What creates a mass shooter? It might be the conditioning of men.
When you combine feelings of resentment with the societal praise of leaving one's mark, it forms a lethal cocktail.
Michael Kaufman, PhD, is the co-founder of the White Ribbon Campaign, the largest effort in the world of men working to end violence against women. As a writer and speaker, he has worked across America and in almost 50 countries, including extensively with the United Nations, numerous governments, NGOs, and businesses. He is the author or editor of eight books on gender issues, on democracy and development studies, including The Guy's Guide to Feminism, Theorizing Masculinities, and most recently,
The Time Has Come: Why Men Must Join the Gender Equality Revolution.
MICHAEL KAUFMAN: The common characteristic-- whether it's a shooting based on homophobia, whether it's based on right wing terrorism, whether it's based on just some disgruntled young person or old, not so young person-- there's a common denominator. And the common denominator, these are men doing the shooting. And can you imagine if these shootings were being done by women? There'd be this national conversation on what's happening with women now. Why are women doing these things? But we almost take it for granted that, oh, well, it's just men. It's just boys. It's this almost like the sickest version of "boys will be boys." And so we've got to look at all the issues that we look at. We've got to look at issues around gun control. We've got to look at issues around mental health. We've got to look at substance -- I mean, whatever it might be, racism. But we also have to look at issues around masculinity. If you've learned from birth that you will have power as a man, you will be in control, so two things happen with that: One is you learn to exercise power in certain circumstances. You learn how to fight. You learn how to act on aggressive impulses. And so, on the one hand, that can lead to forms of men's violence, using violence, using aggression to get your way or to make your statement or whatever it might be. But it's also the paradox. Because these are men, by and large, doing this who feel disenfranchised, who feel unentitled, who feel put down. Now maybe all those things are an illusion, and may well be. But at the same time, we can see this paradox within their lives, that at the same time this carrying around power, this power to kill, they also feel enormous fear and loneliness and isolation. And it's coming out in the most horrendous way. It's not coming out in them asking for help. It's not coming out with them going to a friend or a parent and saying, "I'm so sad. I'm so scared. I'm so hurt. I'm so alienated. Can you give me a hug?" It doesn't come out with them going to get, to seek help from a doctor or a therapist. It's coming out in the form of rage and hostility, the very things that we've celebrated in men's lives. I'm not saying we've celebrated murder. But we certainly celebrate that ability to take action, to do something, to leave your stamp on things, to have your way, to be in charge, to get ahead. We celebrate those things. And what happens is when you combine that with these deep feelings of resentment, of anger, they can form of really lethal cocktail. And we're seeing that more and more.
- The common characteristic of mass shootings in America is that they are being perpetrated by men.
- Masculinity, in the modern day, still entails that men fight and act on their aggressive impulses.
- When men, who are taught to "leave their mark," experience isolation and loneliness, they often leave their stamp on horrendous atrocities.
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