Dying to be a Man

In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, there's been many people discussing the need for better gun control laws, or more accurately, better gun safety laws, and also the need for better mental support services.  One thing that is largely going undiscussed, however, is the role that masculinity plays in gun violence in this country.  This needs to change.

In my own opinion, there are very good reasons why both gun safety laws and support for mental illness need to be improved in this country.  These things will help, but the root of the problem needs to be addressed as well.  Overwhelmingly this violence is carried out by men.  You almost never hear that a mass murder was carried out by a woman.  Women live in the same society that these men do, have the same gun access, and watch the same entertainment, but don't, as a general rule, go and murder multiple people.

This isn't a biological problem either.  Men exist all over the world, but there is something particular to our culture that makes this problem worse.  The vast majority of the worst mass shootings in the world have happened in the US. This isn't an accident.  There are powerful and large businesses that make their money off of selling the idea that being violent, and using guns, is a masculine thing to do.  This doesn't just happened, we are trained to think this way.

An illustration of this the concept of a Man Card. Basically if a man does something that differs from whatever is considered stereotypically masculine, he is told he is not really a man and has to turn in his Man Card, much like a Police Officer being told to turn in his badge.  This is a blatant form of gender policing, and is being used by businesses to sell products, while also making men feel that they have to engage in behavior that is harmful to themselves and others.

The most blatant example of tying violence to masculinity is by Bushmaster Firearms.  They took down their man card advertisement, but not before other people saved copies of it, and you can still find their press release about it on their website here. The message: unmanly? a gun fixes that!

If we truly want to end this violence, we need to change the way we view and construct masculinity.  Men are not inherently violent, ignorant, uncaring individuals.  We just train them to be that way, and it has negative consequences for everyone.  Most men don't go murder young children, but damage is still done trying to live up to this harmful and impossible ideal.  We need to promote a vision of masculinity that embraces caring for one another, and says that violence makes you less of a man, not more of man.

For some other articles on this check out: Miss Representation and Feminists for Choice.

A funny take on gender policing by Bill Burr