“Many school shooters, one common factor: a warped view of masculinity”

“Usually it’s “a toxic cocktail of factors,” says Christopher Kilmartin, a professor of psychological science at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va.
But there’s one topic that’s not getting enough discussion, he and some others say: masculinity. “The elephant in the room with … mass shootings is that almost all of them are being done by men,” Professor Kilmartin says. Male shooters often “project their difficulties onto other people…. In this case, it sounds like he was blaming Christians for his problems, but the masculinity piece is what is really missing in the discussions about the equation.”… While mass shooters are often seen as “outliers or oddballs … we should actually think of them as conformists,” says Tristan Bridges, a sociologist at The College at Brockport, State University of New York, citing research on masculinity by expert Michael Kimmel. “They’re over-conforming to masculinity, because they perceive themselves, in some way or another, as emasculated…. It’s a terrible statement about American masculinity, to say that when you’re emasculated, one way to respond is to open fire.”… The nation is going through a transition as it becomes more diverse, as well, and many expect the diversity to make it better in the long run, but “there’s a lot of anger and violence as we go through this transition,” says Mark Potok, an expert on extremism at the Southern Poverty Law Center”

Masculinity can be such a toxic construct. Or maybe it’s the context of patriarchy that makes it so harmful? It would be interesting to pull this apart.

I schedule my posts, sometimes months ahead, and I just happened to have this scheduled for today — just after President Obama announced executive action on gun control. I think gun policy is important, but it is simultaneously important to understand the WHY beyond the simplistic/fatalistic understanding that “these things happen when people own guns”.

Why are so many mass shootings happening? What causes a person or a group to make this decision? I don’t think these acts are planned unless the planner(s) is in a place of suffering and isolation from the humanity of others. How can we communicate with people in that mental place, and help them out of it before they bring their fear to bear on others?

Sometimes it feels like we are operating on the assumption that there will always be unsaveably bad people, we will never be able to trust each other, and the best we can do is make sure that no one has the tools to hurt us. But I think that attitude cuts both ways: the people who decide to target and murder a group have determined that this group is unsaveably bad and that they will continue to harm others unless they are killed.

So, yes, address gaps in gun safety policy. But also give speeches and support media that lets troubled white men know that they are not threatened and shows them how to productively engage with a world where people besides them have power.

Related: “Shootings, Love, & The Gunman Myth”; “For police accountability, look beyond individual racial bias

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