Mass shootings at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, a Walmart in El Paso and a night club in Dayton, Ohio in the past week have broken our collective hearts here in the United States. While mass shooters typically share some of the same individual traits—rage, suicidal urges and, in some cases, serious behavioral disorders—we must name toxic masculinity as a factor that is often overlooked in many public discussions about these events.
By nature, men are not more prone than women to commit mass shootings—yet virtually all mass shootings are perpetrated by men, which is a major indicator that masculinity is playing some role. As prominent feminist Jessica Valenti puts it: “The longer we ignore the toxic masculinity that underlies so many of these crimes, the more violence we’re enabling.”
Nearly all mass shooters have a history of domestic violence and misogyny. According to a systematic analysis of 22 mass shootings by Mother Jones, there is “a strong overlap between toxic masculinity and public mass shootings.” Virtually all of them also suffer some form of aggrieved entitlement—“an existential state of fear about having my ‘rightful place’ as a male questioned…challenged…deconstructed.”
According to the Good Men Project, “Aggrieved entitlement is being told ‘no’ when the prevailing mythos of the culture has taught that I have a ‘right’ to something because of my birth (as male, as white, straight, educated, able-bodied … the list goes on).” A society drenched in patriarchy teaches boys that their “rightful place” is above women, and racist and xenophobic rhetoric only serve to activate white men’s aggrieved entitlement toward people of color, immigrants and other marginalized groups who are targeted by politicians.
The link between toxic masculinity and mass shootings is not new. Dr. Jackson Katz’s 2006 film Tough Guise: Violence, Media and the Crisis in Masculinity draws an explicit link between toxic masculinity and mass shootings. Dr. Katz cited the media’s role in ignoring this distinction.
“In the many hours devoted to analyzing the recent school shootings, once again we see that as a society we seem constitutionally unable, or unwilling, to acknowledge a simple but disturbing fact,” he asserted. “These shootings are an extreme manifestation of one of contemporary American society’s biggest problems—the ongoing crisis of men’s violence against women [or any group that activates aggrieved entitlement for men].”
This piece originally appeared at The Representation Project. It was republished with permission.