In between Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, came Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore, and a growing line-up of men, exposed for sexually assaulting or sexually harassing women. What connects the shooters and the assaulters is men’s entitlement, men exerting power over others. It’s time to examine the connection between the shooters’ poisonous masculinity and the Weinstein-Moore crowd’s variety.
With these chilling behaviors in mind, men have an opportunity to look within, to be accountable for our own behavior. Congress and the media may not be ready to see gender as key to the gun debate, but thanks to the brave women in the #MeToo campatign, they and others are waking up to the truth about powerful men and sexual assault.
This is a moment both for men to engage in critical self-examination and to sit together with other men, talking honestly, openly, holding each other accountable.
Mass shooters see guns as the way to make them feel powerful. Sexual assaulters see harassment, groping, and rape the same way. Men can do better; uniting to reject both definitions, instead redefining power as collaborating with others, not exerting it over them.
This is a really good piece about mass shootings and their relationship to Toxic Masculinity:
As I sat over the past few weeks in the US south watching people defend gun ownership in the face of two huge mass shootings one after the other, I thought a lot about this. What is it that makes this happen?
Yes, I think that a lack of sensible gun control plays a part, but it is not the complete solution. Other countries allow guns (maybe not quite as many or as freely as the US) but have much less of a problem with gun related homicide. Yes, there’s a mental health issue as well, but that also doesn’t seem to be the whole story.
I keep coming back to the male cultural narrative – at least in the west and especially in the US. As it says in the article, it is about power. But it is also about self control. According to the narrative, a man can be made so angry by someone’s words alone that he can hit someone. No threats required, just an insult or a bit of disrespect is all it takes to get some degree of beating from a man whether you know them or not. This is common enough that I have heard it and even once, at age 13, believed and acted upon it, punching a kid behind me in gym who was insulting my intelligence.
The same narrative says that if a man’s life is hard enough, or messed up enough, or they care enough about a cause, they can be pushed to a point where the traditional response is mass killing. I literally just took an online training for work about what to do when there’s an active shooter in the workplace. (How messed up is it that we live in a world where this is even considered necessary?) One of the signs to watch out for as a sign of a coworker that is about to snap and potentially shoot up the building was that the men get really emotional and talk more and more about personal problems.
But it’s not just limited to physical assault. Because, of course, there’s also the “she dressed/talked/acted in such a way that invited sexual assault” narrative.
These are dangerous narratives as they all imply that violence is outside of the perpetrator’s control. Say the wrong thing, wear the wrong outfit, look at someone the wrong way and you’re now a target. This is bad for the victim, of course, but until we address it with the people actually committing the violence, we can’t effectively work against it.
We talk all the time about the power of personal narrative. If we want to be successful, we need to cut down on negative self talk. If we want to accomplish something big, we need to tell ourselves that it is possible. This is absolutely true. I’ve experienced it and know many who have as well. I’d say the majority of folks reading this can say the same thing.
The same is true for these negative cultural narratives. Our books, movies, and especially the casual stories we tell each other are filled with stories of the good man who is pushed too far. If we all think of ourselves as the protagonist in our own movie, and many of the scripts we have read have this trope, it is unsurprising that some believe the narrative enough that they’re watching for that pivotal moment when they can’t take anymore – and they follow the rest of the script that they know.
In the end it is a really bad portrayal of the potential of men that all of society is currently paying for. We are not so lacking in control that the desire for perceived revenge, justice or satisfying our idea of love or lust is uncontrollable and unstoppable. We can do better and we need to expect more of ourselves, our brothers, our sons, and our peers and it starts with calling BS on these stories we tell ourselves.