“As we begin a new year,” UVM grad Laura Kiesel (above) writes at politico.com, “it’s time to have a more nuanced discussion about what might really be to blame for the trend of mass shootings in America—as well as the gun violence epidemic more broadly. No, it isn’t mental illness. It’s gender. If we want to stop the problem of mass shootings, we need to fix the problem of toxic masculinity.” Specifically . . .
According to sociologist Eric Madfis, the male gender-mass shooter connection may stem from cultural standards of how men are expected to react to stress and perceived victimization as compared to women.
“Women tend to internalize blame and frustration, while men tend to externalize it through acts of aggression,” says Madfis, who is an associate professor at the criminal justice department at University of Washington-Tacoma and author of a 2014 journal article exploring the intersectional identities of American mass murderers.
Boys will be boys? Not a bit of it!
This isn’t just because of how men are built physically.
While it’s true that having higher testosterone is often related to aggression, recent research indicates that testosterone is likely a result rather than a cause of violent behavior. This suggests that societal influences probably play a larger role in violence than any biological factor.
After all, our culture is saturated in messages—whether in the media, in our military, in sports, at the workplace, or in our education and health care systems—that embrace and even endorse a distorted view of masculinity, which tends to value and encourage expressions of aggression by men.
Bottom line: Ms. Kiesel is convinced that mass murderers aren’t born, they’re made. America’s “hyper-masculine” society conditions men like Elliot Rodger (the California shooter who complaining about his virginity before stabbing his roommates and shooting random strangers) to become mass murderers and “gun violence” vectors.
“If violence was just due to genetics, [mass shootings] would not be happening with increasing frequency or occur so much more often in the United States than other places,” says Madfis. “It’s time to have a close look at our culture and what is going in terms of how masculinity is defined and characterized, which is often as something that is performed or ‘proven’ through acts of aggression and even violence.”
Where I grew up “masculine” values included physical courage, honesty, honor, empathy and self-sacrifice. But then I played soccer, drove a Mazda RX7 and learned to cook. Go figure.
NOTE: Ad hominem comments about Ms. Kiesel will be [flame] deleted. Keep it civil.