Toxic Masculinity isn’t Responsible for Mass Shootings.


It IS responsible for a great many other awful things, but when a young, angry, white kid gets a gun and decides to end lives, it’s not due to age old standards of masculinity. Mass shootings have arisen in recent decades not as the death knell of old paradigms of manhood but as a symptom of a well-meaning but over reaching dismantling of masculinity.

Feminism has been in full swing for decades. That’s a wonderful thing for women as well as men. Programs exist all over the country teaching men to be respectful and to handle emotions in healthier ways. These programs have overall proven successful. Men are more likely now to seek treatment for mental health. They are more likely to report abuse. They are more likely to be stay-at-home dads. There is a hell of a lot more work to do, especially in areas like deadbeat dads and sexual harassment/assault but overall we are making progress.

If these programs exist and seem to help, we would expect the incidence of school shooting to drop if it were really an issue of toxic masculinity, but overall it has increased in recent decades. An article on Scientific American reads:

“A recent study published by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center shows that the frequency of mass shooting is increasing over time. The researchers measured the increase by calculating the time between the occurrence of mass shootings. According to the research, the days separating mass shooting occurrence went from on average 200 days during the period of 1983 to 2011 to 64 days since 2011.

What is most alarming with mass shootings is the fact that this increasing trend is moving in the opposite direction of overall intentional homicide rates in the US, which decreased by almost 50% since 1993 and in Europe where intentional homicides decreased by 40% between 2003 and 2013.”

Toxic masculinity does not breed school shooters. Toxic masculinity has been around for all of human history, this breed of violence is new — or at least newly prevalent.

Obviously, there is no escape that poisonous ideals of masculinity are a factor in the men choosing violence as the final outburst.

Although the grand majority, when at the end of the rope, choose suicide without violence against others.

The lack of female shooters is glaring. Mans propensity for violence is undeniable. However it is the ability to check that fact of biology that has faded in recent decades.

Put another way, toxic masculinity may weigh heavily in the final act, but it is not the impetus that drives these people to such extremes. Men as a whole are struggling in almost every arena and the struggle is new.

Still the attitude persist that is is age old problems of masculinity that are to blame.

One writer says “In many of these mass shootings, the desire to kill seems to be driven by a catastrophic sense of male entitlement”.

The argument goes like this. These boys and men wanted something and couldn’t have it. Whether it was the losing vote of an extreme ideologue, or the bitter rejection of the “incels”, these men wanted something and were rejected, and so they turned violent. The sense of entitlement turned catastrophic indeed.

It’s not a bad argument. In fact, I agree with it as a description. These individuals are certainly people that are mad that they aren’t getting their way. But lets rob it of its buzz words and rephrase it.

In many of these mass shootings, the desire to kill is driven by boys who are mad that they are or are not receiving something

It’s not inaccurate, it’s simply mundane.

You could say the same thing about just every act of violence ever committed. Hell, every crime or immoral action in the history of mankind can pretty much come down to either someone not getting their way, or an accident.

These tend to be middle class, straight, white boys. In terms of social status, they’ve won the genetic lottery.

Are we really willing to say that they are just so well-off that they can’t handle it and go on a killing spree when rejected? Doesn’t that defy sense and logic? Wouldn’t it make more sense for minorities and other underprivileged males to commit more shootings if it were a matter of male rejection?

When you make the test easier for certain kids, you expect fewer to fail, not more. The test is easiest for these kids, so why are they the ones becoming shooters?
Toxic masculinity pervades every social class, in fact it pervades the  disadvantaged the most. It simply can not explain shooters.

It’s too old

These shooters are just too new.

Society didn’t teach these kids to shoot up schools. A white middle class upbringing is all too aware of toxic masculinity. That genetic lottery comes with a pretty decent education.

They are not entitled. They are frustrated – albeit to a catastrophic and monstrous degree. You don’t earn a damn thing by shooting people, and these shooting overwhelmingly end in suicide.

They are often the victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse. Broken homes beget broken homes.

While mental illness does not have a causal link to violence. Mass shooters usually show signs of mental illness –often untreated.

Importantly, what they have more than other socio-economic classes, other races and identities is a front row seat in the new paradigms of masculinity.

We must confront the fact that somehow these people have been hobbled in a way that is relatively new. That as a society we have not equipped them with the tools to deal with struggle, loss and rejection.

That maybe, while we attempted to educate away the toxic aspects of our former selves, we also wiped away more than we intended.

A society that for so long demanded that men ask the first date, and that men make the first move; a culture that venerates the idea of a man down on one knee for his lovers hand in marriage, can not pretend that the ability to face rejection with grace was ever not a masculine trait.

We can’t pretend as a society that tells women to never be invalidated, that men must feel validated simply by virtue of being a man.

When an entire gender is plagued by rising suicides and violence and failing standards, we can’t shrug our shoulders and say it’s because they are “entitled”.

We taught away emotional numbness but took out resilience too, and then we called them both the same and both toxic.

Hyper-masculinity has always been tied up with violence and rightly so, but to say that is has given rise to this phenomenon is incorrect.

In all likelihood, we are experiencing a side-effect of an unrefined treatment. The chemo is taking out some vital organs.

We teach them to express, but not to cope.

To be respectful, but not how to handle bullying

To be a gentleman, but not how take rejection

We have demonized the nurturing of men by men.

Because we don’t recognize it for what it is.


It’s time to take a closer look at just what we want to leave behind.

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