But what about the men? On masculinity and mass shootings

“But what about the men?” It’s a question that’s been largely avoided by the mainstream within the context of mass shootings.

The recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut sparked thousands of conversations across the continent about gun laws, mental illness, and violence. And sadly, we’ve been here before.

We’ve had conversations about access to guns – the victims would still be alive today, after all, if there were no gun. We’ve talked about the need to better address mental illness in North America – about how people need access to services and treatment. With proper support, potential perpetrators could get the help they need before it’s too late. And what about the media? We see violence all the time in movies, video games, and on television. Have we become so desensitized to violence that mass murder has become par for the course? Or, worse, a way to achieve fame in a culture obsessed with celebrity as a goal unto itself?

All these factors are relevant. All of these conversations should be had. But no one is asking what is, for once, the single most important question: What about the men?

In 1984, a 39-year-old man opened fire at an upscale nightclub in Dallas after a woman rejected his aggressive sexual advances. The man, Abdelkrim Belachheb, went out to his car, retrieved his gun, and returned to the bar, shooting the woman to death. He then reloaded his gun and killed a total of six more people. Capital punishment quickly became the center of the national conversation. In fact, Belachheb’s crime is most remembered as it lead to the passage of House Bill 8 in Texas —the “multiple murder” statute, which made serial killing and mass murder capital crimes.

That same year, James Oliver Huberty, a man whose ‘volatile temper’ and history of domestic violence is documented, opened fire at a McDonald’s restaurant in California, killing 21 people before being shot dead by a police officer. At the time, this shooting was the “largest single-day, single-gunman massacre in U.S. history.” Shocked, liberal politicians used the incident to lobby for stricter gun laws. Others wanted to know why he wasn’t able to access the mental health services he needed.

In 1992, John T. Miller, angry that his wages were being garnished by court order, “claimed that child-support payments had ruined his life”. He entered a county office building in Schuyler County, NY, walked up to the child-support unit, and shot and killed four women whose jobs were to collect child-support. Miller had been ducking childcare payments since 1967.

We all know about the tragic day in 1999 when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire at Columbine High School, killing 12 of their classmates and teachers. Since, many have claimed the two boys were psychopaths. In 2004, an article in Slate commented, based on entries in Harris’ journal that: “These are not the rantings of an angry young man, picked on by jocks until he’s not going to take it anymore. These are the rantings of someone with a messianic-grade superiority complex, out to punish the entire human race for its appalling inferiority,” also noting a “lack of remorse or empathy—another distinctive quality of the psychopath.”

Others viewed the Columbine shooting as a ‘revenge killing.’ Some speculated that fame, or infamy, rather, was the driving force behind Harris’ and Klebold’s actions. We began a national conversation about ‘bullying’.  ‘Bullying’ as the number one cause for every youth-related problem in North America is another exhausted conversation.

In 2007, 23-year-old Seung-Hui Cho opened fire at Virginia Tech, killing 32 people before taking his own life. Cho’s behaviour at Virginia Tech, prior to the shooting, was said to be ‘troubling’. He had been harassing female students and taking pictures of their legs under desks. Cho had been accused of stalking female students on three separate occasions. Supposedly he left a note “raging against women and rich kids.” After the Virginia Tech massacre, the national conversation turned, once again, to bullying, to mental illness, and to gun laws.

This past year, 24-year-old James Holmes opened fire in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado shooting 71 people. Twelve people died. Holmes had a history of soliciting prostitutes. One of the women he’d bought sex from claimed that he was aggressive, controlling, and violent with her, grabbing her hair and holding her wrists and hands so tightly that she was left with bruises. The Aurora shooting reignited the gun control debate. Some looked to violence in the media as a factor, while others pointed out that Holmes was mentally ill.

A thousand conversations. None of them about men.

As we are all aware at this point, 27 people were shot and killed in Newtown, CT on December 14th. The gunman, Adam Lanza, killed his mother first, before driving to Sandy Hook elementary school, where he proceeded to take the lives of 26 students and employees before killing himself.  Some have speculated that Lanza suffered from mental illness. Others want to know why he had access to guns, pointing to his mother, Nancy Lanza, apparently a gun enthusiast.

In the midst of all this horror, we are, understandably, up in arms, demanding change, grieving all the while. But within all this righteous anger, we are very carefully tiptoeing around the common denominator.

In 31 of the school shootings that have taken place since 1999, the murderers were all men. Out of the 62 mass murders which happened over the past 30 years, only one of those shooters was a woman. The overwhelming majority of the gunmen were white.

Jackson Katz, an author, filmmaker, social theorist, and anti-sexist activist, whose work has focused on manhood and masculinity, is baffled: “The gender of the perpetrator is the single most important factor, and yet it’s not talked about in that way in most mainstream conversations.”

So liberals have, once again, jumped on the gun control issue (and I won’t deny that guns are an important issue here) and the right have reached for their handguns, arguing that the only way we can protect ourselves is to be armed (as Ann Coulter tweeted, mere hours after the shooting: “more guns, less mass shootings”). Others still, want to talk about mental illness and the health care crisis in America. It should strike us all as more than a little odd that, amidst all of these conversations, whether it’s the progressives, the right, or the mainstream media – no one is talking about gender.

“Imagine if 61 out of 62 mass killings were done by women? Would that be seen as merely incidental and relegated to the margins of discourse?” Katz asks, “No. It would be the first thing people talked about.”

In the U.S., where health care is privatized, it’s true that many people don’t have adequate access to mental health services. Racial and ethnic minorities are even less likely to have access to health services, as well as, more generally the poor and unemployed. But not only are these mass shootings committed largely by white men, but by middle class white men. If this were primarily an issue of people not having access to mental health services, it would stand to reason that far more mass shootings would be perpetrated by poor minorities, particularly women of color.

But we’re talking white, middle class men — the members of this society who have the most privilege and the most power. The question everyone should be asking is not: “Where did he get the gun?” or “Why wasn’t he on medication?” But: “What is happening with white men?”

This isn’t to say that men are somehow naturally inclined towards violence. It isn’t reasonable to argue that men are born angry or crazy. Masculinity, on the other hand, is something worth thinking about.

“It’s hidden in plain sight,” Katz says. “This is about masculinity and it’s about manhood.” Other factors are important too, for example, how masculinity intersects with mental illness or emotional problems or with access to guns. “But we need to be talking about gender front and center.”

Even the gun debate needs to be gendered, Katz points out. “So much of gun culture in the U.S. is about masculinity but it’s unspoken.”

What is it about masculinity that leads to these kinds of tragedies? Katz argues that violence is a gendered way of achieving certain goals. Femininity simply isn’t constructed in a way that teaches women to use violence as a means to an end.

“One of the ways we can understand violence is as an external manifestation of internal pain” Katz says. Men, according societal expectations and norms, are only allowed to experience certain emotions – one of those being anger. Violence and anger are accepted and expected forms of men’s emotional expression. “Men are rewarded for achieving certain goals and for establishing of dominance through the use of violence,” Katz says.

Just look at war.

Of course war is yet another factor that is left out of these conversations. The U.S. is a militarized state. America, as a nation, establishes dominance through the use of violence and war is distinctly a male domain. Men wage war and men fight in war. Men run countries that go to war. Men make decisions about whether to continue drone strikes and about where to fire missiles. War is a man’s game. Winner takes all.

“Militarism is, in a sense, a projection of force and power as the assertion of national manhood,” Katz says. There is no way we could live such a militarized culture and not see that manifested in our understandings of manhood and culture at large.

And what of revenge? We often talk about revenge as a reason behind these kinds of attacks. “ Violence is a form of revenge. So often men are enacting violence as a way to take back something they believe as been taken from them,” Katz says.

“Often these shooters are harboring resentment — they retreat into themselves and then develop these revenge fantasies,” Katz says. “Most of the school shootings over the past couple of decades have been revenge killings.” The innocent victims are just “props in the shooter’s theatrical performance of his anger and his resentment,” he says.

When men commit violence, they’re fulfilling expectations of their gender.

“Caring, compassion, and empathy aren’t innately feminine characteristics. Those are human characteristics,” Katz says. Yet men learn the opposite. They learn to shut up and take it like a man. They also learn that they are entitled to certain things in this world: financial success, access to women, power – when they can’t acquire these things, what happens? Well, sometimes, apparently, they seethe. And without any other tools to deal with their anger and resentment, some men resort to violence.

“As a white man, the assumption is that you are the center of the world. Your needs should be met. You should be successful,” Katz says. When that doesn’t pan out men will often end up seeing themselves as victims. “This explains the cultural energy on the right in this past generation – so many of these men see themselves as victims of multiculturalism and of feminism,” he adds. “It’s undermining the cultural centrality of male authority.” Katz points out that we can see this worldview manifesting itself in the Men’s Rights Movement. “They are at the front line making the argument that men are the true victims.” All this isn’t to say that all men who feel they are losing grip on their perceived entitlement to power and authority will become perpetrators of mass shootings. But these broader patterns are something to consider.

Are these shooters psychopaths or sociopaths? Maybe. But what’s a sociopath? It’s a person who lacks empathy. “Well,” says Katz, “we socialize empathy out of boys all the time.” If we aren’t allowing boys to experience and express vulnerability, pain, and fear because that’s somehow connected to weakness (a feminine quality), then how are they going to be able to relate to the experiences of others? “Sociopathy is the extreme manifestation of the way we socialize boys in our society,” he says.

The question of not only: “What about men?” But “What about white masculinity?” should be, according to Katz, on the front page of every newspaper and on every talk show.

Somehow, people seem more comfortable seeing these shooters as twisted psychopaths. We’re more comfortable blaming objects – guns – than we are asking: “Who’s behind the gun?”

After the Aurora shooting, Erika Christakis wrote that “The silence around the gendering of violence is as inexplicable as it is indefensible.” And here we are again.


Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Hecuba

    I’m not baffled unlike Jackson Katz because I know those men who hold political office do not want to even begin to address the issue of endemic male violence and all too often men’s lethal violence against women and children. The elephant is in the room but men refuse to see this elephant because it would make men feel guilty or uncomfortable and we mustn’t upset men and their fragile egos must we? Far easier to claim guns kill people because this neatly deflects attention away from the fact men are the ones overwhelmingly committing violence and all too often lethal violence against women and children. Not women but men. Now that makes the boys in power very worried because if they admit it is men who are the problem then what are these boys in power going to do because other powerful men will seek to punish those powerful men for saying the obvious, so it is far easier to remain silent and claim ‘guns kill people!’

    Guns don’t murder women and children because it needs a human male finger to press the button in order to murder said women and children.

    ‘It’s hidden in plain sight,” Katz adds. “This is about masculinity and it’s about manhood.” Other factors are important too, for example, how masculinity intersects with mental illness or emotional problems or with access to guns. “But we need to be talking about gender front and center.” Right Katz and we also need to talk about men’s right to dominate and control women. Men’s right to take lethal action whenever men feel their rights and power over women have been challenged by a woman or a woman is perceived as stepping outside her appropriate (sic) subordinate role to men. We need to talk about masculinity and why men collectively believe they have the right to dominate and control women. Why men believe women exist to only serve men and their needs; their demands and their (pseudo) rights.

    We need to talk about how our Male Supremacist System gives men socio-economic power over all women and how our Male Supremacist System constantly excuses/justifies men’s violence against women and children. We need to talk about why men are so angry at women because women aren’t human are they and if women act as they are autonomous beings this disrupts the male supremacist system and makes men very angry that their pseudo rights are being taken away and awarded to women. Not true but men resist any advances women make concerning their fundamental human rights.

    We need to talk about why so many men commit lethal violence against women and how this serves to keep women subordinated to men. We need to talk about why the male supremacist system claims ‘mentally ill people (can’t state it is males can we?) commit lethal violence against women and children. In reality most mentally males do not commit violence against women and children but many rational; ordinary respectable men do commit violence against women and children and the issue is all about men maintaining male power over women and woe betide any woman who ‘upsets a male’ by not showing sufficient deference or sufficiently massaging his overblown ego.

    Take a long hard look at our malestream media and popular culture and there you will see the evidence of how masculinity continues to be constructed wherein men have the pseudo male right of sexual access to females; where men are portrayed as sexually dominant/always in control and specifically in control of women/dominating women. Men are autonomous humans according to malestream media/popular culture whereas women/girl children are men’s dehumanised sexual service stations.

    We live in a misogynistic violent culture wherein male violence against women and girls is celebrated as ‘eroticised violence’ and a real man is the one who dominates/controls women; believes women are innately inferior and has the right to punish women/children if they do not defer to the male because he is default human not women or girls.

    ‘They (meaning men) also learn that they are entitled to certain things in this world: financial success, access to women, power – when they can’t acquire these things, what happens?’ Why men punish women any woman because women are to blame for denying men their rightful power over women; women are to blame for denying men (pseudo) sexual access to female bodies; women are to blame for not constantly massaging men’s overblown egos; women are to blame for everything men can’t have because men are never, ever responsible for their actions or choices are they?

    This link explains how and why endemic male violence against women and children has to remain invisible because naming sex of perpetrators makes men angry and we know what happens when men become angry – they punish women and blame women for causing men to become uncomfortable. Well I’m not concerned with men feeling uncomfortable I want what Andrea Dworkin wants and said in this famous speech to an audience of men.


    Andrea Dworkin’s famous speech to a male audience: http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/WarZoneChaptIIIE.html

    • Meghan Murphy

      Perhaps ‘frustrated’ would have been a more accurate way to describe Katz’ reaction to this silence, as opposed to ‘baffled’. Of course, it is extremely fucking baffling that everyone continues to pretend that masculinity isn’t the problem here. Thanks for your points.

    • Melinda

      This is happening because men are victims? We need a Men’s Rights Movement? You have got to be kidding me. We are in this shape because MEN have been in control of our society for too many decades, or should I say centuries. They propagate violence, they propagate discrimination, they propagate war, they propagate rape, they propagate incest, they propagate themselves generation after generation, after generation. I am not saying that they are not the problem, they are. Our world, our planet, is in the horrible shape that it is because of the male gender, and you expect me and other to believe they are victims! They are the cause, yes they are, at their own accord.

      • Meghan Murphy

        We certainly do NOT need a Men’s Rights Movement. Men who believe themselves to be the true victims are delusional. Was that not made clear in the article?

        • fluidity

          i think this quote below (and the link to the article it’s from) does a good job at deconstructing the ‘men are not ‘true’ victims’ line of thinking:

          “Even men who have been able to distance themselves from the “privilege” of masculinity are unable to write about their dehumanization under it because as the dominant oppressor, often their words are misconstrued as a shirking of responsibility for their actions or “taking away” from the suffering of women. The irony is that without someone exposing the pathological suffering of males due to patriarchal socialization, it will continue to be evil men versus victimized women and no one will attain an equal humanity.”
          – Kat Callahan

          ‘Forced Femininity Saved My Life:’ One Genderqueer on Male ‘Privilege’

          on a related note, hopefully the notion of ‘men as victims’ can be treated as distinct from the concept and practice of MRA groups

          • greg

            absolutely. the issue of in-group oppression is much more complex than the dominant narrative would have us believe. men are, in fact, victims of patriarchy. perhaps not at the tempo and rate that women are, but historically, men who step outside of patriarchy’s norms are swiftly dealt with. there is even a word to describe men who “love their wives too much”. the modern version of this word i am sure we are all familiar with.

            there is a deep cost to the oppressor in their oppression. it is the price of dehumanization of the self because to deny oppression is to deny the self’s fundamental humanity.

            we need to take the conversations deeper….not to privilege the oppressor’s suffering, but to re-contextualize it as a positive function of hierarchy paradigms (meaning unresolved intergenerational trauma is almost a necessity before systems of oppression can fully take root).

            when i look at the western world’s social norms, what i see is fundamentally an offender dynamic/cycle.

      • You really should read the comments before replying to them. Nobody has said that we need a Men’s Rights movement. Where did you read that at?

      • jerry mathers

        You should reject all these men and all they do:

        -fix your own car
        -fix your own plumbing
        -protect your own country
        -support your own children
        -build your own house
        -wait for a female sanitation worker to haul off your garbage -good luck on that one

        • Grackle

          Hey Jerry, where is this magical fantasy world where women don’t have to fix things, serve in combat, work, build, or pick up garbage? Sounds like a nice place.

          • ZimbaZumba

            The USA?

          • Grackle

            Having spent 20 years of my life there I can assure you that you’re full of crap.

        • copleycat

          It sure is strange how so many men (and yes a few women) seem to think that picking up trash is harder than cleaning up an elderly or very sick person who’s laying in a bed full of their own crap. At least the trash doesn’t grab a hold of you and scream and cry, “Where am I?” and that’s not even bothering with the pay issue.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Or bearing and raising children. For free.

        • Lela

          Besides, who is “rejecting” men’s contributions to society? Where are feminists denying that men work hard? That’s a pretty serious twisting of a feminist message.

        • Erika

          Are you saying that these things (if they are even true) justify male violence and that women should just shut up and take it unless they’re willing to separate themselves from men completely?

    • Rebecca Dykehousesa

      I had to reread Andrea Dworkin’s 1983 speech to “500 Men” to feel like someone gets me! She has been and always will be relevant to “our” times. How sad that she remains relevant over and over. Andrea Dworkin lives in me and every woman past and present I want a truce too! One day without rape! One day without male violence against women!

    • Archone

      Um… a couple of things…

      One: Ms Murphy is right about how masculinity (or rather, “toxic” masculinity) is the problem. Not in the sense that men are bad and that being masculine is bad, but in the sense that men in America are not offered a properly illuminated and clear path on how to be a good and strong man. They’re basically presented with a choice between two possibilities. Either they can engage in what feels like an emasculating and humiliating path (in which their teachers and elders tell them that being males make them inferior to girls and that they have to suppress all their masculine instincts and desires). Or they can follow the path shown to them by… idiots and fratboy dudebros.

      The problem is that these young males are not being taught of a way to be a strong and decent man, to be a strong and decent person without emasculating themselves before their peers. If you listen to these males, actually LISTEN to them, you’ll hear a great deal of pain and fear in them. Terror of the loss of their “man card,” as if their masculinity is something externally granted and on a conditional basis, something that can be taken away at any time. They presently lack a real world equivalent to “Brandoism,” an amusing fake spiritual movement created in an excellent webcomic created by a young woman who understands the issues involved here: http://thepunchlineismachismo.com/archives/comic/07122010

      Two: every time someone mentions Andrea Dworkin in a positive sense, they’re pretty much establishing themselves as part of the problem, creating the false image of feminism as something anti-male, anti-man, as something that males then feel required to oppose because of its blatantly threatening image. True feminism is about sexual equality and liberating both sides from the cultural oppression of being forced into gender specific roles with threats of violence directed towards transgressors on either side (and if you think boys aren’t worried about violence for defying those gender roles, you really ought to take a look at the number of homosexual victims of hate crimes). And… a woman who likened marriage to rape and openly declared her desire to see men beaten and murdered is roughly equivalent to quoting George Wallace while discussing race relations. When a majority of women no longer want to be identified as feminists despite the fact that the majority of both women AND men actually believe in the ideals of true feminism… that’s a problem.


      • Meghan Murphy

        “…every time someone mentions Andrea Dworkin in a positive sense, they’re pretty much establishing themselves as part of the problem, creating the false image of feminism as something anti-male, anti-man, as something that males then feel required to oppose because of its blatantly threatening image.”

        Andrea Dworkin is amazing and her work is foundational to the movement. She is not “the problem,” she is everything.

        “True feminism is about sexual equality and liberating both sides from the cultural oppression of being forced into gender specific roles with threats of violence directed towards transgressors on either side…”

        Are you high? No. It isn’t. Feminism is a movement to end patriarchy and male violence against women. Period.

        • greg

          take the logic a little bit further. what does the world look like after patriarchy is ended? matriarchy where women systemically oppress the men? feminism IS more than just a movement to end male violence against women though this is one of its primary mandates….you have to (yes, have to) imagine the world beyond the end of male violence against women because feminism’s goals do not end there.

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  • How is it, I wonder, that we manage to walk past the writing on the wall, year after year after year, without ever reading it? I totally agree with your point that gender roles, especially those placed on men, are playing a huge part in destroying this country.

    But it seems like any criticism directed at the state of manhood is automatically labeled as some sort of evil feminist stance, some vitriol concocted solely to dethrone the common (white) man.

    What Hecuba said about the “malestream media” is painfully true. Even in this day and age, the number of movies that pass the Bechdel Test are few and far between; the most popular shows on the air not only perpetuate gender roles, they celebrate them. Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and Sons of Anarchy feature a cast of white men acting aggressively against each other, and whatever women happen to be featured in the show are subservient, or exist only to further the plot of help the white male main character achieve his goals or get laid.

    If we want to stop mass shootings, we need to retrain the male mindset. Which means we have a bone to pick with the media we consume at all stages of life.

    On a shorter-term scale…we need to share the fuck out of this post.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yep. People can’t or don’t want to differentiate between men and masculinity either. So critiques of this nature are portrayed/perceived as ‘attacks’ on men.

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  • Rebecca Cote

    I read the article, and scanned the comments. Then I went and counted that of the 27 killed, 20 were women and girls.

    • Aims

      They were ALL women and children.

  • copleycat

    It is maddening that once again the issue of male pattern violence is being totally ignored. There’s quite a focus on guns and mental illness instead and while I’ll agree that in the U.S. the care available for people with mental illness is almost non-existent, I can’t help but notice a trend in all the posts I’m seeing from concerned mothers of sons who behave like the Sandyhook shooter. They tend to start off their posts declaring that their son can be “so sweet at times” and that the kid’s “IQ is off the charts” – whatever the hell that means. The only person I ever knew who’s IQ actually was up in the 150’s died broke at the age of 40 in a trailer park – but then that was a woman who’s mother beat the crap out of her instead of fawning over her.

  • MLM

    “One of the ways we can understand violence is as an external manifestation of internal pain” Katz says. Men, according societal expectations and norms, are only allowed to experience certain emotions – one of those being anger. Violence and anger are accepted and expected forms of men’s emotional expression”

    Below is an outline and link to a study is called “Suicide by mass murder: Masculinity, aggrieved entitlement, and rampage school shootings” appeared in Health Sociology Review in 2010. It was authored by Rachel Kalish and Michael Kimmel from the Department of Sociology at the State University in New York

    School shootings have become more common in the United States in recent years.Yet, as media portrayals of these ‘rampages’ shock the public, the characterisation of this violence obscures an important point: many of these crimes culminate in suicide, and they are almost universally committed by males. We examine three recent American cases, which involve suicide, to elucidate how the culture of hegemonic masculinity in the US creates a sense of aggrieved entitlement conducive to violence.This sense of entitlement simultaneously frames suicide as an appropriate, instrumental behaviour for these males to underscore their violent enactment of masculinity.

    • copleycat

      Very interesting paper, thank you for linking to it. I’m reading it now and I just came across this,

      “Humiliation is emasculation: humiliate
      someone and you take away his manhood. For
      many men, humiliation must be avenged, or
      you cease to be a man. Aggrieved entitlement is
      a gendered emotion, a fusion of that humiliating loss of manhood and the moral obligation
      and entitlement to get it back. And its gender
      is masculine.”

      I don’t know if the authors actually believe humiliation is emasculation, or if they’re speaking in terms of what the subjects of interests (school shooters) are presumed to believe. I would say humiliation is an injury to pride and self esteem and that holds for people of all genders and sexes.

      I guess the assumption in the culture at large is that pride and self esteem are somehow exclusively the provinces of masculinity. Two points on this spring immediately to mind. One, there’s the concept of humiliation being an act of theft, where pride is stolen and must be retrieved, but why not consider it an injury that can be healed? Two, how the hell does anyone who conceptualizes the experience of humiliation as theft get through their early childhood? Or maybe I should be asking what sort of an early childhood lends itself to thinking about humiliation as theft that can and must be avenged?

      • MLM

        Hi, copleycat. Glad the link is of interest.

        I got the impression that the authors were speaking in terms of the reactions of the subjects of interest (the school shooters), but also referencing particular types of humiliation that are deemed “emasculating” by the culture.

        I thought this was significant

        “…we found a striking pattern from the stories about the boys who committed the violence: Nearly all had stories of being constantly bullied, beaten up, and, most significantly for this analysis, ‘gay baited’. Nearly all had stories of being mercilessly and constantly teased, picked on, and threatened. And, most strikingly, it was not because they were gay (at least there is no evidence to sug- gest that any of them were gay), but because they were different from the other boys – shy, bookish, honour students, artistic, musical, theatrical, non-athletic, ‘geekish’ or weird. Theirs are stories of ‘cultural marginalisation’ based on criteria for adequate gender performance – specifically the enactment of codes of masculinity. We can learn from queer studies that gay youth have higher rates of suicide then their straight counterparts (Remafedi et al. 1998). The shooters here display evidence of such marginalisation, but they choose a decidedly heteronormative way to combat it: violence”.

        • copleycat

          Hmmm, while it’s an interesting article I wish it would put more of a focus on certain points it touched on, ie that the shooters’ means of dealing with their strife was to react in a way that’s over-conformist – which I think is to say instead of these guys saying, well what the hell is wrong with being gay, or not a jock, or even possessing feminine traits anyway? Instead of challenging the idea that what’s good is masculine and what’s bad is feminine they accepted it and chose instead to prove in a way that precluded any retort that they were masculine. When they reached for those guns they figured they were reaching for the high cards in the man game.
          Then there’s the comment in the paper about how these shooters felt they had been humiliated by people that they felt were inferior to them. That is something that I really wish they had explored more. It’s only by coincidence that I tripped over the name Amy Bishop in the last twenty-four hours. As far as I know she’s the only female to go on a shooting spree for some sort of revenge. There’s plenty she doesn’t have in common with the shooters here, not male, not young (in her 40’s at the time of the crime), not unaccomplished (she was a professor), not single (she was married with children), but she had been lauded and praised her whole life for her intelligence and she felt entitled to things – like tenure, which not getting, prompted her to go on a shooting spree at the university where she taught. There were reports she had assaulted a waitress once while shouting “I’m Amy Bishop!” as if this, her simple existence, gave her the right to hit people whenever she was frustrated.
          The comparison between Bishop and all the male shooters is not meant to detract from any analysis of masculinity as a social toxin, but rather to draw attention to the crux of masculinity, namely the supposed right to dominance granted by a presumed, innate, superiority. A superiority both proven and actualized through aggression and the greater the aggression the greater the proof of superiority. This malevolent, anti-social delusion is one that women can enter into, as was the case with Bishop, but more often than not it’s men who by into this.
          Sexism tells all men they’re superior to all women simply because they were born that way. Add to this delusion one or two parents telling a kid that they can do no wrong because their “IQ is off the charts” and then have the inevitable, incomprehensible conflict with reality and there’s going to be trouble.

  • MerCee

    For the first time I had every seen it spoken about on the national news here in Australia and not just once, for a few weeks in a row, was when there were the riots in London. The news and many other programs and articles were talking about that there was nearly an entire generation of children in some of these suburbs in England that had never had a father involved in their life or had fathers that had left their domestic environment. They talked about a fatherless generation and the repercussions of this phenomenon. I was very interested in these articles as a lot of my friend and I had been talking about our perspective of the single mum family unit for a while before the riots. I being a single mum at the time was very interested in the conversation. It also touched on the issue of ‘desexualized men’, and mens roll and relevance in society, and more.
    It does not surprise me that a lot of these events have been under taken by a man (as most of the similar events in Australia and New Zealand, that I am more aware off, have been as well).
    So I suppose the question I am leading toward that I hope society, health practitioners, families and parents learn how to ask,how to answer and then how to implement, is:
    How do we help encourage boys as they are making their way to become men, know their (as individual men, not as a hole), place in this world, to be satisfied with it, to be challenged to change it and mold it were necessary and to understand the privilege of what it means to be responsible for their life, their families, their communities, their countries and the worlds well being that makes sense to their very different biological, spiritual, mental, emotional and hormonal make up then say a woman has, that does seem to aid in her (as shown by the above statistics), ability to not act in this manner.
    I have had the privilege (even if purely as an event that helps me learn and achieve greater empathy for people that find themself in this situation) to have been involved in a very abusive relationship that I was able to leave. I always felt very supported by my government, police, legal system and society. Though in this circumstance was very aware of the father of my child that had obviously not made the journey from boyhood to manhood very successfully as shown by what he thought was appropriate behavior toward woman and children. (I believe their are many woman in our society that have not very successfully made the journey of girlhood to womanhood, may I add either, me being one of them for awhile). I am glad however that I chose to put people in my life that would help me make that journey more successfully and am also glad that I have now married a man that worked very hard as a teenager and young adult to do the same. I and my marriage are now reaping the benefits of those decision.
    These are all thoughts that my family and friends discuss on a regular basis and I just thought I might add them in the mix, and would love your thoughts on this.

    One man loving feminist

    • Susie Getzschman

      Have you seen the ad for the Bushmaster that killed all those darling kids and their teachers (female, of course)? Let me post the link. You will be totally vindicated. We all weep for the confusion of identity with the white American male!


      I’d also say, “All of the above” to the other influences mentioned, but all of these things helped to confuse white males as to who and what they are supposed to be.

  • “What is it about masculinity that leads to these kinds of tragedies? Katz argues that violence is a gendered way of achieving certain goals. Femininity simply isn’t constructed in a way that teaches women to use violence as a means to an end.”

    Exactly. There are girls and women that also are very isolated, suffer from mental illness, and have access to weapons. But girls and women find other ways to deal with their pain–perhaps taking it out on themselves–than shooting people in schools.

    • Bev

      Since men commit suicide at rates of up to eight times that of women I would suggest they mostly take their pain out on themselves rather than others.

      • Meghan Murphy

        And yet the vast majority of mass murder are committed by men. Men are also the perpetrators of most violence, in general — against men and women alike. Why?

      • MLM

        Also, apparently women attempt suicide more frequently but men have a higher suicide mortality rate. One explanation for this is that the methods that men choose (in comparison) are more immediately lethal, so they are less likely to survive the attempt.

        That is mentioned in the part of the paper called “The Gender of Suicide” in the study I mentioned earlier.


      • Me

        Suicide doesn’t have to mean you’ve taken the pain out on yourself. Suicide can be an escape and bring relief. It can be a final attempt at sovereignty over one’s life and body (and do ask who did the person lose those to, and why and how?). Suicide can be murderous. Suicide attempts can also have a lot of meanings. Who’s to say men and women commit suicide for the same reasons? Who’s to say the meanings are the same to them? Are women a risk to others before they commit suicide, like men often are? It doesn’t do anyone a favor to simplify suicide as you did. With suicide people end it for themselves and usually leave others to pick up the pieces. What do they leave others to deal with is a very important question. Too often I’ve seen a man’s suicide interpreted as his personal (if odd) choice, and a woman in death mainly held accountable for failing to support those close to her.

  • Zuzanna

    ¨This isn’t to say that men are somehow naturally inclined towards violence. It isn’t reasonable to argue that men are born angry or crazy. Masculinity, on the other hand, is something worth thinking about.¨

    In other words:
    ¨¨This isn’t to say that men are somehow naturally inclined towards violence. It isn’t reasonable to argue that men are born angry or crazy. But actually, they are.¨

    • Meghan Murphy

      That doesn’t make any sense.

  • simon

    I am a white male, and I thoroughly abhor violence and dominance in all of its forms.

    A lot of good points have been made here, but I have to say that as amale who agrees with many points made here, I’m very turned away by some of the hateful and over generalizing posts about men.

    this is not aimed at every post, but at those that are against men as a gender, regardless of an individual’s beliefs or actions.

    Many men are against violence, and for your cause.

    The posts saying that all men are a certain way are hurtful, inaccurate, and most importantly they make it easy for people to dismiss your message.

    To persuade those who disagree with us we need to be civil. obviously men who engage in violence and dominance are not worthy of respect, but those who are peaceful and equitable deserve not to be lumped in with these people.

    a lot of these posts are very sexist against men. Many men are against violence, and I feel some of you are turning allies away from your cause by generalizing and being hateful.

    my primary concern is not that you hurt my feelings, even though you did. it is that you are marginalizing your important message by appearing sexist and hateful.

    • Meghan Murphy

      There’s no such thing as sexism against men.

      • Andy

        Oh my god. That is a beautiful quote.

      • simon

        I think of women as being my equals, and would love to see a much more fair society. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on why there is no such thing as sexism against men?

        I am not claiming to be oppressed, but some of the posts here (not all of them) generalize men in a negative light. Not all people of a specific gender are the same. The posts claiming they are are by most people’s definitions sexist.

        • simon

          On a much more important note, I do agree with most of YOUR posts, Meghan. My point was simply that some of the follow up posts by readers were unnecessarily divisive. I want you to succeed.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Because things like sexism and racism are sytemic as opposed to simply describing individual experiences of unfairness. There’s no such thing as racism against white people for the same reason. That isn’t to say that some men don’t experience oppression — of course they do — men who are poor and working class and men of colour, in particular — but as a group, men are not marginalized or oppressed on a systemic level.

          • simon

            I agree that these problems can be systemic, however I’d posit that individual attitudes of sexism or racism are, well, sexist and racist.

            If I could wipe out sexism against men or against women, I’d wipe out sexism against women because it’s a bigger and more pervasive problem.

            I am NOT claiming to feel oppressed or marginalized. I was claiming that the level of antipathy towards ALL men in certain posts by readers was hurting your cause.

            I strongly AGREE with the problems you addressed in your post.
            Just saying that some readers were being divisive when it might be more constructive to look for ways to address for women, and evolved men of this society to address the problem together.

            On a much much more important note, would love to hear your thoughts on how we as a society can move past the problems you addressed in your article.

            Thank you for your work.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Thanks Simon. Men are hurt by patriarchy, to be sure. As the article makes clear, masculinity is harmful to men in a number of ways. Regarding how to address these problems, well, it’s a big one, isn’t it? “End patriarchy” seems like a big solution, but that is, after all, what feminists are working towards. Patriarchy is the problem. Constructions of manhood and masculinity, the idea that men are entitled to certain things in this world – success, financial and otherwise, access to women, etc — those are all problems of male privilege and patriarchy. We need to stop teaching men that emotions are for women and that to feel and express pain and vulnerability is a feminine quality. We also need to stop accepting violence against women as inevitable… I’m sure many commenters here have lots to say about this too…

          • simon

            Strongly agree – thanks for working toward a better world, Meghan. I will continue to keep up with this posting, and your work in general.

            Have a nice day.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Thanks for your comments, simon.

            All the best.

          • Me

            I think serious antipathy towards all men on the part of women would first of all be understandable. I see surprisingly little of it anywhere and I couldn’t find it in the comments above? Women tend to see men as human no matter what. Anyway, it shouldn’t stop men from trying to help women, unless they asked us to.

            I seriously doubt its “hurting the cause” either, whatever that means. I think there are plenty of feminist causes and plenty of feminist work where antipathy towards all men can be necessary and helpful.

            I also don’t see “we” as a society even trying to move past these problems. The male plan seems to be to make women pay for whatever problems there happen to be and that’s about it. Where’s the “we” in that?

          • simon

            Thanks anonymous,
            I can respect what you are saying.
            Several posts blamed “the male gender” for the problems in the world. Many males are working towards a more fair and peaceful world.

            I completely agree with the image of “masculinity” and macho entitlement as being extremely detrimental to society.

            I was merely making the point that saying “men are like this” “men are like that” alienate many people who could be a part of your cause.

            I am a pacifistic, and am as disturbed by violence and dominance as anyone else. Being born a man does not mean I am part of the problem, and does not mean that I automatically can be assumed to hold certain ideals.

            If there was a “male plan” I would like to have a say in it. We are looking at problems caused by aggressive men, and those who buy into and perpetuate “macho” ideals.

            I agree that there are many problems in our society. I appreciate you including me in your respectful dialog.

            I am going to be running around for the rest of the day, but I will certainly respond to anything you’d like to tell me tomorrow.

            I merely wanted to communicate that I visited this site to support the cause, and was hurt by some of the posts. I am an adult and I can certainly handle that.

            I’m sorry if you found my original post offensive in any way. I do not want to get the main point of this post off topic.

            Have a nice day.

          • Me

            I think I don’t agree with your point of view. You seem to be making a point about inclusiveness, but I think it’s you who is unnecessarily antagonistic and exclusive.

            I also tried to make the point that men primarily benefit from the image of masculinity as it is and benefit from macho entitlement. I think it’s important to make the point that abusers are typically not hurt by their abusive behavior. Others are. Do you agree? I identify with those who are abused, so I try to stress their point of view.

            Perhaps it’s helpful if I write a bit about my experience with pacifism. I don’t know if you identify as a pacifist (you wrote you’re pacifistic, so I’m not sure). Anyway, this is not intended to be about you, but about my experience with pacifists which I think relates to the discussion.

            I’ve known too many pacifists who have been genuinely disturbed by many forms of dominance and violence, but who nonetheless have been very abusive themselves, including highly controlling, highly sexist, divisive, ageist towards younger people, generally passive-aggressive in their communication and who I’ve seen side with male perpetrators of sexual violence and harassment. I’ve seen enough of this on male pacifists’ part to consider it “normal”. As I’d expect feminist-supportive men to see it as their responsibility as men to fight the norm and actively side with and stand up for women, I’d expect genuine male pacifists to actively side with feminists instead of expecting women to qualify their feminism against their male standard of non-dominance and non-violence. From my view of the culture of pacifism, I’d expect genuine male pacifists to have no problem whatsoever taking this approach (and I believe some have), as I do expect good-hearted men in this culture of masculinity to have no problem whatsoever taking a similar approach. Would you agree?

            To return this back to your comments, is there anything you’d like to say differently in this view? I would address what you said more directly, but reading what you wrote I find that hard to do. I think you asked me a question as well, but I don’t really understand what the question was specifically.

          • simon

            Thank you anonymous.

            Yes, I should probably re-articulate my first post, as it’s more open to interpretation than I would have liked.

            To clarify, I AM on the side of the feminists here. What I was trying to communicate was that as a man who stumbled onto this page, and was sympathetic to your cause, I was hurt by some individual posts that made sweeping generalizations about men.

            I’m extremely upset about these shooting too. I work with children, and I would never hurt another person, regardless of age or gender.

            My argument wasn’t that nobody should say anything bad about men, but that individual posts that were against men in general made it easier for society at large to marginalize your cause, and write off the feminist movement as “man-haters”.

            I am NOT saying that I believe this is what you are all about. I AM saying that it makes it much easier for people to ignore your message.

            I am just telling you my perspective. You certainly do not have to agree with me, and I do not think that my opinion is more important for yours.

            My points about inclusiveness were about making the movement more accessible to curious men. That’s all.

            And yes, I’m a pacifist in the traditional sense. I think everyone should be kind to each other.

            I am NOT siding with the bad guys here. I am with you. Perhaps it was in poor judgement for me to make my original post.

            You may not like this one either, but I hope we are closer to common ground.

            I am merely offering the perspective of someone who was sympathetic to your cause, read some posts, and felt unwelcome.

          • marv

            Can the under classes be classist against the upper classes no matter how virulent the speech? Can indigenous people living under colonization be racist of white people if they treat all the colonizers with contempt? Can women be sexist towards men under male hegemony though many men are antisexist in their personal conduct? No, no and no. Those who wield power do so as a group and are implicated in the exploitation of those beneath them regardless of how affable the wielders are as individuals. Slaves had been blamed for being too universal in their criticisms of white people since many whites were not slave owners. Nonetheless all white people received benefits from the slavery of “others”. So do all men in respect to women’s inequality.

            Embittered, vindictive and inflammatory accusations directed at ruling groups in general can advance the cause of abolitionists. It can ignite the fires of social change in other women (and men) and provide a touchstone of community. In fact censorship from above can fuel hostility from below. When the downtrodden are not allowed to freely express their offensive grievances then tensions further escalate (thankfully). Displeasing members of the dominant caste is an unavoidable repercussion. Moreover if feminists can’t speak without inhibitions in their blogs where can they? In the mainstream media?

          • simon

            Thanks for your input Marv. Have a nice day.

    • Rebecca Cote

      One thing that I don’t see in these posts, and I’m only an artist and river guide, is the lack of an initiation process for boys. Women naturally have this process…but in the past boys were made to go through this. There is no place for boys to safely go/do to transition to men. Through the process of initiation, they become more aware of who they are, the link they have with the greater world…and hopefully understand the social history of agression, why that is in their makeup and how to effectively transform that into todays world. (I am not very eloquent, so I hope my point comes across!) Thanks.

      • AJ

        Often initiation rites were a way of physically, spiritually, and mentally taking the boy (usually around 12 years old or so) away from his mother and the women to prove that he wasn’t “womanish”. I’m fine staying away from those initiation rites, and think the lack of them – if they actually are lacking – is absolutely fine.

    • copleycat

      I’m white, I consider myself to be anti-racist but you know I can’t imagine going over to a blog that’s all about raising consciousness to advance equality for people of color and posting that nobody should say offensive things about white people without feeling like a five star jack ass. I might see comments I personally feel hurt by but I try to see it as part of the damage that racism (white people oppressing people of color in case there’s any ambiguity about that term, despite that really there shouldn’t be) does. When an oppressed group makes a space to talk about issues that they can’t discuss openly in the macro-culture, it’s done out of a need to gain greater understanding of the means by which they are oppressed. Anger is going to be part of this process, it’s essential to this process and it’s our right and responsibility to channel that anger to the best ends, to use its inherently destructive properties to burn away the shackles and shrouds on our own hearts and minds. We need its transformative properties to forge new ideologies and new methods of challenging our oppression. We have a right to this anger, and more importantly it is our tool and it is up to us to decide what to do with it.
      For you, or any man to come into a space such as this, announce your presence as a man and then try to police our anger for us is profoundly arrogant and oppressive – regardless of whatever you think or feel you’re doing. Still I would like to say thanks, because as I stated above, I always would have felt very wrong about doing what you’ve done here but I never fully consciously knew why until I had to declare it (cause I was angry) just now.

      • simon

        ok. I apologize. have a good night.

    • Meggie

      I agree, Simon. My husband is such a man — wonderfully kind and strongly opposed to violence. I think the generalizations and antagonism toward men are sad and unfair. Feminism should not be about hating men, and many men are feminists. If men are being socialized out of their empathy, that is a social problem we should all be addressing. Thank you for your input, and please know that you are not alone in your thinking.

  • Pingback: But what about the men? On masculinity and mass shootings | Feminist Current « Hippocampus()

  • Melissa Skowron

    Thank you Meghan! I’ve been making this point to family and friends since the shooting, and they’ve have slowly began to realize that gender does play a huge role in these shootings.

    My question is, why wasn’t this made clear in the James Holmes shooting? He seems like the obvious poster child for this social pattern but I didn’t see a lot of media coverage regarding gender/class as a factor in the shooting (that I can remember, maybe there was some that I missed). But for some reasoning, this school shooting has finally propped media outlets to explore the pattern of white, male, middle class people losing their shit and shooting a bunch of people. I wonder why…

    • Meghan Murphy

      Good question! I have no idea why. I know people started paying more attention to the startling stats once Mother Jones and Thinkprogress.com came out with those lists of mass shootings/school shootings. It became so obvious that this was a gendered phenomenon.

  • Grackle

    Brilliant post, Meghan. Katz’s quote about socializing our boys to be sociopaths was eye-opening and I had no idea (though it shouldn’t have surprised me) about the misogynistic histories of a lot of the mass shooters.

    Because the white male and his life experience is considered our cultural default, incidents of violence carried out by white men end up being categorized as simply a human problem. I mean, humans are violent sometimes, right? It’s just how we ARE and it’s a shame but hey, what are you gonna do? (Obviously the same rule applies when we’re talking about male violence in general.)

    Name the agent! Name the agent!

    • martin dufresne

      “The silence around the gendering of violence is as inexplicable as it is indefensible.”
      Actually it is quite explicable as a strategy for protecting the agent(s). Do we still need to describe that as a puzzle?

  • Albatros

    There are two things what destroys any accusations towards ‘gun owners’ and ‘masculinity’.
    1. If more people would have guns, people wouldn’t have to just sit around and wait to be killed by a lone gunman. They would fire back and voila, the casualties go from 20 to 5. But this all wouldn’t happen, if the second point would have been fixed, which is…
    2. Adam Lanza was raised by a single mother.

    Enough said.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Alda Lanza is also a product of society. He was not raised in a bubble. Also, all women aren’t feminist and all women don’t challenge cultural constructions of masculinty. Many reinforce those roles – intentionally or unintentionally. It’s awfully difficult to avoid.

    • Me

      I find it supremely ironic that after the shootings in Norway where that man Breivik killed a lot of teenagers, the net was full of calls for the Norwegians to arm themselves. Had the adults on that island where the shooting took place been armed or had all the victims been armed, there would’ve been less gun violence… This, without a trace of irony or self-reflection, from the men of a country with one of the highest rates of gun violence in the world to the people of a country with one of the lowest. This from men who don’t admit that regular men murder women, and who insist their masculinity and their gun culture is really about keeping others safe and does so. There was a nice line in one webcomic the other day, “Enjoy your guns, gun owners. I hope they make you happy in a way that breathing, smiling six-year old children cannot.”

    • copleycat

      “1. If more people would have guns, people wouldn’t have to just sit around and wait to be killed by a lone gunman.”

      This is an ambiguous statement.

  • vouchsafer

    Ah nuts. We’ve chased off Simon and accomplished exactly what, pray tell? The dude tried to engage us feminist women in intelligent conversation and so many people trounced him for being a man that he withdrew.
    I agree with the initial post. I do think it’s a fucked up consequence of male gender socialization that these horrific shootings keep on happening.
    But how exactly are we supposed to combat this disturbing reality if we as feminists keep on lambasting the only males that seem to ‘get’ our point?
    I’ve said this in posts on this site before and I’m saying it again:
    Chasing male participants out of the conversation only leads us to a dead end in the conversation that we need to have with men in order to end our own subjugation.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I have had hundreds of great conversations with male allies. Pro-feminist men are pro-feminist men. They aren’t quite as fickle as you think. If they were they wouldn’t be our allies, now, would they?

      • vouchsafer

        Um, ya, that was kind of my point. We should be having conversations with pro feminist men. So that they can help to educate their misguided brethren. not chasing them out of discussions.
        yours is one of the only sites I’ve come across that gets to the root of these issues, and so finding that even here this type of conversation is dead-ended is very frustrating

        • Meghan Murphy

          Ok. I hear you. Do you think I chased him out of the discussion?

          • simon

            Hi Meghan, you didn’t scare me off. you were very respectful. I did feel that I was hit with some very charged language from a few posters, when I wanted to have a constructive conversation.

            I was going to remove myself from the discussion, instead of escalating an argument, but a poster got a better feel for my intentions, and defended me.
            thank you vouchersafe.

            I will be responding to the questions I was given very soon. super crazy busy today.

          • vouchsafer

            No, it wasn’t you, you heard him out .
            but a gentle comment from the moderator reminding us that discourse is after all the goal wouldn’t have gone amiss either.
            feminism for me means pointing out the bullshit policies of oppression, and then through intelligent debate, overcoming them.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Again, I hear ya. But I’m not a big fan of telling women to be nicer to men, so that’s probably not going to happen.

    • simon

      Thank you for your compassion, vouchersafe.
      If you’d like to ask me anything, I would be happy to answer.

      • Me

        I would just like to say that this is exatly how discussions go with disruptive baiters, whether that’s you or not. You’ve said the same thing again and again as if you weren’t understood the first time, and you’re forcing this to be about you by refusing to communicate meaningfully about anything else.

        This is also exactly why many groups of women are better off not admitting men when they’re serious about getting things done. Men can be told what they need to know when they need to know it.

        • simon

          I give up.

          My last post was a friendly request for a conversation with vouchersafe, and that was met with an accusatory post from “me”.

          I didn’t come here to argue. I realize now that my first post was insensitive, and I apologized.

          Clearly communicating on this forum is not going to be a pleasant experience for me. I am still interested in learning more about feminism, but I will not be doing it through discussions on this forum.

          Meghan, thank you for your article – it made me think about how I was raised in a different light. My wife and I aren’t planning on having kids, but if we were, I’d be much more aware of the consequences of the negative effects of “traditional” gender roles.

          Vouchersafe, thank you for standing up for me.

          Best of luck.

          • Me

            It’s entirely appropriate to assume you hold certain ideals, not because you were born a man as you wrote above, but because you’re an adult male in this culture. This cultural (as opposed to personal) way of looking at manhood is something that seems obvious to me in the writings of feminists, so it’s there for you to see as well if you want to. Instead you took this criticism of the culture of masculinity and manhood personally.

            I think the talk about how gender is not biologically determined and can be quite fluid is important. However, in my experiece, when people in real life get hung up on these generalizations about men and women, demanding that someone making a point be more specific about who’s included and who’s excluded when they use words like men and women, it’s usually bullshit. Typically those taking offence are men or liberal women who don’t like it how the framing challenges their commitment to justice and feminism, and so they take it personally and effectively derail the discussion. You repeated the same message many times instead of expanding on what you were saying. That’s how I read it anyway. You also did not reply to the content of the comments either copleycat or marv put to you, so frankly I didn’t see much point in trying to compensate by spending more or my time picking up the points you were possibly trying to make and addressing those. Also, manipulative discussion is all about forcing others to heavily interpret what you’re saying and then blaming them for getting it wrong, so it’s best to avoid that first step.

            You said you felt hurt by some of comments but knew how to deal with it, so why didn’t you just deal with it? When it was pointed out to you that there’s a reason why feminists may want to use fierce language, and that there’s no reason for you as a man to take that language or take that criticism of men and the male gender personally, you could’ve accepted that and decided that if, for instance, your male friends are sometime similarly offended by feminists’ criticism of men and manhood, you’ll try to explain to them why it’s not personally about them and that feminists are actually on their side too. That’s what I do with my male friends. I don’t feel threatened or insulted by feminists and I have no trouble explaining why it’s so. I try to set myself apart from this culturally defined male ideal, and then show there’s another way of acting and thinking about what it means to be a man that’s opposed to that. I simply direct that angry language to where I think it belongs and show that the anger-rousing way of being a man is not the only way men could be. For what it’s worth, I actually think seeing some of that anger expressed can make it easier for men to feel proud of being different kind of men and acting differenly, kind of what Katz’s boys’ leadership program is about.

            When it comes to your style of discussion, I’ll point out that you’ve twice referred to me as anonymous and now put my handle in scare quotes. Nobody here has called you anonymous or “simon.” Three out of three times of addressing me you’ve decided for me what I should be called instead of using the handle I’ve picked. I don’t really care, but that’s again one strategy how abusive people set up a position of authority for themselves and assume control of discussions and other people.

            Another strategy abusive people use to bring themselves to the center is by controlling the pace/flow of time. Whether you intended it that way or not, you’ve done this twice while nobody else stressed their schedule or time constraints:

            “I will be responding to the questions I was given very soon. super crazy busy today.”

            “I am going to be running around for the rest of the day, but I will certainly respond to anything you’d like to tell me tomorrow.”

            You’ve also several times promised to engage in discussion if some vague condition on us others’ part would first be met (and haven’t). That’s another strategy that’s typically used to force everyone else’s focus on oneself. Whether my saying this here is accusatory or revealing and helpful to you is entirely up to you.

  • CaoCao

    This advertisement by Bushmaster almost serves as a visual aid to this article: http://www.advertisementjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/bushmaster-man-card-reissued.jpg

    And AR-15 Bushmaster rifle was used to kill all the victims. Apparently, you aren’t masculine enough unless you have a semi-automatic rifle designed for combat on a suburban street. Bushmaster’s main ad campaign involved a series of questions on their website. When guys took the time to answer them, they earned a “Man Card”.

    ..because you aren’t a real man unless you gun down women and children when life isn’t going your way.

  • It also seems important to note that in this case there is such a strong negative mother/son dynamic. In the conversation about masculinity, its important to widen the lens to include insights into issues around the feminine and how women/the feminine relate to men/masculine. Yes, men are violent against women and all that is close to women (the earth, animals, children, life itself) but women are also violent – against themselves and those they are intimate with and can find power over (children, themselves and their own bodies). These mass murders are a gender issue but its a wider gender issue that needs to include how genders relate to each other in a patriarchal society.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Femininity is problematic as is masculinity. Both constructions are a product of patriarchy and a damaging. That said, femininity is not constructed in a way that encourages and accepts violence as ‘natural’. Masculinity is.

    • copleycat

      Better yet just ditch gender altogether.

  • When what is “natural” to the feminine helps support and contribute to masculine violence, it should be looked at too.

    • copleycat

      Yes, and let’s not forget the mandate that femininity work in the service of indulging the precursor to masculine violence – masculine entitlement.

      • MLM

        Yes. Definitely this.

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  • Madeline

    Meghan, I really appreciate this article and the attention you and Jonathan Katz are paying to the way boys are socialized in our culture. Very important points are being made here and I’ve only heard mention of these by a few commentators on MSNBC, like Ed Schultz and Lawrence O’Donnell, I believe. But this is a start. I hope they invite you onto their shows!

    So we have several factors converging here, in this unbearable tragedy: access to guns, an isolated, withdrawn and disconnected young white male, a failing mental health system, and the dominant culture’s emphasis on equating masculinity with violence.

    I totally agree with the analyses of all of the above…these factors set the stage.

    I will add just one more perspective which seems important if we are to understand how boys become killers: we don’t specifically know about this boy’s development, how he was treated as an infant and young child, as a teenager, etc.

    The reason that this is important is because when human beings feel disconnected from sources of love, comfort, support, encouragement, etc, when their longings for affection are continually rejected, or their need to feel good about themselves is chronically thwarted, when they are shamed, blamed and generally not understood and included, they become hurt, angry, withdrawn, sullen, resentful, and sometimes, determined to get even. They turn passive into active; they turn powerlessness into aggression; they turn the experience of shame and humiliation into the experience (in their own minds) of triumph and vindication.

    (I’m speaking generally here and I’m only guessing at Adam Lanza’s state of mind.)

    We know that these psychological processes affect girls as well as boys, but girls more often turn their aggression upon themselves, hurting and injuring themselves. Boys more often turn their aggression outward. I agree with Katz’s statement that “…violence is an external manifestation of internal pain.” And this is true whether the violence is against oneself, or against others.

    Adam Lanza and all the other very disturbed young men mentioned in your article, were once infants, toddlers, children. We know from decades of research concerning child development and now the recent brain research and its focus on early, relational trauma, that the brains and minds of children are affected in multiple ways by the human environment in which they are raised. Our brains, minds, our beliefs about ourselves and others, our ability to empathize with our own distress and the distress of others are all shaped by the early, relational patterns which evolve in relation to our earliest caregivers. This usually means, in our society, Mom and Dad.

    As a 30 year member of the mental-health community who also taught pre-school and elementary school for 15 years before that, I know that it’s possible to see signs of relational distress in the first year, the first three years, the first five years, and definitely the first 10 years of life. By any of those ages, some pediatrician, school teacher, clergy, friend or family member could have noticed a distressed child, a distressed mother or family situation and maybe this child and his family could have gotten some assistance from a non-shaming, non-blaming, nonjudgmental therapist, or parenting instructor.

    So I’m in agreement that all of these issues have to be looked at and reassessed: are guns too easily available…YES. Does the dominant culture equate masculinity with violence…YES. Are our mental health services spotty and do we still stigmatize families for needing assistance with the raising of children…YES. Do fathers fail to make fathering a priority in their lives…YES. Is there too much misogyny and do men feel generally entitled to women’s services…YES.

    And I would just suggest that when children feel securely attached (emotionally) to at least one responsive parent whom they admire, they don’t become mass murderers.

    So along with everything we have to do about guns, our definition of masculinity, our failing mental health services, our absentee fathers, the many manifestations of misogyny, and so on, along with all of that, I also suggest that we remember the specific boy that Adam Lanza was and the specific family environment in which he grew, and try to notice those small children in our schools who seem to be withdrawn, disconnected from others or in some other way distressed.

    Maybe we can help them, help their families, and help ourselves in the process.

    • Madeline, Although I am heartened and agree that these things can be seen so early on (another reason to pay preschool teachers more than we pay university professors – we’ve really got that backwards), I am struck by this – “maybe this child and his family could have gotten some assistance from a non-shaming, non-blaming, nonjudgmental therapist, or parenting instructor”. I suspect, and lament, that our society’s attitude toward parenting (having kids is an almost mandatory marker of adulthood; being a parent doesn’t require a license – no qualifications whatsoever; etc) would make the ‘non-blaming’ EXTREMELY difficult… As a result any help that might be offered would be rejected…

  • MHM

    “But we’re talking white, middle class men — the members of this society who have the most privilege and the most power.”
    Is this a feminist meme? I’m not sure about the man part making him have so much power (but feminists will disagree so I won’t get into it), but the middle class part is pretty obviously false. It’s the upper class that almost by definition has more power.
    “They learn to shut up and take it like a man.”
    Yes, we’re getting somewhere! Please, continue with this! Please! I’m crossing my fingers.
    “They also learn that they are entitled to certain things in this world: financial success, access to women, power – when they can’t acquire these things, what happens? Well, sometimes, apparently, they seethe.”
    “As a white man, the assumption is that you are the center of the world. Your needs should be met. You should be successful,”
    No, don’t ruin it! You had something great going before with that other sentence.
    Men are certainly not entitled, in my opinion. Actually a big part of society’s idea of being a man is that you have responsibility to put others before you, which means women and children. They’re your responsibility. You sacrifice whatever you need to for them, whether it’s your money, time, health, or life (that’s what war is, not some petty dick-measuring masculinity circlejerk).
    You simply don’t matter outside of what you can provide to them. That’s part of why men don’t get as much support when we fail, when we’re alone, when we’re destitute, when we’re mentally ill. And that’s part of why it’s the troubled men who do this. It’s not because they’re entitled. It’s because they have nothing left to lose, and no one who really cares.
    When that doesn’t pan out men will often end up seeing themselves as victims.
    This seems to be dismissing the idea that men can be victims.
    “This explains the cultural energy on the right in this past generation – so many of these men see themselves as victims of multiculturalism and of feminism,” she adds. “It’s undermining the cultural centrality of male authority.”
    And this pretty clearly tells me that there’s no legitimate issue I can take with feminism. If I try, I’m just trying to protect male authority. Thanks for the dismissal.

    Just something thought provoking from an unrelated site where the article was linked.

    • Madeline

      MHM, I actually agree with the people you are quoting in your most recent post.

      Boys and men may receive many conflicting, direct and indirect messages in their unique families of origin and from the wider, cultural surround: “take it like a man,” “you are the center of the world and others should be organized around meeting your needs,” “you are responsible for others and must sacrifice yourself for them,” “you’re on your own, there’s no sympathy for you,” “big boys don’t cry,” “men have nothing to cry about; they’re on top,” etc.

      It seems to me that everyone is influenced by at least two environments which overlap…their unique family of origin and the wider, dominant culture. But I would generally say that what feminists, male and female, have added to our collective consciousness is the influence of the general, wider, dominant culture of male privilege and white privilege. This is an enormous contribution and helps us understand what we are all subjected to, in general.

      I think everyone so far who has posted here would agree that there is a general taboo on tenderness that invades the psychological development of boys. As someone stated above, most boys’ capacity for empathy with themselves and with others is actually trained out of them by about the age of five. This is done by shaming little boys when they exhibit tender feelings that connect them with other people; when they come to adults for comfort they’re often ridiculed as “sissies,” “weaklings,” “girls,” etc. in a misguided effort to toughen them up as the culture expects us to do.

      Sometimes it’s just a frown on Mother’s face or a look of disapproval from Father, an absence of empathy from his teacher, a round of laughter from his classmates, or the teasing that some older boys engage in that teaches a little boy that there’s no sympathy for him. Carol Gilligan, psychologist, researcher and writer says that boys are gutted, then stuffed with grandiosity by the patriarchal establishment. What’s gutted out of them is their capacity for empathy, for tenderness. Mothers are often expected to be the transmitters of these messages to growing boys or else they’re accused of “making him a momma’s boy.” (as if that’s a bad thing!)

      So along with the cultural images of boys and men as invincible, indestructible, emotion-less superheroes, some boys are subjected very early to especially humiliating circumstances in their particular families. While we don’t know for sure what Adam Lanza, for example, experienced as a child growing up with HIS mother, with HIS father, HIS extended family and neighborhood, I am suggesting that there is a collective price we pay for shaming little boys. We need to look at the messages we transmit to boy children concerning their relational needs and permit them to give and to receive empathy, to be connected, lovingly, to their mothers and fathers, older siblings, other children and other adults.

    • Me

      Thank you for posting that MHM. In my opinion it’s just a more refined teh menz derail, though 🙂 Men’s rights activism (or woman hating) for the educated if you will 😉

      No man who’s serious about changing either himsel or the way boys are brought up to be men can have a problem with the concept of male entitlement like the man above has. If you try to challenge yourself, if you try to change your relationship, or try to imbue a kid with a different attitude, it doesn’t take long until you slam into this wall called male entitlement. You absolutely have to recognize it or you don’t get anywhere. There’s obviously a lot to be said about how men and women relate to each other, but the man above is just using that as an excuse to get to his real point, which is that “Men are certainly not entitled”. Men making supposedly caring arguments like these must know they’re lying. They are in a very serious way betraying their friends and other men and male children, the ones they claim to care about. Not to mention women. Entitlement is absolutely central. Trying to fix relational problems between men and women without keeping male entitlement at the center of it is like trying to stop an alcoholic from being an alcoholic without ever addressing his drinking.

      • Me

        “men don’t get as much support when we fail, when we’re alone, when we’re destitute, when we’re mentally ill. And that’s part of why it’s the troubled men who do this. It’s not because they’re entitled. It’s because they have nothing left to lose, and no one who really cares.”

        First, I don’t buy that there isn’t as much support available to men. If they go for a different kind of fix, they have a responsibility for making that choice.

        Second, I think in De Becker’s Gift of Fear the feeling of “having nothing left to lose” was used in the proper context, which is to predict when men are likely to act violently. It was not used to diagnose a need for therapy or to predict who’s going to find help through therapy.

        Third, the thing is, you can have “nothing left to lose” and it can still be your own damn fault you got there. Abusive men kill their wifes when their wives try to leave, basically for trying to leave them with “nothing”. Is the solution then to make the wives go back to their abusers, if that’s the only solution the men can see? Hardly! Someone can feel he has nothing left to lose and still only be willing to accept the kind of help that comes at someone else’s expense. From this point of view where entitlements cannot be questioned, one could easily make the argument that Adam Lanza was “trying to get better” by shooting those children and women, fighting his fears so hard until his tragic end and all. Put the focus on him and his humanity. Why couldn’t those children and women just plead more powerfully, show more sympathy and care in their eyes to turn his rage into acceptance and love? I’m sure some men do make that argument, even though now many must realize it’s not PC. A lot of men definitely understand that angle very well, and it’s not too far removed from the argument made by the man above. The important point here is that from this entitlement protection point of view, it may very well be easier for the men to look at an atrocity like this and first of all see Lanza, see him as a victim, fighting his fears by killing those kids and women, than it is to see male entitlement as having anything to do with how this happened. It helps to use language to erase the victims from the picture and focus on Lanza one way or another. I think this is true much more generally as well. Protecting entitlements comes first, and views that challenge them get rejected no matter how solid they may be.

        A lot of men also take an entitled attitude to their suffering. They’re entitled to be the ones who suffer more pain, do dirtier work and pay more dearly for everything. That is messed up, no doubt about it. But what do you do about it? Don’t those men need help? Well, because the suffering comes with a sense of entitlement, the very same men are also likely to feel that their pain is authentic and that the pain of others isn’t. That doesn’t sound so endearing or help-needing anymore. How many MRA’s comments here recently have been full of that attitude, that their suffering is authentic and women’s isn’t? That’s nothing but their entitlement speaking. So is their problem really that women don’t see them as human and can’t communicate, or is it the other way around?

        I have some experience with the relational problems the man above is supposedly talking about. My wife has trouble seeing me as fully human out of a childhood fear of men, and that may well mean she’s better off living her own life without me, because she is so much more alive that way and I think I will be too. She is easily frightened and becomes tense when I’m emotional, whether I’m happy or sad and in need of support, but especially when I would need support. Her response in those situations can be to try to cram my emotions back down my throath to protect herself, and that hurts a lot. I also have trouble feeling my feelings, because I was raised to pen everything up. Taking that a lot of men live with women who’ve been raped, battered or abused, and that a lot of men are raised up like I was, there would definitely be a need to talk about how to cope with that reality and what it means for relationships, but I really don’t see any of this, in _any_ way, reflected in these “arguments” about relational problems these men are making. I have a friend in a very similar situation as I am, and another one in a somewhat similar situation, and we’d all call this “talk” by these supposedly caring men just complete and utter bullshit.

  • Madeline

    One more thing: girls and women may be envied and hated by certain men because they are “allowed,” culturally, to be close and loving, to have their tender feelings, to be connected to others and to receive compassion when they’re hurt. If I have to be stoic, go it alone, handle everything by myself and I see others receiving compassionate concern from helpful adults, that could hurt and make me resentful.

    This inner hurt may get enacted later on as outward denigration of and violence towards women and girls. Tragic consequences…

  • Em249

    I was happy to hear this topic being discussed on CBC radio a couple of days ago. However, most news stations in Canada still focus a lot more on mental illness. It is odd how in Canada we continue to undermine the factors of race and gender in mass shootings when we have had a mass shooting that was blatantly about gender. I know that most of you are probably American, so you may or may not have heard about the Montreal Massacre. It is a perfect example for this article so I highly recommend studying it. Here are the first couple of paragraphs from the Wikipedia article:

    “The École Polytechnique Massacre, also known as the Montreal Massacre, occurred on December 6, 1989 at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Twenty-five-year-old Marc Lépine, armed with a legally obtained Mini-14 rifle and a hunting knife, shot twenty-eight people before killing himself. He began his attack by entering a classroom at the university, where he separated the male and female students. After claiming that he was “fighting feminism”, he shot all nine women in the room, killing six. He then moved through corridors, the cafeteria, and another classroom, specifically targeting women to shoot. Overall, he killed fourteen women and injured ten other women and four men in just under twenty minutes before turning the gun on himself.[1][2] Lépine was the son of a French-Canadian mother and an Algerian father, and had been physically abused by his father. His suicide note claimed political motives and blamed feminists for ruining his life. The note included a list of nineteen Quebec women whom Lépine considered to be feminists and apparently wished to kill.[3]

    Since the attack, Canadians have debated various interpretations of the events, their significance, and Lépine’s motives. Many feminist groups and public officials have characterized the massacre as an anti-feminist attack that is representative of wider societal violence against women.[4][5][6] Consequently, the anniversary of the massacre has since been commemorated as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Other interpretations emphasize Lépine’s abuse as a child or suggest that the massacre was simply the isolated act of a madman, unrelated to larger social issues.[7][8] Still other commentators have blamed violence in the media[9] and increasing poverty, isolation, and alienation in society,[10] particularly in immigrant communities.[11]”


    You’ll see in the second paragraph that even though he made his motives very clear, some people STILL wanted to avoid connecting it to gender and privilege. (though there was a discussion about class and racial issues it ignored the fact that most of the time, mass shootings are not committed by people in lower classes or in marginalized races)I also absolutely hate that everyone seems to think that child abuse can be considered an undeniable cause of violence. Stigmatizing people who have suffered child abuse by calling them inherently violent and crazy? What a great idea!

    My point is, having suffered abuse is NOT necessarily a cause of violence, neither is being mentally ill! These things CAN add to causes sometimes, but most often, there are other far more significant factors. It is a huge misconception that the mentally ill are always dangerous. The majority of people who are mentally ill are not dangerous in any way, shape or form! Here is a good quote from an article on that topic:

    “Although studies suggest a link between mental illnesses and violence, the contribution of people with mental illnesses to overall rates of violence is small, and further, the magnitude of the relationship is greatly exaggerated in the minds of the general population (Institute of Medicine, 2006).”


    I think that we have to look at mass shootings around the world when we study this topic. There have been several recent ones in Europe against immigrants from the middle east. These are other perfect examples of violence being committed by privileged classes against marginalized classes.

    Here is a profile on the man who committed the mass shooting and bombing in Norway in 2011. He was a bundle of hatred. He hated women, people of colour, Muslims, the poor etc. He hated anything that questioned his privilege and what he thought were his rights as a white, Christian man.


    If you read the wikipedia article you can see that he was not actually mentally ill, but people tried their hardest to diagnose him as such.


    Stigmatizing the mentally ill just to make us all feel a little more comfortable about the state of society is not going to solve any problems! Violent people are produced by an oppressive and violent culture, not mental illness!

    • Me

      I definitely agree that stigmatizing abused or mentally ill people doesn’t help, and that the causes are cultural. In my opinion you can’t pound on the table too heavily that these killings are just the extreme of male violence, and can only be stopped by moving the mountain that is male violence and entitlement itself. Thanks!

    • noen

      “If you read the wikipedia article you can see that he [Anders Brevik] was not actually mentally ill”


      “The psychiatrists diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia, concluding that he had developed the disorder over time and was psychotic both when he carried out the attacks and during the observation. He was also diagnosed with abuse of non-dependence-producing substances antecedent of 22 July. The psychiatrists consequently found Breivik to be criminally insane.”

      The dispute over whether or not he should be diagnosed mentally ill was politically motivated because under their law if he was mentally ill at the time of the crime he would not go to prison and could have been released if judged to have recovered. Understandably people did not want this and so they sought to have him judged sane.

      “He was a bundle of hatred.” is not a scientific assessment. It is a moral judgment and a logical fallacy. The fact that criminals can be hyper religious does not imply that religion causes criminal behavior. The fact that Anders Brevik had racist, sexist or homophobic beliefs does not mean these beliefs caused him to murder 85 people. It was the other way around. His mental illness caused him to hold racist, sexist, homophobic and hyper religious beliefs. Just like it causes other mentally ill people to have other irrational beliefs. Like the CIA is monitoring their brainwaves and UFOs are conducting DNA experiments on them.

      Eric Harris did not murder 12 people because he was bullied by jocks or because he played violent video games. Eric Harris is a clinical sociopath. Bullying is the excuse his sociopathy used to justify murder. Harris spent over a year of meticulous planning and is generally understood to be the mastermind behind the massacre “having a messianic-level superiority complex, and hoped to demonstrate his superiority to the world.”

      It is mental illness that causes some to adopt extreme views that a few then use to justify criminal acts. We live in a causally determined world. Ideas cannot cause events, they are a consequence of them.

  • sporenda

    Excellent analysis, it expresses what I feel each time when one of these massacres takes place, which is almost every week now:
    the elephant in the room of these stories is male rage and male violence, and almost always, women are the prime targets for this violence.
    Have you noticed that, for the Newton shoot out as well as the case of this man who set his house on fire to shoot the firemen, the first person shot was a woman: his mother for the teenager, his sister for the other guy(her charred body was found in the house and the guy spent years in jail before for having hammered his grandmother to death).

    Because these men are losing some of the priviledges and entitlements traditionnally granted to males fills, they are filled with murderous rage, and this rage is directed firstly against women, who they see as the main culprit in this loss of power.
    It makes me think of the last phase of decolonization, when white men understood that soon they would no longer rule people of color, and would be expelled from the exotic territories they had unduly annexed.
    In this last phase of decolonization, the repression against the liberation movements became bloddy and vicious, white men lashed out in the most cruel manner–torture, massacres, etc–against the populations that were successfully rejecting their dominion.
    We may be going through a similar phase; if it’s indeed the case, male power feeling now dangerously challenged (in western countries), we might see a surge of male violence against women.

  • ClaraB

    Great article!

  • noen

    It’s kind of odd to see an essentialist argument from feminists. I guess it depends on whether one is male or female whether one’s behaviors are motivated by one’s gender or not.

    Funny how that works.

    Violence is the base response of all organisms to threats or perceived threats. Women and men are equally capable of violence. Women rape, murder, torture and kill just like men do. They simply lack the opportunity under a male dominated society but given the chance women will be every bit as vicious as men. Given how women are socialized in the West they simply go about it differently. Women use surreptitious methods to commit murder not fists and guns but there is still a corpse in the end either way.

    It’s people. Just people who do bad things. If we want to reduce violence we have to address humanity as a whole and reject gender politics as a solution.

    Women love bad boys. From James Dean to Marlon Brando to whomever it is today it is the bad boy who gets the girl. Well groomed unaggressive effeminate males are “friends” not lovers. You do not have hot passionate sex with your “I wonder if he’s gay” best friend. He’s the one you tell. He’s the one who holds your hand as you go to the clinic and he’s the one you drop like a hot potato when the bad boy apologizes and begs you to take him back.

    And you do.

    • Meghan Murphy

      But that’s so clearly not true. Women do NOT “rape, murder, torture and kill just like men do.” Perhaps if women were socialized the way men were they would be more violent. But they aren’t. And that’s the whole point. How can you have missed the whole point?

      • Me

        I’m just glad that /he/ doesn’t seem to have a coherent point to make. Like, he’d want Jamed Dean /and/ Marlon Brando to make love to him with a hot bad-boy potato? What’s that all about?

      • noen

        “Perhaps if women were socialized the way men were they would be more violent. But they aren’t.”

        But they are, which is my point. Men and women commit the same crimes. Perhaps not in the same numbers but there is no crime a man has done that a woman has not also done. Young women are just as competitive, vicious even, as boys are. They just go about it in different ways.

        ALL humans are like this. The idea that if we just raise boys to be better men all our problems will go away is absurd to the point of being delusional.

        • Meghan Murphy

          NO.They do NOT commit the same crimes. Check the stats, bud. What women have committed these mass shootings??? One in 30 years?? And women simply don’t rape like men do. It isn’t for ‘lack of opportunity’ — that makes no sense. It’s socialization, masculinity, and patriarchy.

          • noen

            “What women have committed these mass shootings??? One in 30 years?? And women simply don’t rape like men do.”

            True, they usually choose poison over guns to kill (mass murdering nurses is a whole category to itself) and you don’t need a penis to rape someone. But some tried to bring a little gender equality to the trade. Jennifer San Marco – Murdered seven people with a 9mm Smith & Wesson and 15 rounds of ammunition Jan 30th 2006. Had a history of mental illness and hyper racism which is also a form of mental illness imho. Aileen Wuornos mass murderer of 7 men in 1989-90 and a history of psychosis. Made the wild claim that all of her victims tried to rape her and that as a prostitute she had over 250,000 clients. I could go on and on. Women have been committing serial murder for as long as men.

            It’s people Meghan, people do bad things. Socialization isn’t going to save us. It’ll only divert the rivers of blood to fresh fields.

          • Meghan Murphy

            The article isn’t about whether or not ‘people’ do bad things. It’s about the connection between masculinity and mass shootings (and violence). Reading comprehension, please.

          • MLM

            You could go “on and on” could you? Funny but you seem to have cited the one very famous modern female serial killer who acted alone, and the one female mass shooter in the last 30 years. How many male white serial killers do you think most people could manage to name off the top of their head in the space of 30 seconds? And how many mass shootings perpetrated by white men/boys, even if they can’t name the assailants? If anything, your comment illustrates Meghan’s point that there isn’t actually any “gender equality” about these particular forms of violence, it doesn’t contradict it.

            And you know what else? The thing that most serial killers have in common – both male and …Aileen Wuornos – is a horrific childhood rife with abuse. Ergo, the way they were SOCIALISED affects their mindsets and behaviour! Go figure.

    • MLM

      Women also have the idea of “bad boy” as sexy and eroticised violence sold to them by everything from the magazines they buy, to the movies they watch, to the advertisements they happen to glance at in the street. Sometimes it’s through a subtle communication and sometimes through a completely overt one. “50 Shades of Grey” isn’t really an accidental success when women are culturally groomed to eroticise their own abuse. Violence isn’t “sexy”, and it very much needs to stop being portrayed as such.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Exactly! And this fantasy — this SOCIALIZATION — is to the detriment of women. I mean, how do we end up in relationships with violent, aggressive, and/or authoritative men? Part of it is out of necessity, of course, or perceived necessity, but I think another part is that we are taught that this is natural behaviour for men — it’s ‘manly’ — we are taught to be attracted to these kinds of qualities, even.

    • Rye


      Even though ~60% of women have more upper body strength than I do, I am not living in fear of women. The worst a woman has ever done to me is verbally humiliate me a little too publicly, although I deserved it. But I have been bullied plenty by other men.

      I haven’t seen it on Feminist Current, but I have seen radical feminist literature asserting that:
      1. Women eroticize submission to men
      2. Men eroticize dominance of women, as is obvious in a lot of porn
      3. Desire a world where sexuality occurs in the context of equality and mutual pleasure

      So, in a sense I don’t think radical feminism is inconsistent with the view that women have a preference for “bad boys.” I believe they would say that women are socialized to eroticize dominant men, and that this should change.

      Curiously… Why would you expect a woman to sleep with a man just because he’s been nice to her and holds her hand in the clinic? If he never asks her on a date and plays the part of her friend, then he has misrepresented his intentions and has only himself to blame.

      • noen

        “The worst a woman has ever done to me is verbally humiliate me a little too publicly, although I deserved it.”

        Fallacy of arguing from the particular to the universal. One cannot universal conclusions from your personal subjective experiences.

        “Why would you expect a woman to sleep with a man just because he’s been nice to her and holds her hand in the clinic?”

        I was simply pointing to the meme that is certainly out there that nice guys don’t get the girl. I used it as illustrative of the reality that men and women are conflicted. We want things we cannot have. We want things that are bad for us and the worse for us they the more we want them. It can go the other way too:

        “But you know, I’ve never been able to fall in love. I’ve never been able to find the perfect woman. There’s always something wrong. And then I met Doris. A wonderful woman. Great personality. But for some reason, I’m just not turned on sexually by her. Don’t ask me why. And then I met Rita. An animal. Nasty, mean, trouble. And I love going to bed with her. Though afterward I always wished that I was back with Doris. And then, I thought to myself, if only I could put Doris’s brain in Rita’s body. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? And I though, Why not? What the hell, I’m a surgeon. . . So, I performed the operation and everything went perfectly. I switched their personalities and I took all the badness and put it over there. And I made Rita into a warm, wonderful, charming, sexy, sweet, giving, mature woman. And then I fell in love with Doris.”

        If you take all the badness and put it over there you’ll come to regret it.

        • Lela

          Part of coming to a radical feminist awareness is consciously rejecting the ways in which we are socialized in patriarchy. A militaristic, patriarchal culture glorifies male violence, and then, of course, women are encouraged to eroticize it. But we can stop this process. There is nothing “essentialist” about pointing out social constructs and how they are reinforced. You said earlier: “Women rape, murder, torture and kill just like men do. They simply lack the opportunity under a male dominated society but given the chance women will be every bit as vicious as men.” This is a distortion. Women have plenty of “opportunities” to commit violence; by and large, we just don’t take them. I wouldn’t purport to know, or explain, why. Implicit in your statement is an admission that men set the standard for violent behaviour, and act in violence at a much higher rate than women, and why is that? What forces propel men, and women on a lesser scale, to consider violence as an option? That’s what this article addresses.

          Noen, who are you arguing with? Radical feminists don’t fetishize violence of any sort. You, like many MRA-types, seem to base your assumptions about women on false pop culture depictions of us, whereas women’s actual reality is a world apart. My advice to you; quit navel-gazing and harping about this idea that women won’t give you the sex you think you are rightfully owed as a man, take the time to really consider a feminist viewpoint, and start treating women like full human beings.

          That quote you just used made me feel a bit sick.

      • Grackle

        Rye, in regards to your last paragraph, noen is what is known as a “Nice Guy”. Note the capital letters, which indicate that he’s actually the opposite of a nice guy and is in fact a shitty person who believes that women owe him sex. In his comment you can see that like most Nice Guys, he is convinced that the reason he isn’t getting laid is that all women are too stupid to know what’s good for them and that the only men having sex are assholes. The irony, of course, is that if that WERE the truth, he’d be out having lots of sex instead of posting gripey, inaccurate comments on this website.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Ha! Seriously.

        • noen

          Mind reading over the internet is a pretty dubious pursuit. At least in person you have the possibility of getting the gender right, something you’ve failed to do, and by reading body language one can give a patina of credibility to your fictions but here, well, it’s just embarrassing isn’t it?

          To repeat, I think all humans are violent so if you want to solve the problem of violence, which you never will but if do you need to address it in general and for everyone. Humans need to feel they have power over their lives so probably the best way to reduce violence is to empower everyone to make their own decisions for themselves and for their own bodies. Education would also improve things immensely because it helps people to formulate alternate strategies rather than to fall back to violence as the default.

          Any solution then is going to be a human one. It will not be masculine or feminist. Though it may include aspects of both. Seems pretty uncontroversial to me but what do I know.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Did you even read the article? It sounds as though you’ve just invented an argument no one is having. This is what we call ‘trolling’.

          • Me

            I could be wrong, but I thought there was some substance to that potato argument. I couldn’t follow it through all the way though. He also mentioned these people, Rita and Doris, and I thought that was clue, but I can’t figure out which movie is it from. All that sweet money we’ll be swimming in once we figure this one out.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I’M SO CONFUSED!! Do I love Doris? Or Rita? WHERE IS ALL MY FEMINIST CHEDDAR??

  • just passing by

    I’ve heard the argument that any guy that violates a gun law should be neutered. That it would remove his testosterone and prevent a violent incident from happening in the future.

    • MLM

      I don’t think it has anything to do with testosterone, in all honesty. I think it’s about socialisation. The toxic culture that breeds this needs to change – tropes about masculinity, patriarchal entitlement etc. It isn’t just “being male” that makes these men do this, it happens in a cultural context,

  • Michael

    Hi. I’m going to say something here that might be a little strange but it’s been on my mind since I read the article and the comments.
    Crud. I’m not a writer but I’ll give it a shot. – I’m a white male. I was raised in rural Texas and indoctrinated in the masculine culture as a matter of course. I fought the local kids when I was a kid. I earned my first firearm when I was 7 years old and allowed to hunt on my own by 10. Showing pain or weakness was something I was taught to control and subsume so that it would never show on the surface, whether it was emotional or physical. I’ve been told many times due to my appearance and nature that I’m “the most masculine man” they know. No, I’m not bragging because I don’t take any pride in it. I’m an intimidating person, I’m told and have seen, but I find it to be irritating and have worked to lessen my mannerisms that cause those reactions. I joined the US Army and fought in Afghanistan. I killed others in many situations. I was shot, stabbed and blown across a roadside encampment at one point. I found that I have a natural propensity for violence and used it in service to my country.
    On the other hand, I had the gift of wonderful parents that taught me to never harm another man unless they posed a threat to me or those I cared for. To never raise a hand or my voice to a woman or child and to be prepared to lay down my life for the same. I was taught that men were made to help women as women help men and to give anything to improve the lives of my children. My reason for existence, as given to me, was to uplift those around me and to suffer the injuries and pains without flinching.
    So, to my point. I’ve read your articles, posts and comments and I see the things in myself that I’ve worked so hard to be, to be made out to be … monstrous … Men are violent. We ARE born that way. DNA explorations and sociological studies (although there always seem to be a study to refute each other study) have determined that the natural inclination and hormonal infusions during growth create this tendency. But we CAN control it. I do. I have. I always will.
    I don’t know what’s wrong with all these men and their displaced violence and I agree that it’s wrong but there is no way to separate men from violence. There shouldn’t be a way. It’s part of what we are. It’s not only a good thing but a needed thing. The issue I’ve seen is that young men aren’t being taught how to control themselves or how to not let aggression dictate their actions.
    Anyway, I’m done with my rambling. What I mean to say, is, don’t try to “fix” men … help raise them correctly.

    A lot of these posts made me feel like an outdated primordial creature and the scary thing is that I don’t know if they’re right or not.

    ~ Don’t be too harsh. I’m just being sincere.

    • marv

      You are dead wrong. Male aggression is not natural. It is a product of political engineering not biological design. Your arguments are harsh, vulgar and sexist. Similar ideological fundamentalism has been used to rationalize racism as in whites are destined to be superior to people of colour.

    • Me


      Try to understand that the people who comment here have arrived at their conclusions about masculinity through having tried and tried to live peacefully and harmoniously with men who, from your description, could be men like yourself. Many here have had men like that for spouses, fathers, grandfathers and brothers, and we’ve really tried our best to make things work and to trace the problems we in our lives have faced–and as a society face–down to their root causes. You suggest men controlling their violent tendencies as a solution. It may have worked for you and those close to you. For us, men controlling their violent tendencies has never worked. For us, it never has and I don’t think it ever will, by itself at least. For myself as a man, controlling my violent tendencies is of course important, because I don’t want to be intimidating to any women or children, but it’s not nearly all there is to it, and I don’t think “controlling my violent tendencies” is the right way frame this. I don’t think “controlling” is the right way to go about creating yourself into someone who is not intimidating, and who women and children can actually trust both physically and emotionally.

      Men who pen inside as much as you implied tend to be rigid and controlling outwards. It is exactly the same rigidity and controlling behavior outwards, that is what is required to keep things together inside. Combine that with the typical attitudes towards women as you’ve acknowledged, and you’ve got a huge mess. It isn’t simple to address. You said you’ve been told you’re an intimidating person, and personally, I would trust and value this perception of others as you seem to do also. When others find you intimidating, you probably don’t perceive yourself to be threatening, but others may sense that you have a great need to keep some things under control to keep yourself together. They may sense that more acutely than you do. They may sense that in some way you’re on the edge and that’s very scary especially from a big guy, even though you yourself feel you can handle it. To be sure, just because someone’s said you’ve seemed intimidating doesn’t mean you’ll act out violently, but I think it’s a good cue to look for help with that as if a worse thing had happened. That would be responsible and trustworthy and right, in my opinion. I recently quit my job as an aide to a teenage boy very much because of this: the boy’s father’s controlling and angry behavior that he saw no problems with. He was covering up an obvious depression by controlling everything, and immediately got angry when he had to be challenged for disrespecting others in doing so. Even though he was frightening, he insisted he had it under control, and he only became more angry if his anger wasn’t totally convincing to everyone that he was cool… :/ Because he could and because he was afraid of facing his fears, he made the home into a rigid and highly emotionally demanding place, something he chose instead of admitting a problem everyone was reacting to. Bear in mind that when it’s internal demons someone’s running away from and they don’t admit, others can’t appease them enough for you, and the controlling demands usually escalate the more others go along. I don’t think anyone thinks that impulse control is a bad thing, but I do think that male violence is more often about boundary violations that the men choose and think are acceptable, than about “losing control.” The father above was very clear what he would “lose control” over, so for him it was just a way of drawing a line that he wanted and others would not have without the threat. Ironically, he thought himself very capable of teaching others about respect. Actions speak louder than words.

      I know this is just an online comments section and I don’t presume to know much about you, but with that in mind, I remember I was the most convinced of myself being violent by nature (and generally bad and shameful) at the precise moment when I most needed help and convincing that I really wasn’t. I just wondered if you were there too. Sometimes, or fairly often actually, things happen that are too big to hold in our consciousness at once, so the things and their memories become fragmented, and we may literally talk around them for years, keeping them in a safe distance, to slowly build connections with our own experiences that are too raw otherwise. What you wrote about war sounds very severe, how could you cope with it? For myself, I read about sexual violence and trauma a lot before even thinking I was keeping anything from myself, or thinking that I was looking at something from my own past by looking at it in the lives of others. At one time I was very convinced of myself being born to be violent, and also hell-bent to oppose that supposed natural flaw in myself. That has turned out to be mostly fear and grief. I also had a huge need to help “save innocents.” I get this same sense from your comment, and these are not the stuff that good relationships can be built upon. They get in the way. At the time, I could not directly feel the hurt that I was feeling and could not afford to have empathy for myself, only for others, because to have any for myself was just way too big a thing to hold without falling apart. As a kid, I was most likely raped, but to have empathy for that instead of feeling myself shameful and violent by nature for it, I would have to remember it, which I couldn’t do. The shame and violence became “I am shameful and violent and was born to be like that”, so it was up to me to fight it like hell to keep the evil at bay and help “innocents”, which was also to help myself subconsciously. Not that the helping was bad, but it’s a whole different thing to look at it now from some distance. The memories are taking a long time to come, but they do come. At least I can now imagine myself at that age, which I couldn’t do before, and I can also feel myself there and feel the terror and let it come. I can imagine myself helping and consoling the boy in terror, which helps, so he can keep telling more of the story. To my mind, this runs along with “what is wrong with all these men and their displaced violence” as you put it. There are tons of us out there and we are often a problem. For me this is a basis for understanding these things. Maybe war trauma could be the same for you, both a personal and political tragedy, as these things always are, that could eventually become a gift to others. Listening to women’s experiences has helped me tremendously to gain perspective and understanding, because they really know what they’re talking about, and they don’t hate us even though some men would accuse that they do. I’ve also been able to be helpful to women in the now in ways that are not patronizing or reflections of my own issues.

      Not to make this all about personal psychology, entitlement is very real and is very important. Where there is entitlement, disrespect and no humility, there can be no progress, and likewise on the other side of that is where progress and help and helpfulness can be found. I certainly don’t think of myself as trying to “fix” myself or other men, or that I would insist on some psychological solution. This is probably more about attitudes than psychology, social structures of course too. I just try to be very down to earth about no double standards, no bullshit, respect all the way and carrying our own weight as men. I think a lot of men who demand “respect” are actually making women carry a lot of their weight, they just define it as weightless. Not that men don’t have weight for ourselves or can’t need help with it, adults aren’t supposed to think these things go either or. The father I mentioned above whom I quit helping the boy over would not take it for a week or even for one day to be emotionally available and supportive like he expects his wife to, his boy to and did expect myself to. That’s a burden that’s supposed to weigh nothing because women bear it day in and out, and that just doesn’t fly with me. I could only take it daily for six months, it was that heavy, and he never would accept a refusal to take it, never admitted he was pushing anything onto others or that there was anything to push, except by immediately getting angry and more pushy when anyone refused. In reality everything he says he’s endured over the years–which is true I have no reason to doubt that–is just a huge burden he keeps carrying with himself and making his family carry for him at the side. He’s not looking to let go. He thinks carrying the weight is not only what men do, but that it is how men are, and that’s what he’s teaching by example at home. He completely identifies being a man with being a burden–that is the reality of the home–while thinking himself superior for it, can you believe it. What to do, but call bullshit? That’s not how men have to be. Problem is, he’s controlling, benefits from the setup, and can’t be reasoned to see there’s anything there or he gets angry. When men refuse to be respectful, as in this case, that’s where the psychology starts, because we all start to go wtf? about it. It’s not for a lack of empathy, it’s for when normal empathy no longer works and gives results. The boy, I should say, was open to being helped, could accept empathy, and never made his helping a boundary violation for me unlike the father in this case. Though very importantly, the boy had also already learned to disrespect his mother.

      I’m glad that you’ve taken the time to read the article and the comments and that you wrote one yourself. Do keep reading. If you can get past the defensiveness, which may take time, there’re a lot of very good articles on this site.

      • marv

        What a touching and lovely comment, Me!

      • Michael

        Mr.Me, Thank you so much for your reply. Believe it or not, your comment has meant a great deal to me. Enough so that I’ve printed it and have it sitting beside my favorite chair so that I may peruse it as I sit here thinking. I wrote the original comment because I do sense something wrong/missing in myself and I’m curious as to what it is. I believe that, due to textual communication that some of what I meant and what I am was misconstrued but overall you are a very insightful and delightful person.

        I’m actually not a particularly large man. I stand at 6′-0″ and weigh 180 lbs. My nickname among my five brothers, of which I’m the middle child (a fun psychological indication of itself), is “Runt” because even my younger brothers are larger than I.

        My wounds sustained in combat were, luckily, not as life altering as they could be. I have a titanium/teflon left knee and a reconstructed left shoulder, various scars and a mild aversion to crowds and sudden loud noises. I’m told by the VA docs that I have only minor PTSD and seem to be balanced enough to not need treatment, but they also have a reputation of only wanting to deal with the roughest cases. I don’t seek sympathy. I’ve seen the others of my squad and I’m a lucky man.

        I want to redefine who I am. That’s why, after days of debating internally and talking with my fiance, I decided to write my comment. You see, I may be a sexist (?), old-fashioned, stubborn Texan, but I love her more than I can put into words and I don’t ever want to hurt her physically, emotionally or intellectually. She actually recommended that I speak to someone on here, not because anything I am bothers her, but because she can see that my self bothers myself. As far as women go, I was raised to be a gentleman and I am, I would never harm her for any conceivable reason. Actually, a couple of things in your response put a little fire in her eyes and I had to explain what I was trying to do here.

        First of all, I’m not arguing any points at all. I’m here to listen and to be guided. I’ve always been taught that women were my equal and being raised by a mean ol’ country woman (j/k) with five sons, that women are to be respected and admired, which I do. My mother has always run the home we grew up in and I always assumed that was correct. Not to say that my father didn’t have any input. He is just a quiet, kind, strong man and prefers to give advice. I really can’t even imagine Dad trying to control Mom. It makes me chuckle.

        What I was looking for was an area to focus on to improve my ability to let go of things and to be a complete person for this wonderful woman that I’ve been blessed with. I’ve become something of a hermit and feel out of place and awkward most of the time. After the response I initially received from my post I figured that I’d made a mistake but yours really touched me and made some sense to me. Although, I don’t see myself as repressed or rigid maybe it’s because I’ve become accustomed to it. Much of the “intimidating” comments are based on my appearance. I have dark eyes, somewhat natural scowl (inherited from my grandmother, I’m told), quiet demeanor, deep, rumbling voice and various other aspects. I truly hope I don’t give off an aura of violence.

        Anyway, I’m rambling and beginning to feel narcissistic. In summation, what should I work on to improve my capacity for interactions and empathy for women in general?

        Thank you for your response and know that your words are valued and treasured by both myself and my fiance.

        • Me


          Glad that my comment was helpful even though I may’ve misunderstood you a bit, and thank you for writing back.

          You’re asking a great question! It’s important that you’re looking to change and that you sound willing to listen to your fiance and follow her advice. But what could I say to a big question like that! Here go a couple of thoughts.

          I would make an effort to both work on myself on one hand, and to listen to women and read about their perspectives on the other. The two aren’t exactly the same and I think both are necessary for the kind of empathy and completeness you’re looking for. Men who work only on themselves can become increasingly preoccupied with their selves and with themselves as men, where they lose connection with the world women and others live in. But you should seek sympathy for yourself too, not so others can pity you, but so you can internalize the sympathy and come to appreciate yourself as well as others better as complete persons. That’s my opinion anyway.

          I hope you stick around and continue reading the posts that come up here. For working on yourself, one book that I found helpful and have recommended, is called The Healing Path, by Marc Ian Barasch. I think besides information, we need to feed ourselves what we might need to sprout and grow. I found reading that book helpful in terms of encouraging empathy for myself and courage to take the routes I need to take. It didn’t go overboard or veer badly off track into New Age nonsense, unlike the same author’s latest book, which I found intolerable 😉 It wasn’t pure “information and analysis” either, more like common sense with a bent on listening to where our “souls” want us. Anyway, it might be something worth looking into, it’s hard to tell what will touch another. Sites like Meghan’s here give good information and analysis from what I think is a very insightful and important perspective.

          Another thing to stress is that nobody recovers in isolation, or develops empathy for that matter. Respect your need to be by yourself and without “outside stress”, if that’s what company feels like for you, but don’t stay there too much. I have a poor tolerance for inauthentic company nowadays, which just comes with listening properly to myself and my reactions to fake people, so it’s a challenge at least for me. But authentic people are out there and you’ll find them. Keep “pushing toward life” is all I can say. I would recommend books by Martin Prechtel as well, Stealing Benefacio’s Roses for example, if they aren’t too wacky for you. Reading these, keep in mind to read as many or more women authors! From your saying that you sense something missing in yourself, and that you want to become a complete person for your fiance, it sounds like you’re being pulled in the right direction. Keep grounded that what you’re doing is right, but don’t be too hard on yourself when the progress is slow.

          Related to this isolation is the way men often isolate themselves with their issues by shutting that side out, or leaving just a part of ourselves to deal with it under the surface. You mentioned being a lucky man for suffering less severe wounds than others have, and I don’t doubt that you were lucky. But on the other hand, even though I haven’t been to war, I don’t think anyone in a war can be really lucky, can they? I don’t think I was lucky for not having it worse as a child, but I used to tell myself I was lucky like a mantra, and that kept the unfortunate side of it silent. Basically to say I was lucky was my conscious response to what my subconscious demanded that I address, going but what about… but what about… but what about… but I was lucky, until I learned to avoid immediately judging myself as having been lucky. It’s pretty powerful to hear my sister, who doesn’t share the exact same memories as I have, but doesn’t doubt mine, to say now that there was a lot there to be messed up by. That was two days ago and it will take time to sink in. What does it mean to be said that? The father I mentioned above, who I should say was a fairly normal and normally likable guy for the most part and may yet never have been physically violent with his family, also considered himself lucky for having arrived at car wrecks right after they’d happened and not having been involved in them. Likewise for medical emergencies. These had happened by chance, and he often talked about being lucky to be able to keep functioning and deal with badly injured, dead or dying people where others often could not, saying that luckily he had always been able to push his other reactions aside. This is a very sensitive man and what had happened, however often or however little relatively speaking, had obviously been traumatic and big to him. Yes, there had been value in that he’d been able to function, but it wasn’t like other people had not been there to help, or that he could necessarily make a difference. In this regard he was very hard on himself, like nobody other. Years or decades had usually passed since whatever thing had happened that he was telling about, yet he had not moved beyond the thought that he’d been lucky. No grief or sadness for example, or only very vaguely and indirectly, shrouded in some bigger telling of how lucky it had been that he’d been able to push things aside then. Sometimes lucky can cover up a lot that should perhaps be addressed.

          Hope that helps

          • Michael

            Mr. Me, Thank you for that wonderful advice and thoughtful response. You’re obviously a man that’s learned a lot from life. I admire your reasoned responses and ability to see clearly. This has also been added to my chair-side literature. Your comment was a very nice birthday present and I appreciate it deeply. I’ve also ordered “The Healing Path” and am looking forward to it. It takes forever to receive orders out here in the country. Maybe they won’t get lost this time 😉

            The messages you’ve left me on here have actually helped me more than the VA docs. I find that amazing. Thank you, again. I’ll be monitoring this site and learning as fast as I can. Say hi, sometime.

            ~Your friend, Michael

          • Me

            You’re welcome, friend 🙂

      • lizor

        Hi Me,

        When you write “I don’t want to be intimidating to any women or children”, and, “I don’t think “controlling” is the right way to go about creating yourself into someone who is not intimidating, and who women and children can actually trust both physically and emotionally”, I wonder why “women and children” are the defined category of people upon whom the effect of your behaviour requires consideration. Why not everyone? I can see and appreciate your consideration – honestly, but it does reiterate chivalry to an extent. Would not being non-threatening and emotionally trustworthy (as you are being with Michael) to other men not help to break the cycle of male emotional repression and violence?

        • Me

          Hi lizor,

          I mostly wrote it like that because I rightly or wrongly presumed it would be what Michael had in mind. But why I wrote it like that is a good question, and I don’t have an answer I’m satisfied with. You’re right in saying that it reiterates chivalry on my part, and some self or gender hatred that goes along with it. It’s a good question.

          I think it would’ve been very rare for other men to have found me intimidating, so mostly that’s not a concern and that’s a part of why I might put it like that. Men would not be intimidated except through my honesty, which I think is a different matter. Emotional trustworthiness isn’t straightforward either, because predictability can be more important than genuine trust, which can be too frightening to feel anyway. Women and girls, on the other hand, often have obviously wary reactions to men including myself, so I try not to impose myself.

          I know there’s sexism in my expectations that I learn to give up with experience. I try to be the same for everyone, and I do get better at it, but it really is difficult to have the same expectations for everyone. I’m sure for women it’s infuriating how much less seriously you get taken, and I’m sure I at least toed that line in my responses to Michael if I didn’t overstep it outright. I think the more I’d get hammered over the head with how women aren’t any less experienced and capable, the better. In trying to explain something to a man, I’m typically faced with the fact that they didn’t get the same message when it came from a woman just previous, but they might take it from you. It’s not always clear if you’re undermining women or not, and a lot of it, I think, seems to depend more on the men you’re communicating with than yourself. If they refuse respect and mutuality for women, I’m not sure when chivalry becomes the lesser evil, or if there can even be a rule?

          With that in mind, I feel that a kind of gender neutrality, so far as it’s possible, needs to be established again in every relationship, because every relationship has a different way of becoming distorted into a (further) gendered one, whether it’s between myself and other men or women. In my friendships with women, I’m much less likely to be a single parent (I’m not), for example, than my female friends, so for me to have any concrete expectations of a friendship sometimes seems like I’m expecting too much without understanding what it takes for them to have the energy to give back. In many ways I think the adult and mature thing to do would be to think more in terms of resistance than successful relationships under patriarchy, but that’s not easy or simple. Partly for fear and cowardice, partly because we need other people to be effective as well as stay human. That’s why I try to find opportunities to give people things such as thoughts, stories, attention, favors, what I produce or pictures of the animals, and create friendships at different depths that way depending on how they respond, not expecting too much in return. I don’t do that from a selfless position, because I do have a self that I like and that I am building further, but mostly because I think it works and creates good, working relationships that are good to have.

          When it comes to people, I wanted to mention that I daily and consciously work not to be intimidating to animals as well as the forest and the wild, who I’m sure are intimidated by my mind churning and my getting any “ideas” suddenly. In that I don’t know how much different either gender tends to be or if that’s a meaningful distinction at all. It’s always challenging in any case.

          It’s true though, that I don’t have the same basic empathy for men as I do for women and children. I don’t think it’s unfair that men would have to prove themselves first. I don’t make that impossible or very difficult. I don’t want relationships with men as much as I do with women and children, so there’s that too. The male point of view, the stories and the interests, for the most part, is completely uninteresting and boring to me. I have met men I’ve immediately taken a liking to, but they tend to be in some way “gender non-conforming” in their behavior, openness and honesty, more like people than men really. For some reason, in some way I liked Michael here immediately from his first comment, the one I didn’t agree with. Hi Michael! 😉 Sometimes with men it seems best to be both threatening and emotionally trustworthy, even in these online discussions, and a waste of time and an invitation for hurt and even more difficulties in drawing boundaries down the line to try to be both emotionally trustworthy and non-threatening as I did here. I’m not sure how that’s different from trying to confront a woman about her behavior, like a land owner intent on clear cutting her owned land, but in these everyday interactions or how to call these, there is not nearly the same need to confront women about their behavior as there is to confront men. In confronting a woman I would have to be conscious of not being threatening because of my gender and sex.

          I don’t really believe that acting in a non-threatening and emotionally trustworthy way to other men usually works in being understood as non-threatening and emotionally trustworthy. Often the best way to be non-threatening to other men is to fit into the hierarchy in a way everyone understands. Establish that you can keep your distance. Show you’re a misogynist and for crying out loud at least don’t criticize misogyny! Or if you do, be sure you have the presence and the situational awareness to be able to rise above everyone and make it about respect, because you’re a fool if you think you can usually make it about genuine empathy for women. Men don’t take well to (the fear of) not knowing exactly who’s in charge. I think that for most men, there is no way to change in their lifetimes. There is no will, there is no way. Breaking the cycle, I think, depends on allowing children of both sexes to grow up in an environment without the levels and patterns of fear and violence that we have.

          Sorry for the long comment. I’m not sure if the connections I’m making are valid or if they’re irrelevant and more like an evasion, but I didn’t intend it that way.


    • lizor

      “I’m a white male. I was raised in rural Texas and indoctrinated in the masculine culture as a matter of course. I fought the local kids when I was a kid. I earned my first firearm when I was 7 years old and allowed to hunt on my own by 10. Showing pain or weakness was something I was taught to control and subsume so that it would never show on the surface, whether it was emotional or physical. I’ve been told many times due to my appearance and nature that I’m “the most masculine man” they know. ”

      Imagine someone else wrote this account of indoctrination into masculinity and then asserted “Men are violent. We ARE born that way”

      Can you see how this statement does not work? Can you see how impossible it is to know what innate characteristic you may or may not have when you’ve been formed into forming that [caustic, destructive] aspect of your character.

      You had the ball and then you dropped it. Keep your focus on cultural indoctrination. Calling on “nature” for stuff that one needs to take responsibility for (in order to maintain personal integrity) is a cop out.

      • Michael

        First of all, I find nothing caustic or destructive in my nature or the way I was raised. You seem not to understand that nature and genetics is just as strong a force in our lives as our societal mandates and various types of indoctrinations. When you’ve done a basic amount of research into anthropology you’ll find that males of many mammalian species are naturally and innately aggressive and protective. Instead of seeing this as a something to dislike, try to appreciate it as a remainder of the times when the survival of our species depended upon such things. No, we shouldn’t need it in today’s world but it’s there, nonetheless. No amount of arguing will ever make it go away and one of the worst things that people do is to make men feel guilty about feeling that way. Notice I said “feeling”. Acting upon it is the faulty way.

        So, as you see, this statement DOES work and is in no way a “cop-out”. I still have the ball .. you just lost sight of it.

        Sorry, Me .. I just can’t believe how needlessly aggressive some people are when they could peacefully and respectfully discuss something.

        • Me

          “No amount of arguing will ever make it go away and one of the worst things that people do is to make men feel guilty about feeling that way.”

          This is the classic “men worry women will laugh at them, women worry men will kill them.” It’s laughable and incredibly disrespectful. Don’t hold on to that.

          • Michael

            It has nothing to do with fear of others reactions. It has to do with accepting natural emotions and not having others condemn you for being who you are.

            It’s neither laughable nor disrespectful.

          • Me

            So are you basically saying that we can’t talk about characteristics of men and masculinity that go hand in hand with male violence, or if (and when) we do, that somehow is literally “one of the worst things people do”?


            That violence is gendered and men commit the vast majority of it is obvious. Pointing that out or discussing the reasons behind it, even aggressively, comes nowhere near to committing an act of violence.

            It’s not news to anyone here that men typically have a paranoid fear of emotional hurt and of being ridiculed *as men* as if that would kill us. No. That’s what separates us from our humanity. Men often react to these paranoid fears with violent threats and by trying to get even for completely imaginary slights. It’s disgusting in the extreme to suggest that we are somehow not in acceptance of men’s natural emotions and that we are simply trying to condemn men for “being who they are.”

            See this talk for yet another man making the same points:

    • Me

      Hi Michael,

      I was just wondering how you’re doing and if you’re alright? Sorry about getting into a fight above, my bad. I’m still here if you want to talk.


      • Michael


        I’m doing great. The fiancee has me clearing trees from our new place and making it generally acceptable for the kiddo and that keeps me pretty busy. We’ve set an official wedding date for May 1st so we’re trying to get all of that sorted out, too. She works for NASA and the supply launches have been keeping her hopping and my job hasn’t been much more lax. Really, time is just flying by and I feel like I’m moving my fastest to stay in place, but it’s a good thing, too.

        How’ve you been?

        • Me

          So glad to hear you’re doing so well. It’s good to have a good thing to chase and it sounds like you both have something going. I think of Buck Brannaman’s lessons with horses a lot. Good guidance overall. Good luck with it to both of you!

          It’s been a bit mixed for me, but that’s life. Trying to keep the important things at the center, trying to remember how to live and farm beautifully, to remember even more. I met someone I really liked, but unfortunately on opening up she found depression she’s got to deal with for herself. Maybe she’ll meet me ahead somewhere, can’t tell, have to keep moving forward. It was so good courting/flirting. Never got to show my affection to someone by running before, but she challenged me and did we run. I’m just a bit faster, enough to want to figure out how to lose without it showing 😉 Wrestling too. Tripped her once from a standing position, never had a chance on the ground 😀 Good times. Thanks for asking and take care!

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  • GenuinelyConfused

    Just one thought. If this is a male problem, then why are mass shootings more or less exclusively an American problem?

    Isn’t it possible its more likely to be a problem with the American mindset rather than the male mindset? Sure I understand men on the whole are more violent. But if what you’re saying is true then mass murder would be a global problem. But it just isn’t. Yes it happens, not denying that at all. But anywhere outside of America it’s incredibly rare.

    Being from the UK we get news from around the world. To us it seems like there’s a mass shooting almost every week. This can’t be entirely because they are men?

    • marv

      Racism is diverse too. The Klan’s lynchings are not the same as apartheid but both were grounded in white supremacy. The Holocaust took place in Germany but anti-Semitism exists in many other countries in different ways.

      Male dominance is universal but it takes locally common and specific forms. Systemic battering, rape and harassment of women are prevalent nearly everywhere as well as male majorities in governments. On the other hand there are countries who legalize porn and prostitution and those who don’t. The same holds true for girl infanticide, girl child marriage and dowry.

      Look around in the USA. It has the highest gun ownership rate in the world. Which gender is overwhelmingly pulling the trigger?


    • polarcontrol

      “more or less exclusively an American problem”?



    • lizor

      No one said it was “entirely because they are men”. No one proposed that this was separate from cultural context. Your point is counter to nothing. As Marv has pointed out, male violence takes various forms in various cultural locations. It’s still violence perpetrated by men.

      • Mar Iguana

        Every time I think men have gone around the bend, they find an even more disgusting bend to go around.

        Yesterday I watched a three-part video, Damsels In Distress, by Anita Sarkeesian about woman-loathing, disgusting video games boys/men play, because of the “Gamergate” thing. Oh. My. Fucking. Gawd. I’d heard about the misogyny and violence in these games, like Grand Theft Auto, but I had no idea how vile they really are. You can watch on http://www.feministfrequency.com/

        The raw woman-hatred being spewed in these “games” is literally horrifying. Then, “they” just can’t understand why men/boys are nutting up all over the place out there with the school shootings and mass killings, etc. And, “they” say that all the violence in movies and video games really doesn’t make these guys more violent or misogynist. Good grief.

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