Gun Violence and Toxic Masculinity

There have been numerous school shootings in the U.S. this week, and another planned one which was averted before the crisis happened. I strongly believe that toxic masculinity is the root problem we must dig out. Gun violence in the United States is gendered – from suicides to partner homicides to mass shootings, the people using guns for violence or men or teen boys more often than not.

I do support gun control. It will prevent a lot of accidents. But I think a more radical shift is required to truly stop male violence. There are nations with higher and lower rates of gun ownership that don’t see the scale of gun violence we do. America is exceptional in this, and I don’t think it is the guns themselves driving that difference. I think it is an outcome of what our society tells men and boys they should be.

What do we teach them ideal men are? Stoic and strong lone wolves without human needs or emotions, capable of solving all problems with intimidation and force. We tell them through books and movies that if they are strong enough, are stoic enough, solve enough problems with intimidation and force, they will be rewarded with the pretty girl of their choice for their physical prowess and social domination. When life doesn’t play out like that for some of them, they take out their bitter disappointment on women and girls.

They bully female gamers over the headset, and insinuate women at work got their positions by sleeping with the boss. They emotionally, physically, and sexually abuse their partners and former partners. They harass and threaten women in the street, online, and anywhere else they can get away with it. Rage is one of the only emotions they are permitted to display.

Men in our culture are taught they are entitled to women – to our positive attention, our social labor, our sexual performance. To our child-bearing, our sex appeal, our devotion. These unreasonable expectations set men up both to fail and to blame that failure on women. It’s no coincidence that the majority of these crimes of power – partner abuse, sexual assault, and gun violence – are committed by men. U.S. patriarchy creates monstrous men with guns and little empathy.

Limiting gun ownership may reduce the body count, and that is reason enough to pursue it. But to actually end the violence, we’re going to need a better, less violent, less entitled, less emotionally stunted ideal of manhood.

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