Want to know what makes people resort to crime and guns to settle their differences? Ask a “community organizer, music producer and social entrepreneur.” In this case, that expert in the social sciences is convicted felon Richard Edmond Vargas (AKA Richie Reseda), who’s currently doing time in California’s Soledad prison for armed robbery and is the subject of a documentary, The Feminist in Cell Block Y.
The answer, explained by Vargas in a CNN article, is that all the shooting is really the fault of the patriarchy. Oh, and toxic masculinity, too.
…when 98% of mass murders are committed by men, and 90% of all murders are committed by men and 80% of those arrested for violent acts are men, it’s safe to say there is something wrong with how our culture socializes men.Patriarchy is a social system that defines men as being inherently violent, dominant and controlling while rewarding them with power for being that way. It is no secret, especially these days, that we live in a patriarchal society. Why are we continually surprised when a man takes up arms and commits mass murder?
Vargas is no dummy. Even from his prison cell, he’s got his finger on the most reasonably current version of popular social science talking points and faculty lounge theories. And from that he’s managed to start teaching programs in feminist critical theory while behind bars. And at least some of his fellow prisoners appear to be lapping it up.
Cartoons, video games and contemporary politicians exalt male violence. This glorification echoes in our sports and movies. When the right person is performing it or it’s being performed for the “right reasons” (think police officers or members of the military), people even call male violence heroic. So why wouldn’t angry, entitled men seek to rectify their qualms with the world through unimaginable carnage? Every social cue they’ve received since childhood declared violence their birthright, it’s what makes them real men.
Of course! It’s a wonder that more men aren’t blasting each other on street corners over perceived slights and imagined disses. The patriarchy demands it!
It’s due to this experience with patriarchy and the bad choices that I’ve made because of it that I see how patriarchy can lead men to becoming mass murderers. It’s true, America has a gun problem. The correlation between the availability of guns and the amount of mass shootings a country suffers is staggering. The work that the young Parkland shooting survivors and the #neveragain movement are doing, along with the leagues of their predecessors, is necessary and lifesaving. But we also must confront mass shootings’ other ingredient: men.
Give this guy credit. This act is downright brilliant. He’s spouting all the right buzzwords and has managed to catch the attention of a “filmmaker” who’s documented what he’s doing as he leads “an inmate rehabilitation program centered around feminist literature.”
What doing anti-patriarchy work in California prisons and in my own life has taught me is that men have the capacity to feel, share and regulate the spectrum of human emotions. When we do this, the violence we’ve been taught comes so naturally to us feels foreign and unnecessary.
This blather is the perfect responsibility dodge for anything he and those in his
encounter group classes have done. It’s like screaming, “It’s society’s fault!” but couched in terms that any Women’s Studies undergrad can understand and nod their head at in knowing agreement.
If the patriarchy and its ineluctable popular entertainment output is so toxic, why aren’t even more men succumbing to the lure that violence and gunplay present? Why have violent crime rates fallen so steeply since 1992, a time when the number of firearms in America has almost doubled and those cartoons, video games and movies have only become more graphic?
Expect a “grassroots” campaign to spring Vargas/Reseda to pop up any day now (if the CNN post isn’t already the leading edge of that effort). This man has so much to teach us…we need him out here, fighting the patriarchy and raising the consciousness of these poor, unsuspecting men in the community who, without his message and lessons, will surely be swept up in the school-to-prison pipeline.