Why Won’t We Talk About Violence and Masculinity in America?

As I listened along with the rest of the world to the unfolding horror of what transpired at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I was struck by the persistent lack of commentary and analysis discussing the fact that mass shooters are almost all angry, male and white. What will it take for us to have widespread, open, public dialogue about gender and violence in this country? About masculinity and identity? These are among the “hard questions” we’re inclined to ignore. Instead, as I listened to the radio and watched the TV, I heard media commentators repeatedly explain how rare this scenario is. How this community didn’t have a “crime problem.” About the psychological make-up of mass shooters. Law enforcement officers are looking for a motive. And people are asking, again, “Why did this happen?”

This is the wrong question. Mass murderers are an extreme symptom of a common, everyday problem. Yes, the risk of being terrorized by a lone, mass murderer is slim. But everyday people live with fear and terror in their homes. There is, sadly, nothing unique about men with guns in this country killing people every day. In the case of mass murders, the extreme symptom of this disaster, the question is, “Why did another angry, young, white man act this way and kill these people?”

This tragedy happened and will continue to happen because too many guns are readily available in a culture that is optimized for their tragic use, most often by unstable boys brought up to define themselves as men through violence, and taught from birth to expect control. Men with cultural entitlements to and expectations of power and privilege. Expectations, when not met and combined with illness, loss, depression and more, explode into uncounted tragedies every day. De-stigmatizing mental illness and regulating guns will of course help, but will be insufficient without inclusion of this dimension of the problem. In the case of Adam Lanza, yes, he had a mental health issue and had access to guns. But, unlike others with illness and access, he experienced the culture in a way that shifted his propensity into violent actuality.

Lanza’s mother’s guns, all properly licensed, were among the 270 million guns that can be found in the U.S. today. He was denied a gun in a local gun store earlier in the week because he didn’t want to wait the required two weeks. Our exceptional country ranks No. 1 in the world in guns/per capita, with 88 guns/100 people–far exceeding the second on the list, Serbia, at 58.2/100. There are countries similarly armed, but not similarly violent. As Ezra Klein pointed out in The Washington Post on Friday, “Switzerland and Israel have rates of homicide that are low despite rates of home firearm ownership that are at least as high as those in the United States.” Of the 25 worst mass shootings of the past 50 years, 15 took place here. It’s a lie to say these events are rare.

On Friday, after killing his mother (which is, after all, domestic violence) the shooter walked into the safe place that was a school and killed 20 boys and girls and six women. It doesn’t take a Ph.D in psychology to wonder about the significance of a man who kills his mother then goes into a school, where women overwhelmingly have control and nurture, and kills small children before they grow up. It is an unfathomable act. I mean no disrespect or lack of sympathy when I say, however, that in the next 24 hours at least three women in the U.S. will die at the hands of violent men. According to the Children’s Defense Fund [PDF], during the same 24 hours up to eight children will die from gunshot wounds in this country. Writes Bill Weird for ABC News: “Among the world’s 23 wealthiest countries, 80 percent of all gun deaths are American deaths and 87 percent of all kids killed by guns are American kids.” This is 42.7 times greater than the rate for all the other nations combined.

Lanza was one man among many. Although more men die of gun violence than women, the fact is, that gun deaths are an overwhelmingly male-perpetrated crime–whether the victims are male or female. And, I know, even though this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre and six years since the Amish school shooting, most mass shooters do not set out to kill by sex. They do, as with single homicides, own guns and kill as a sex. A 2011 Gallup poll revealed that 46 percent of American men own guns (compared to 23 percent of women). And, as we learned last month when Kassandra Perkins was shot and killed by Jovan Belcher, 91 percent of domestic murders are committed by men and 88 percent of these murders involve guns.  In less than 10 days, the number of  women and children killed will exceed the number of people–children and women and Lanza himself–lost on Friday. The same culture that results in so many unplanned, domestic, gun-enabled murders–part of 15,000 single victim homicides a year–is the one that produces mass killers like Lanza.

Mother Jones was forced to update it’s Guide to Mass Shootings In America which, earlier in the year, documented the 62 cases of mass shootings involving guns in the U.S. since 1982. Of these, 11 have been in schools. Young, white men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of mass shootings. Among major mass murderers during the last century, only one of the shooters was a woman (see comments, below). White boys and men are not biologically or genetically predisposed to be homicidal mass murders or domestic abusers. However, violence is part of how American masculinity is defined. And guns are part of that violence.

The ad for the gun that the Sandy Hook shooter used runs with a the tagline: “Consider Your Man Card Reissued.” Young white men have entitlements and privileges that, when combined with disappointment, illness, loss and soul-strippingly unhealthy and common glorification of violence, can lead to tragedy. The only place I heard this discussed this weekend was on MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes, when Salon’s David Sirota  pointed out that white men are really the only group in America that is “not allowed to be profiled.” We need more white men like David Sirota and Chris Hayes, who disproportionately make up our media experts and political leaders, to step up and talk openly about exactly this. About how ideas about whiteness and maleness are not only our unquestioned norms, but are imbued with an innocence and authority that makes it almost impossible to critically talk about them in terms of a pattern of horrific events like Sandy Hook.


In 2010, Rachel Kalish and Michael Kimmel, in a paper called “Suicide by Mass Murder” gave a name to this phenomenon: “aggrieved entitlement.” In their paper they describe a “culture of hegemonic masculinity in the US”–one that creates a “sense of aggrieved entitlement conducive to violence.” For young men, especially white men, anger and violence are privileges which others cannot lay claim to and are definitively punished for exercising. Our industrialized prison system is massively, disproportionately, overflowing with young black men. And, whereas men who kill their intimate partners are sentenced, on average, to between two and six years, women who kill their spouses are sentenced, on average, to 15 years.”Getting” to be angry and violent isn’t an equal opportunity. Neither is admitting to mental illness, an area we portray as almost exclusively the reserve of girls and women.

It’s not racist or sexist to suggest that white men are struggling with a loss of power in this country. I’m not demonizing white men, many if not most of whom probably don’t feel powerful and in control. But the fact remains that in this country white men have long ruled–in public and private life. They continue to dominate government and media even as the nature of families and private life has evolved over time. No one likes to lose power. Losing power is hard and unpleasant, frightening and disorienting.

But distributing power equitably is  important. It’s a change we can seek to understand, openly discuss and facilitate, or we can ignore and exacerbate harm.

This violence is a public health crises. Other countries understand the vital importance to society of understanding gender constructions, but ours is mind-numbingly resistant. We really, really need to do this if we hope to understand how to stem this hemorrhaging of life. Pretending that hyper-gendered cultural pressures and entitlements that are part of boys becoming “real man” aren’t critically significant to these mass shootings, and to the everyday gun deaths in this country, is the national crime.

Photo via Flickr user Gideon Tsang licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.


  1. Thank you for writing this. I have been thinking these same thoughts a lot the last few days. Why is it everyone is ignoring the fact the all these shootings have been done by men? This is the first article I have seen that addresses this issue. There definitely needs to be changes in gun control laws and better ways to assess the mental health status of people who own or have access to guns.

    • I agree. I haven’t heard this mentioned in any discussions or news reports. I’ve been saying it to everyone I talk with, and they agree but then go on to blame mental illness or guns. It’s the culture that has to change.

  2. I really enjoyed this article. My aim is not to trash males, however some keys words echoed my sentiments exactly when it comes to masculinity within the firearms industry. You don’t seem to hear about women going out and spraying bullets such as the horrific incidents. It’s not that a woman is incapable of doing such a thing, however there seems to be to much “machismo” and “bad ass” mentality inside this spectrum rather than a focus on training and education. Inviting knowledgeable women into this sphere brings snickers even when their credentials, experience, and background may outweigh male counterparts. Unfortunately, our culture promotes this bad ass mentality which is admired and imitated by youth. Rambo wreaking havoc saves the day. Sadly, this our society has adopted this to be manly.

  3. NAFIUL ISLAM says:

    This is the perspective that is always miss!ing. THANK S A LOT FOR THIS!

  4. Yes.. don’t we know it. And furthermore, we even find it difficult to convince education departments to provide a gender analysis in their resources and programs to address bullying – when most bullying is done by boys. (Yes, yes, we know girls bully too.. this protest about girls bullying too is another common diversion from a focus on masculinity and entitlement) So please check out and share around these fantastic videos about Teaching Boys which explain what Soraya said, and more. Teachers, education officials, parents.. wake up and challenge, every day, this ‘taken for granted’, ‘normal’ violent and antisocial masculinity that breeds everyday tragedy – http://www.awe.asn.au/drupal/content/preventing-gendered-violence

  5. Nancy Naron says:

    Two films/documentaries, that I am aware of, have addressed the subject of pressures on boys growing up in America–pressures that lead to violent, anti-social behavior. One film, Boys will Be Men: A Documentary About Growing Up Male in America, was made in 2001; the other, The Smell of Burning Ants, was made in 1994.

    I remember clearly that when I was five years old, after having been in school for about two weeks, I realized that “boys aren’t smarter than girls.” I was very surprised. I had obviously been taught that boys were smarter, better, etc. If I had been taught that, so had the boys. Imagine what it is like to be taught that you are smarter, stronger and better than at least half of the population and then discovering that you are not.

  6. All I can say is “No Shit Sherlock”

    What did they expect, for the past 20 years it’s been “Think of the Children”. The States and a fair bit of Europe have a mentality that you can’t disappoint a child.

    School sports days, there are no losers any more. It’s well you didn’t win, but here’s a prize for pitching up.
    You can’t fail them because it might ruin their confidence. You can’t smack them because it will ruin their self image.

    Well FFS this is what you get when you don’t bring people down a peg or two in a controlled way when they’re younger. Learning how to cope with loosing and how to pick up your game is a vital part of growing up. Now you have a demographic (White males) who are expect control, but have never been taught what it’s like to lose and how to cope with it, so when they get to the real world, the only way they know is what they’ve learnt from TV.

    George Carlin was saying this in the 90s already, NO ONE listened.

    • Actually, the “Don’t disappoint a child” approach or “self-esteem movement” is somewhat dated. I think it’s speculation to assume that this gunman grew up in a world in which he got a trophy just for participation, or was raised or educated in a climate in which he was unnaturally cushioned from disappointment. Most experts today recognize that nothing builds self-esteem like actually experiencing success from working hard, and that learning to deal with disappointment makes children stronger.

      You will, however, not find so many proponents of the idea that smacking children is a good idea. Research still indicates that all it teaches is that it’s OK for bigger, stronger people to physically hurt smaller, weaker people. There are plenty of ways to seriously discipline children without “smacking” them–time-outs, removals of privileges, requiring them to make restitution, etc. These punishments often fit the crime much better.

      In any case, nobody kills his mother and then goes out and blasts innocent school personnel and children simply because he’s a spoiled brat who never learned to adjust to life’s disappointments. I wouldn’t claim to know the reason why this abhorrent event happened, but the notion that anyone could do such a thing simply because he was spared disappointment as a child, or because he didn’t “get smacked” lest it damage his self-esteem, is a bit too simplistic an answer.

      • “Actually, the “Don’t disappoint a child” approach or “self-esteem movement” is somewhat dated. ”

        It may be dated, but bad policy always has INERTIA through those invested in it and those tainted by it. When a bad product is shipped from the factory, it isn’t suddenly fixed when the newer models start shipping.

        • And there is no evidence supporting the idea that this particular killer was a product of the self-esteem movement. So you’re blaming something he may have had no experience with for making him what he was.

          I think it would be kind of interesting (not that I ever really hope it happens) if information came out about a serial killer or mass shooter that indicated that his parents, contrary to all assumptions of the general public posting comments to Internet boards, were strict old-fashioned disciplinarians who spanked him regularly for breaking rules and held him to rigid behavioral standards.

    • Tinkdnuos says:

      People who refer to George Carlin in their sociological critiques are almost always themselves bitter, angry, entitled white males.

      When they do so in the context of railing against how society is too kind to children, they take the “almost” right out of it.

  7. The reason why male violence and mass shootings or male violence period are not discussed because our culture supports patriarchal views and religions. We have had a long tradition of raise our daughters to be responsible and explain away our male inappropriate behaviors. Our culture is more busy telling women what they should look like, act like and feel and completely ignores the other half regarding standards, morals, etc. While men, traditionally have waged war on the globe with the support of religion (also male based) and violence is upheld (football) and applauded along with hefty financial rewards. War is our largest industry and looked upon as honorable. Our culture denies men’s feelings and teaches them emotions are to be ridiculed and ignored or that they are ‘girly’. We send very biased messaged in the media as well. Our history books are male based centered on wars and conquest totally ignoring the glorious contributions of women to civilization. So when a culture presents war and violence as a ‘manly’ white right it certain gets where its headed.

    • What you ascribe to culture has been an anthropological constant across the vast majority of primate species for millions of years.

      • No it hasn’t. Annsih is describing sophisticated cultural phenomena involving speech, writing, organised religion and goods exchanged for money. No other primate species does any of these.

        The patriarchy isn’t in our genes, it’s in our culture and can therefore be changed, if there is the will to do so. The only reason it hasn’t happened thus far is because white men benefit most from the patriarchy and white men currently rule the world. But the will to change is growing, which is partly what motivates the angry young men in the article.

      • Tinkdnuos says:

        This passage:

        “whiteness and maleness are not only our unquestioned norms, but are imbued with an innocence and authority that makes it almost impossible to critically talk about them in terms of a pattern of horrific events like Sandy Hook.”

        …sure seems to have accurately predicted a comment like yours, PA. It also makes clear how inane it becomes in this conversation.

  8. What I want to know is that the gunman’s mother knew he had Aspergrs’s disease and yet she not only went out and bought all those guns but she taught him how to shoot them. What the hell is wrong with her???? If you have a child with issues you certainly don’t buy guns and keep them in the house at arm’s reach. This is crazy.

    • I wonder if Nancy Lanza was a member of the NRA or some other gun lobby group.

    • First, Asperger’s is not a “disease”; it’s a neurological disorder on the autism spectrum. Second, Asperger’s in and of itself does not incline a person toward violence. I suspect that when we learn more about this situation we will discover that this young man had “issues” that had little to do with, or only peripherally to do with, Asperger’s syndrome. It would be a grave mistake to jump to the conclusion that all people with Asperger’s “have issues” and are dangerous to others.

      • Thank you, Tru, for clarifying the issue of Asperger’s. There is no association between Asperger’s and violent behavior whatsoever. In fact, the rage he obviously felt is counterintuitive to my understanding of Asperger’s. I, too, wondered what in hell was wrong with this mother for having these guns in the house. The media said she liked to target shoot; why did she need an assault rifle for that? She supposedly told the babysitter not to turn his back on her son when he was much younger. Why would you have guns in the house if this was your perception of your child? Why did she go away and leave him alone for days? I just don’t understand many parents; they seem to think their desires come before their children’s needs.

    • Aspergers is not a “disease”.

    • One of the reasons identified (rightly, in my opinion) in the article for why mass shootings keep happening in America is because every single time, people look at the tragedy as a discrete event and not as a pattern.

      Trying to shift the blame onto the mother is, once again, looking for an individual to blame instead of looking at the underlying *cultural* problem. I don’t know why Nancy Lanza kept so many guns. Maybe she believed the cultural narrative that she ‘needed’ them to protect her from violent bad guys. Maybe the ideas that guns equal security and that the answer to violence is more violence are what needs challenging here, not one woman’s parenting choices.

  9. We have been talking about this, we will keep talking about this, we will always talk about this until we no longer have to talk about this.


  10. I would say that BEING more powerful in this world by virtue of being a white male is part of the problem. Not the loss of power, but rather the expectation that this power must be wielded. Men face their own set of pressures that we don’t fully recognize and discuss as a society.

    • Evan Mulvaney says:

      Thanks for a truly intelligent comment here. Sexism is a notoriously malicious word. How many white males actually do drive Rolls Royces? For those of us white males WHO HAVE supported single mother households, lived and supported people with very challenging lives our skin color which may be white doesn’t reflect our own unique battles. You could say that for some of us we feel that our skin color is an impediment not a “badge of honor” in a world where there are endless commercials about husbands who can’t do housework right. That’s just the beginning I can assure you.

  11. Nance Broderzen says:

    Great article, but needs one correction re: “Among major mass murderers during the last century, not one of the shooters was a woman.” There is one female who conducted a mass shooting: Jennifer San Marco –former postal employee, killed six postal employees before committing suicide with a handgun –January 30, 2006 –large postal processing facility in Goleta, California…. –seventh victim dead in a condominium complex also in Goleta, where San Marco once lived. –Postal Service had forced San Marco to retire in 2003 because of her worsening mental problems. Choice of victims may have also been racially motivated as San Marco had history of racial prejudice.

    • The Tamil Tigers use women suicide bombers all the time. Explain that.
      The PKK used women for more then the majority of its suicide attacks against Turkey. Explain that. The Palis increased use of women suicide bombers is well know.

      You are not exempt.

  12. Bertie Ward says:

    An interesting and thoughtful argument. It’s worth pointing out that Switzerland does not have low rates of gun homicide. Its firearm murder rate is four times that of the gun-free UK, despite a richer, more homogenous society where other rates of law breaking are much lower. It’s clear that the gun murder rate is bloated by the availability of firearms, which should come as a surprise to no one outside of the NRA.
    If you include suicide in firearm death rates in Switzerland, it scores worse than Zimbabwe.
    However, gun death per 1000 are not at the same level as the US. This may be because of the reasons you allude to above – along with the fact that everyone has firearms training through the army and that the purpose of the gun is seen as for national, not personal defence.
    The argument that, if we don’t all have guns, only the bad guys will have them is not true. The vast majority of gun massacres in Europe are committed with legal guns – as in the case of Anders Brevik in Norway.

  13. womononajourney says:

    Thank you for this article. There are women that suffer from mental illness and are bullied (not that this young man was bullied) and are socially alienated, but you don’t see women going and shooting people in anywhere near the proportion men do.

  14. The response here is just KILLING me, oh whoops bad choice of words there.

    I mean, are we even serious here? 99% of all violence in all recorded history has been committed by and instigated by men, with a few exceptions of female rulers presiding over war. What’s more, said recorded history has made sure that this has been written down, glorified and remembered forever.

    And how telling it is, that pointing to this absolutely blindingly obvious fact, a fact which men themselves have made sure will NEVER be forgotten, women still feel the need to give a caveat statement against demonizing men?

    Seriously people? Look around you. Look at all media men have ever made. They might as well be screaming ‘we love death fear us bitchezz mwa ha ha ha’ in our faces. And we are surprised when some guy shoots up a school? Please.

    There is nothing abnormal, nothing sick, nothing crazy about it. It is normality, defined by men.

    WHY is masculinity defined as violence, dominance? Because it gives men power, duh. Because they WANTED to define it that way and it worked out damn well for them. It didn’t just spring up out of nowhere. Please stop with the wilful blindness.

  15. ps it’s not a ‘public health crisis’. It is the normal operation of male domination. ‘Health’ has nothing to do with it. Please stop trying to depoliticize the issue by making it about health.

  16. I can’t believe my ears.

    Right this minute on television, the NRA is making their statement: they are the “victims” being discriminated against, and they want their training programs to be used for all teachers to carry guns.

    They have learned nothing. Nothing.

    Write your Senators.

  17. Janet Hudgins says:

    Good to see this article talking truth and putting this situation we are facing, have always faced, in focus. The is no safe place for any woman anywhere from an element of the male population: not in her home, her car, her institution, on the street, in the air. We must all look over our shoulder, and we have known that, probably instinctively as well as by example, from birth. And that should never be!

  18. May I recommend an interesting article from a couple of days ago in NY Times: Guns and the Decline of the Young Man. Its premise is that white men are losing power and it is our job to have empathy for them and help them find their way, otherwise they’ll only get more upset and violent.
    On the one hand, it is a logical, safe, defense proposition (same as “it’s better not to wear a short skirt in a bad neighborhoods”). On the other hand, it (once again) suggests that violent men should not be held fully accountable for their actions and choices and it is us women (once again) that should be nice and play nice (once again) – or else they’ll rape and murder (same as “expect to be assaulted of you wear a short skirts in bad neighborhoods”).

  19. I’m quite appalled by this article. First off, let me explain who I am. I am a woman. I have my PhD in clinical psychology. I have worked in south chicago, and I tried to help combat the violent culture there. I am a democrat. I find it horrendous for this author to engage in race baiting, and bigotry toward white men.To say that white men are losing power, and that is the reason why this violence occurred is ridiculous. If I wrote an article about white women, or black men and inner city violence, what would the author and others think about that? They would be crying racism and sexism. I strongly believe that our social cultural is neglecting white young men. Most of the focus and programs is on helping women or minorities. How about we create programs to help young white men as well? How about we focus on providing them with constructive, positive, social support where they are not isolated. Where they feel like they belong, and where they can be guided in the correct direction in their lives. A direction where they can help others. Creating an article on a conspiracy theory is silly and dangerous. It’s not helping to solve the problems that we face. And yes, apparently it does take a psychologist to point these things out.

    • ThisIsSad says:

      “If I wrote an article about white women, or black men and inner city violence, what would the author and others think about that? They would be crying racism and sexism.”

      Of course they would. Do you know why? Because we don’t live in a cultural and historical vacuum. Black people and women have suffered untold centuries of systemic oppression, stigmatization, and invalidation, whereas young, white men are, as the author pointed out, the only demographic that has never had to deal with such things. This is just a fact; it is not a racist or sexist statement any more than it is sexist to state that women and girls suffer from more mental illnesses than boys and men. Facts are facts. I believe its quite clear to most people, with or without a doctoral degree, that any system that maintains such a skewed gender and racial status quo is doing EVERYONE a great disservice, including young, white men.

      Secondly, I would invite you to revisit the article and engage in some close reading, since there is no race baiting or bigotry towards white men anywhere to be found in it. You also clearly missed the author’s emphasis throughout the piece on the greater cultural issues that she suspects are responsible for leaving young, white men behind.

      • Such a selective, convenient, and uttery manipulative view of history. How about all the men who went to war and died protecting the women and children back home? Millions of men, completely uninvolved, volunteered to give their lives. Is that not suffering?

        Men want to reproduce, and spread their genes. Masculinity is about protecting to allow this, first and foremost. Violence is the natural consequence of protection. You can’t have one without the other.

        Feminism does not need this crap. How can you not see that you’re being fueled by hate here? You’ll deny it because it’ll burst your self righteous bubble, but it’s plainly obvious to everyone else. Your view on the subject of white males is based on hatred. You are using the action of some to cast bigotry on ALL. It’s disgusting. How could you possibly think that blaming masculinity is ok? You make the world a more hate filled place by broadcasting this message. Let us all hope none of you ever face real danger in your lives, because you will certainly perish.

        I invite you to respond. You can make all the assumptions you want about me, but keep them to yourself.

        • No one is denying that men have fought and died in wars (women have, too, although not as many). But there’s a huge difference between war and peace.

          Masculinity is not about “protecting to allow one’s genes to spread”–at least, I hope not. That view essentially reduces men to animals who only care about how much they can reproduce before they die because that’s how they’ve been programmed. Male human beings are capable of a lot more than that. And one of the things they’re capable of (having brains superior to those of other animals) is finding alternatives to violence as a means of self-preservation when possible. Protection doesn’t have to equal violence.

          “Fueled by hate”? Please. It’s not hatred of white men or self-righteous to acknowledge facts. And you have no way of knowing what any of us would do if we faced real danger. The notion that women are helpless creatures without men to violently beat up others “for their protection” is right out of the caveman days.

    • Aramdomreader says:

      Dear Ms. Shawna,

      Your comment is absolutely correct. You have shown that you have not fallen victim to this mass hysteria that has taken over which so conveniently likes to pin complicated targets on a single causative agent. I applaud your morality, and critical thinking skills–despite the fact that you may never receive this message.

  20. You’re missing the other half of the bell curve. Yes, men will more often commit these crimes; but men are also the main protectors and providers in society – police, fire, emergency, military personnel, etc. are overwhelmingly male.

    “Male Aggression” in and of itself is not good or bad – it’s a quality. It has served societies quite well for millenia. Modern feminism has sought to eliminate it, to teach boys how to be more like women. Wishing away male qualities is asking for trouble.

    • The reason police, fire, emergency, military personnel, etc., are overwhelmingly male is because society for so many years told women they could not inhabit those roles and forbade them to do so. A few decades of opening them to women isn’t going to change that fact overnight. There will still be more men than women for many years because we still socialize women to be the protected instead of the protectors. It doesn’t mean they’re incapable of protecting and providing.

      True, male aggression can be used for good or evil purposes–but there’s nothing wrong with calling it out and identifying the damage it does when it escapes the boundaries of civil society. And the idea that “modern feminism has sought to eliminate it” is utter nonsense. Yes, the world would be better off if boys were more like women, girls were more like men and people didn’t adhere rigidly to sex roles–THAT’s feminism. It’s not about wishing “male qualities” away; it’s about saying they’re not just “male” qualities, and when they get taken to extremes by males who are told that extremism is the only way they can prove their manhood, they become an outright pathology.

  21. Thanks for posting this article. Feminists have been writing about male dominance, gun violence and misogyny ever since the Montreal Massacre, when Marc Lepine killed several female engineering students because he thought that feminism had ruined his life.

    However, these discussions haven’t made it into the mainstream culture because activists haven’t organized around them yet. We need to have organized protest marches against femicide and men’s gun violence. We need to take these great feminist books and articles out into the streets and DEMAND a discussion.

    I noticed that CNN has posted a Michael Kimmel article on masculinity and gun violence. Also, the Huffington Post published a Jackson Katz article on male dominance and violence. However, most of the responses came from misogynists and feminists were generally silent. We feminists should have been there in full force and should have kept standing up to the misogynistic responses.

    We have done enough analysis and discussion. Now is the time for organization and action.

  22. Big flaw in your article. These aren’t men committing violent acts. They’re simply adult males. Real men are gentle and provide a place of safety and comfort for all those weaker than themselves. The only time we are violent is when confronted by violence. ALL of these crimes were committed by a coward who simply saw himself as more than he was or wanted to prove to himself he wasn’t the failure he saw himself as. I can tell you with certainty if any of them had faced down an actual man the result would have been different. Unfortunately the media tends to stick those stories on the back burner instead of sensationalizing them.

  23. See the system works. He was denied a gun in a local gun store earlier in the week because he didn’t want to wait the required two weeks.

    • Oh yeah, it works really well, saved the lives of all those children and teachers …

      FYI, Switzerland’s gun ratio is being mis-reported, and the Siberian rate of gun related murder is a little skewed by the fact that they don’t report genocide as murder, it’s apparently justified.

      Guns don’t kill people, and people don’t kill people … people with guns kill people. To fix it you need to get rid of one or the other. If we chose to keep the guns, we will continue to see the gun related violence. And the sad fact is that with all these guns around, we still couldn’t save those people. Fail.

      • Timithy McVeigh Killed 168 people including 19 children under the age of 6 and injured over 800 by Bombing, no gun necessary. Destroyed or damaged 324 buildings & burned 86 cars. How many crazies will resort to bombing when guns are no longer available? Also, you can defend yourself with a gun against someone w/ a gun, with a bomb, you have NO DEFENSE.

        All of us (everyone who commented here) are in a theater & a man comes in firing at us. I pull out my 38, shoot him & save the rest of you. Millions of gun owners don’t murder.

        We all own a lethal weapon – a car. Any crazy can use their car in such a way on a HWY to commit mass murder.

        In the UK, stabbings and knife murders are out of control! Wonder why? Just because you aren’t willing to think outside the box doesn’t mean a criminal will find a way!

  24. As a mother of a son I’ve tried to teach him to resolve conflicts in a non-confrontational way. Mothers can have an enormous influence in that respect, especially in how men treat women. If a son sees his father treating his mother with respect and kindness, this makes a big impression on him. If he sees the opposite, it normalizes sexism and violence. If parents keep guns in their homes, what are they saying to children? I would hope that parents everywhere rethink their habits given the mass killings. A different kind of consciousness raising needs to occur, including anti-gun ads, making guns unacceptable as smoking and drunk driving.

  25. What she failed to mention is that Serbia in the last 10-15 years were using these assault rifles to extinguish another race of people..it happened to be in the papers and actually made a movie about it. Their violence lasted over 5 years and killed close to 100000 people.. Get real lady..I know I was there. Secondly you don’t hear of all the violent killings in Chicago this past summer 30 murders with assault rifles even killing a 6 year old girl. By black on black gang violence…oh but I guess she doesn’t watch the news or read the paper…

  26. An excellent article that will garner little acknowledgement in Ms. Magazine, sadly. It should be reprinted in Guns & Ammo.

  27. Ginny Monsma says:

    Love that we are talking about this…something that I have noticed all around me as a child, teenager and as an adult….
    Thank-you for this well written thoughtful piece.

  28. Many responders here come from the nurture side of the nature/nuture positions and it it is a much more optimistic position but what if men simply are more prone to violence? New studies in evolutionary biology suggest that there are some behaviors that we repeatedly make mistakes in. That there may be some areas of our behavior that we continually run up against in our ability to change. Men may be biologically just more wired for this, a kind of biological safety net meant to be accessed in cases us survival. Look at the the amount of entertainment that focus’s on violence that relatively safe countries like the US produce and consume. Is tis desire to experience these sensations even if imaginary satisfying a desire to test oneself in extreme situations, an experience many men seek , especially young men. Not hard to see how this passes into the adult work place but within more acceptable norms of behavior. If we look at the statistical difference in crime rates one has to ask is it all culture? I do think that that culture can play a huge role in channeling aggression to more productive outcomes, I think Diane’s argument is a good one in that young boys need guidance in learning to manage their feelings . Good role models, especially from other men are crucial, especially during adolescent when they are adjusting to higher levels of testosterone. I guess that’s why sports has always been seen as a good outlet. As someone in the arts I think this field also offers a lot of opportunity for healthy release .
    For those of you interested in readings related to this :
    Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence by Dale Peterson, Richard Wrangham
    The Warriors. Reflections on Men in Battle by J. Glen Gray

  29. I can relate to this story. I am working on a documentary about this and the rejection rate is about 99 percent. No one seems to care! This is a shock to me as the media has the violence issue in the forefront.
    Here is the project if anyone is interested!

    • “I can relate to this story. I am working on a documentary about this and the rejection rate is about 99 percent. No one seems to care! This is a shock to me as the media has the violence issue in the forefront.”

      THIS is the answer. We could certainly become extremely noble if we could create a culture encouraging that and valorizing living up to our own best ideals. Primitive creeps who own us prefer the status quo.
      This is what I learned when John Kennedy’s presidency encouraged Americans not to ask what our country can do for US, but to ask what we can do for our country, and when MLK Jr said that

      Evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross, but that same Christ arose and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name. Yes, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” There is something in the universe which justifies William Cullen Bryant in saying, “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.”
      Pretty directly, Kennedy, King, Robert Kennedy and Malcolm had all been assassinated.

      Not everyone would prefer that women were not tied up with the aftermath agonies of rape, or that men felt happy knowing what excellent men they were being.

  30. Although you may not hear much about females using guns in the way described in the article, it still happens ( FBI crime statistics ). Singling out the male factor in these crimes is an easy thing to do but is the wrong thing to do. There are commonalities with all gun crimes that transcend the sex of the offender… mental illness (#1), domestic issues, areas of high crime, poverty, and low or misplaced morals.

    Profiling gun crimes based on the male sex is analogous to profiling the cause of single parenthood as social issue only affecting females. For example: Would it be ok to say that single females that do not take birth control, make themselves up, dress nicely, and date a lot are more likely to have loose morals, have sex, become pregnant, and become single mothers? No… The more likely causes would be ignorance, pressure from their partner, divorce and break ups.

    In short don’t look for someone to affix blame, look for the causes of the problem and fix those.

  31. A gun gives you instant power, the power that your social position has denied you, an instant palliative to the feelings of powerlessness that are so hard to bear yet are your lot to bear in the life you live. A gun circumvents the social constructions that keep you imprisoned. You assert your power by taking the lives of other people, you HAVE to kill to do that. But it only a psychodrama playing out, it does not restore you to power at the end. When you realize that, you kill yourself.

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