America’s gun problem has everything to do with America’s masculinity problem. That’s the headline of an article at qz.com by Elizabeth Winkler [above], contributor to such famously conservative publications as The Economist, The New Republic and The Los Angeles Review of Books. To make her case against men among men doing manly things (with guns), Ms. Winkler rounds up some of unusual suspects. Experts like University of Minnesota graduate student Alankaar Sharma, whose “teaching and research have focused on diversity and anti-oppressive social work, masculinities from a pro-feminist standpoint” . . .
As Alankaar Sharma, a social worker and researcher, tells Quartz, “Possessing a gun is considered by many men, if not most, as a straightforward way of subscribing to dominant masculinity.” In his view, the patriarchal system, which privileges a certain set of masculine behaviors, values, and practices, provides men with “a clear and justifiable reason to own guns.” It cements their identity as masculine men.
So men who owns guns are buying into and propagating a patriarchal system – which discriminates against women and “privileges” men (obvs.). Winkler backs up Sharma’s misandrist assessment by recapping a May 2015 op-ed for The Los Angeles Times by sociologist Jennifer Carlson.
“As men doubt their ability to provide,” she argues, “their desire to protect becomes all the more important. They see carrying a gun as a masculine duty and the gun itself as a vehicle for a hardened kind of care-work.” Some envision scenarios where they intervene with their guns to save women and children.
Which, as we all know, never happens – as evidenced by TTAG’s Defensive Gun Use of the Day posts. It’s time for another “expert” to not mention that guns are phallic symbols. At least not in so many words.
Next up: Northern Iowa University sociology professor Harry Brod, famous in academic circles as the former male Interim Director of the New Women’s and Gender Studies Department at Kenyon College. Professor Brod is not exactly broad-minded when it comes to men’s opinions of women.
As Harry Brod, a sociologist and a founding figure in the field of men’s studies, explains to Quartz, “We’re talking about masculinity in a period of rising feminism and changing gender roles.” Women are leaning in. Hillary Clinton might be our next president. The patriarchy is far from finished, but men on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum especially are feeling threatened.
“Idealizing a physical masculinity can help negate this feeling. Gun marketers know this and so they appeal to male self-image to sell their weapons. In ads that ran in 2012, for instance, Bushmaster Firearms promised that if you buy their semi-automatic weapons, you can “consider your man card reissued.” . . .
This might also explain why gun sales spike less after a shooting than after calls for stricter control: For men who look to guns to validate their sense of masculinity, the prospect of restrictions imposed by an external authority is disempowering and emasculating.
As Freud might have said, sometimes an AR is just an AR. Just gonna leave that here . . .
I reckon the idea that gun control leaves men feeling emasculated can be attributed to the fact that . . . gun control emasculates men. Disarming men makes them dependent on the state (i.e., the police) for their safety and the safety of their families, friends and loved ones. Call me a misogynist (you wouldn’t be the first), but isn’t the ability to protect oneself and one’s “pack” a perfectly natural and entirely desirable aspect of masculinity?
Ah, but black is white. A “real” man is ready, willing and able to surrender his safety and the safety of his loved ones to state control. Never mind the practicalities and spiritual satisfaction of hunting with a gun, or the simple joys of firearms proficiency, that’s the problem! Men aren’t accepting their subjugation to a society that provides equal rights for women. Until they do, we won’t solve the [strangely unspecified] “gun problem.”
Brod insists that we need to think about America’s gun problem as a distinctly gendered problem: “If you don’t understand that connection,” he tells Quartz, “you’re not going to solve the problem.” This, he points out, was the huge gap in Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore’s 2002 documentary about gun violence in America. Some remedies might lie in addressing boys’ underachievement in school and improving opportunities in the workforce. But helping men dissociate their identities from guns also requires a shift in cultural attitudes. Above all, Brod says, “there needs to be a rethinking of what masculinity means.”
And what, pray tell, is this “new masculinity” that will pave the way to solving America’s “gun problem”? Wait. I don’t want to know. I can almost hear Winkler’s response: “typical.” Yes. Yes it is.
NOTE: Any comments about Ms. Winkler’s appearance – positive or negative – will be deleted.