For the past year I’ve shied away from controversial topics on this blog and I try to stick with things that are informative and general tomfoolery. I’m not afraid to talk about them, but sometimes I just feel too exhausted after explaining the same thing over and over again to people who only want to argue.
But with what has happened in Oregon and 294 other times this year, I do feel like I need to speak my mind. I wrote about this last summer when the Santa Barbara shooting happened, so if this seems familiar you are not crazy. I have learned a lot since then so this is kind of a development on that.
To be clear: I’m not here to tell anyone how to live and I’m not criticizing any of my friends who own guns.
I’ve studied feminist theory for three years now and here are three relevant conclusions that I have:
Masculinity and femininity are just names for certain characteristics. We’ve attached these characteristics to gender and that is stupid because every human is fully capable of having any mix of these characteristics. Humans, regardless of their junk, can be assertive, nurturing, whatever. The problem is that by associating these characteristics to sex and gender is that the characteristics become an expectation of the gender, not of the individual. And those expectations have negative consequences which leads to the next conclusion-
The expectations that men/women act masculine/feminine create the need for individuals to constantly reaffirm themselves according to their gender expression. Both men and women can affirm themselves in either masc.or fem. but within a society that values masculinity more than femininity, people are more inclined to assert their masculinity.This does not happen often in femininity because femininity itself is passive. Women who constantly reaffirm themselves in femininity don’t cause problems for people except themselves. Men are discouraged from accessing femininity (“don’t be a pussy”, “act like a man”, etc) and replace their capacity for femininity with masculinity (the “hypermasculine”) Masculinity is different because it’s active and aggressive and often destructive. When men constantly need to reaffirm their masculinity they are more likely to become violent. Example: in a 2012 study, men were split into two groups. One group was asked to braid a rope, the other was asked to braid a woman’s hair. Afterwards the groups were given the opportunity to punch a bag. The men who had braided the women’s hair (the feminine option) reported wanting the punch the bag more, and punched it harder than the men who had braided the rope. I encourage you all to read the study because it’s very interesting. but the conclusion was that men feel the need to earn their status and do so using aggression and violence. Obviously, not all men are violent or constantly trying to reaffirm their status. People are happiest when living in a balance of both masculinity and femininity. Humanity was built for balance, society has created an imbalance wherein masc. is coded as power and fem.is coded as weakness and this is where the problems start.
Masculinity = power is the worst thing for everyone. Men become so afraid of looking weak that they act out to try and garner power. And although this post will be primarily about violence, it’s important to acknowledge the other ways that hypermasculinity is harmful. Examples:
-Hundreds of transwomen being murdered by men who felt that protecting their masculinity was more important than a woman’s life. Transphobia in general.
-Homophobia, misogyny, all of the isms.
-How young girls are happily encouraged to do “masculine” activities yet young boys are discouraged from “feminine” activities. Also how it’s considered really cute to give a baby girl a traditionally male name but if parents name their baby boy with a traditionally female name they are criticized.
-Women being discouraged from the military, riskier jobs, STEM fields, etc because they are assumed to be too weak or otherwise unable to perform to the same ability as men.
-Custody cases where custody is automatically granted to the mother, regardless of ability or who is better suited. Unequal maternity/paternity leave. The assumption that men are not/ cannot be good caretakers.
I could go on because the inequalities are endless but the point is there.
What do these points have to do with mass shootings? Everything. While each individual shooter may have had their own motives, the common factor is that they all used violence to terrorize and kill and to try and have an impact. The other common factor is that mass shooters are usually all white males aged 18-28.
Why is this particular demographic inclined to violence? My guess is that this generation has grown up in a time that has emphasized the importance of being “the best.” Our generation has always faced a lot of pressure to make ourselves stand out as individuals, whether it’s in academics, sports, performing arts, what have you. Mediocrity is not accepted and feelings of inadequacy are inevitable. Another trend among mass shooters is that, most of the time, they are loners and use anti-depressants.
Toxic masculinity discourages men from being emotional and sharing emotional bonds with others. I would guess that feelings of inadequacy, depression, and feeling like you can’t talk to anyone about it could have a deeply negative impact on a person who feels that they need to prove something.
Another big factor is the idea of entitlement, or that people deserve certain things by rights of their existence. Toxic masculinity gives us the idea that men are entitled to certain things by rights of being born male. Entitlement to women, to success, whatever. Anyone who has had to work for their success knows that it’s not easy and that it definitely is something to be earned, but the idea of entitlement makes some people believe that they can have these things just because they want it. So when they don’t get what they feel they deserve, they try to fill that void by acting out. As the most privileged demographic (in this case, the demographic that faces the least adversity) white men are the most entitled and therefore the most likely to have a negative reaction when they do not receive what they believe they are entitled to.
With or without guns, the problem is that there is a huge group of people who are struggling to meet unrealistic standards of masculinity and subsequently become violent to reaffirm what is not there. The problem is societal and in order to create lasting change the solution is to change how our society works. It’s already happening also: McDonalds and Target stopped sorting their toys according to gender. And some people were pissed (because apparently they don’t know how to choose toys on their own?) but overall the response has been positive. The goal should be to allow people to find their own balance between masculinity and femininity- a much more natural approach to humanity rather than telling people to act according to their pantspiece. Let’s end the battle of the sexes and focus on the individuals. Instead of being terrified of mediocrity, let people find out on their own what they are best at.