbs way up!

    • ” …blame, shame, minimization & denial game”. Yup, those are all of oft-used words in many men’s vocabulary.
      Seeking men who don’t know these words! Or, rather, know them and know how harmful they are to women, to their relations with women and to themselves! Are you out there?

  2. Marsha Lake says:

    We need to understand GENDER as a social system. Within that social system we socialize males and females into ROLES.
    We have to understand how we as females are socialized in this system.
    We need to dismantle a system that privileges males in such significant ways and socializes a hyper masculinity while at the same time ghettoizing females into the pink roles..
    Deep in our lizard brains are very basic primitive responses..female needs male protection male needs lots of breeding possibilities.. fight /protect behaviors.
    SYSTEM change .. we need to look at how we all agree to these behaviors.
    That is ..on the face of it.. a bit counter intuitive.. females in the victim role..male in the aggressor ..role… we need to build new functional non violent behaviors and social systems… sports..fight to win.. war..fight to win and protect.. women..standing by our man..
    It is broken and dysfunctional.. and it no longer serves our survival as a species.

  3. Iliana Echo says:

    There was a massacre of women at a spa in Brookfield, WI, about 80 minutes from my home in Madison, back in October. A man walked into a spa, killed his estranged wife (who had previously taken out a restraining order against him) and two other women, and wounded four, then shot himself. The gun was legal, even though he had a restraining order against him for violence.

  4. Males commit lethal violence against women constantly and the reason is because it is all about maintenance of male power and male domination over all women. Men collectively are not suffering from any mental health issues – rather that is another justification/excuse because males must never be held accountable for their choice in committing violence against women. Males commit violence against women because male domination has to be maintained and not all women will submit to male domination which is why men commit violence against women. It is a very effective method of maintaining male domination and male control over all women. Furthermore women know that if they ‘upset’ the menz then the menz will enact physical punishment and all too commonly lethal violence.

    Gender is not the issue, but male domination over all women is the issue, because women’s sex happens to be female. Men are not oppressed because of their sex because men always claim male is the default human.

    Gender is a social construction created by men and their male supremacist system to justify male domination over women. Masculinity by itself does not exist because there has to be ‘femininity’ in order that men can justify their male domination over women. But gender is a sub issue because the primary issue is male domination and male control over all women. However, because men for centuries have claimed they are the superior sex this makes it very difficult to challenge what men claim is natural.

    Women do not innately require a male/males to protect them, but this myth has been created by men to justify male domination and male control over all women. Evolutionary theory does not explain why globally male domination and male control over women continues. Women are more than reproductive creatures but male supremacist system continues to promote myth women ‘need male protection from other sexually aggressive males.’

    Eliminating the Male Supremacist system would greatly reduce the numbers of men who believe women exist to be men’s sexual/personal property. The male supremacist legal system and the male supremacist propaganda tool, malestream media also play their part in justifying/excusing male violence against women and girls. Until such time as men are held accountable and punished for their crimes against women nothing will change. Instead we will hear the same old male excuses/justifications/denials because men must never supposedly be held responsible and accountable for their choosing to commit violence against women and girls.

    • Stephen Sharper says:

      By your post you could conclude that men don’t oppress men (say for instance that prison rape doesn’t exist) and that women are some how unable to oppress men. You could gather that for instance the phrase man up is never used by women to attack a man’s lack of masculinity, the very thing that this article is decrying in the first place.

  5. This is what the media shoul;d have been talking about. I though sports radio station would say something about Domestic Violence, but not. All the media did was talk about the gun issue and how football players have head injuries. No one mentioned Kasandra. I hate how much cowardly males in this society get spoiled and get a pass on being abusers and murderers. It’s sad when this society cares more about materials and pets than to help women out. This society acts as though Domestic Violence is the victim’s fault and how the blame is oput on them and not the abusers. Anyway, great article!

  6. A very needed change, indeed.
    I disagree vehemently with one statement, however: the “vast majority of good men”. If you have lived life, you could not have helped but noticed that there are less good men than bad ones. To state otherwise is myopic, naive and not very bright.

  7. Yet our governments are beholden to big business, the rich gun lobby, and the quid pro quo by the bagmen that got them elected. What a mess.
    Bring back the eunuch, only they and women allowed to lead countries and governments.

  8. So Belcher was part of Male Athletes Against Violence (MAAV), eh?

    I have heard chilling statistics about men who are involved in the battered women’s movement. Some people are saying that we need to thoroughly screen the men who get involved in the anti-violence movement and Belcher is providing more evidence that we need to act FAST.

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