Manhood, Guns, Mass Murders, and Insanity

When you lose your identity, it’s called insanity. And for some men, manhood is their identity.

Male stereotypes are harmful. They are so harmful, in fact, because they are an actual question of identity. The idea, first, that someone says you *have* to be a man. And do so you have to be strong and brave, the provider and the savior. But you have to love beer and sports and sex. And nothing else. Not even pilates. And then, more harmful still, is the idea that somehow your manhood can be taken away from you. That it wasn’t yours all along.
Of course that’s stupid. Of course that’s not really true. It’s so not true, it’s absurd.
But what if your manhood *could* be taken away from you. “Revoked”, as it were.
When you don’t own your own identity…isn’t that the definition of insanity?
And what if the ONLY way to get that manhood back was to get a gun, as Noah Brand so brilliantly argued in his post “Bushmaster Rifles has been running the most evil ads I’ve ever seen.”
***

 

Almost all of the mass murders of the last few decades were by men.

And in many cases, the final catalyst was that the mass murderer was somehow humiliated before going on the spree:
They lost their job.
They were bullied.
Their girlfriend left them.
In other words — someone revoked their man card.
Now, look at the solutions that people are talking about to help stop the massacres:
1) Gun control
2) Better treatment for mental illnesses
3) Coming to an understanding about why the murders were all by men.
Don’t you see? Don’t you see how they are all connected?
***
We started The Good Men Project to talk about just such a thing. The way that manhood intersects with all other issues.
We have to keep talking.
***

Read:

Noah Brand on  “Bushmaster Rifles has been running the most evil ads I’ve ever seen.”

Lisa Hickey “Silence”

Photo: MikeBaird / flickr

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About Lisa Hickey

Lisa Hickey is CEO of Good Men Media Inc. and publisher of the Good Men Project. "I like to create things that capture the imagination of the general public and become part of the popular culture for years to come." Connect with her on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Jean Brandt says:

    This is the problem in a nutshell. The violence begins when a man’s identity is erased, and the only way he feels he can get it back is by reinforcing the negative stereotype: that only men can kill. We need to stop the violence of making a man rely on his identity from something outside himself.

  2. Lisa I have great respect for you – but this is way over any reasonable or rational mark:

    Manhood, Guns, Mass Murders, and Insanity First, if you go out of the present events and the media driven frenzies, you see a very different image. Mass murder in the family is an American event and so many women are doing it.

    The use of the word insane is to me highly disturbing and offensive to so many and as a Disability Rights Champion I am less than amused. I will draw attention to your own insanity and remind you of how your language condemns you in so many ways.

    1) We admitted we were powerless – that our lives had become unmanageable.
    2) Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

    Time to do the hard work! That’s where your standing right now.

    • As a friend and relative of many people with mental illnesses, I think it’s important not to further stigmatize people who are struggling with disabilities through no fault of their own.

      There’s a difference, though, between saying, “These violent acts are a sign of mental illness,” and, “Mentally ill people are violent.” It’s unfortunate that people are so prejudiced against the mentally ill, and unfair that all mentally ill people, most of whom are no more violent than anyone else, get tarred with the same brush as the few that act out in violent way. But we shouldn’t let that stop us from talking about the fact when a mentally ill person is inclined towards violence, our health care system does little to prevent them from hurting themselves and others. Only a few mentally ill people are dangerous, but all it takes is a few.

      The goals of increasing respect and tolerance of the mentally ill and preventing acts of violence by mentally ill people go hand in hand. The less our society stigmatizes mental illness, the easier it will be for people to get treatment. And the more people that get treatment, the fewer that will commit acts of violence.

    • Like many words in the English language, the word ‘insane’ has more than one use.

      • … and as with all communication words occur in context – the situational – the public – and the personal. The argument that a word has many contexts is a very Straw Person!

      • Lisa Hickey says:

        That’s where I’m netting out. I agree it’s important to treat it as a health issue. I happen to think “preventative mental health” would do worlds of good, just like we try to keep physically healthy. Where are the gyms for your mind?

        But insanity — sorry if I’m not by-the-rulebook correct, but anyone who picks up a gun with the intention of shooting a kindergardener is insane from that moment on, even if they weren’t clinically insane before then.

        • That is the sort of logic and language which drives the view of Sexual Assault Is Sexual Assault and anyone who does not agree is a Victim Blamer. Nuance vanishes when Mr Rational Checks Out and walks away.

  3. This post-modern society of “enlightened baby-boomers’ ” children and grandchildren are rarely trained in acceptance, tolerance and non-violent existence. As far as the parents are concerned, as long as the NFL is on cable, budwieser is cold and the remonte has a good battery, all is well.

    Joey Slackjaw can even be a highly educated, six-figure earner — most that I know are such — and they are quite confortable dropping into the readily accepted elements of “manhood.”

    In my case, I was very much like the character played by Corey Haim in Lucas. I’d rather sail by myself, explored forest biology alone, and never liked being around people. I guess that makes me a lot like what you all imagine Adam Lanza to be.

    In fact, my love of playing baseball was not recognized because of my reputation as “not being normal cuz he doesn’t like football” — Code for Not a Real Boy.

    We create our own personas that don’t fit into a neatly defined, broadly accepted category. I prefer to be labeled “individual” rather than categorized as a freak…cuz freaks are not good for much and are readily tortured…as in “The Nazi Soldiers did not see the jews as the slightest-bit human.”

    Though I was an Olympic-grade marksman, champion. sailor, and fearless in wilderness so deep the game wardens would not tread, my lack of the slightest interest in Football, Hockey or Basketball defined me.

    People can’t generally handle, or chose not to tollerate contrasts of values. The most heavily self-deemed tolerant, enlightened people can be vicious in their rejection and vilification of contrasting persona. To expect parents and other adults, whom are well entrenched in the flat-panel world of remotes and beer, to train children well is foolish. The children they raise are similarly monolithic and unable to relate to the freak.

    The identification of the non-man is completed at the earliest stages of life. I’ve even heard fathers of infants discuss the “size of his dick” as a lead-indicator for his new son’s Man validity.

    I would not worry too much about trying to change it. Human nature is natural. It is enduring and will never change. We think it changes as TVs become bigger. Egos inflate with false fortune, but in the end, we are exactly the same as the men of the 1800s.

  4. Most mass murders are the tragic result of untreated mental illness + easy access to guns. I hesitate to bring concepts of “manhood” into the debate. There are incidents of course where someone (often though not always a man) gets dumped by his girlfriend or loses his job and he comes in and shoots up the workplace or something like that. Those are revenge killings motivated by anger at particular individuals or co-workers (though innocent bystanders may be killed as well). Maybe you could say that the perpetrator reacted violently to a loss of his sense of manhood in those cases. But often the perpetrators who shoot random strangers are suffering from a profound mental illness. Their motives are bizarre and idiosyncratic, even delusional.

    • Most mass murders are the tragic result of untreated mental illness + easy access to guns.

      Are they? One simple flaw in the thesis is that so often the person shooting is dead and any assessment of mental health Post Mortem is highly questionable – if not impossible.

      Unless there is Autopsy proof of abnormal brain structure or Brain chemistry – making up factoids such at your chosen one is very very bad and not a good way to think!

      Why is it that people doubt Psychiatry so much, unless it’s Forensic Psychiatry about a corpse?

  5. Let’s not “silence” discussion of how almost all of the mass murders of the last few decades were by men.

    • Incorrect. The real mass murderers are nation states and the US leads the way in this regard. It is currently the world’s foremost terrorist organisation.

    • To the rest of us: Unless the GMP is willing to show some major change (replace Matlack, ban MRAs, don’t publish pieces by admitted serial rapists), let’s avoid reading them. Let’s avoid reading anyone who cross-promotes with them. Let’s avoid reading their writers on any other websites. If they want to be MRA-ville, more power to ‘em. But they don’t get the cover of feminism or progressivism anymore.

      http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2012/12/12/inside-baseball-with-feministe-and-the-good-men-project/

      why are you breaking your boycott(how many boycotts is that now) of gmp and giving them clicks?

      • I note – not for any particular reason (Other than PDA has been raising it else where and encouraging others to buy it and set up shop) – that bettermenproject.com is available.

        Musn’t do anything there to silence folks, must we? ImATotalHypocrite.com is also up for grabs too!

      • Mr Supertypo says:

        ” I note – not for any particular reason (Other than PDA has been raising it else where and encouraging others to buy it and set up shop) – that bettermenproject.com is available.

        Musn’t do anything there to silence folks, must we? ImATotalHypocrite.com is also up for grabs too!

        Disappointing, but hardly surprising. These people are part of the problem in the feminist movement, the exclusive part, the snobbish, the elitist, classist face. While GMP (while not bein a strictly feminist site) is the inclusive part, anti elitist, anti snobbish anti exclusive.

        (not referring ONLY to that place)
        The Blogger point the finger to the sky, and shout: the GMP is a MRA site *all commenters repeat the same* the blogger : yall most avoid the GMP at all cost * the commenter repeat the same* hive mind all in agreement (generally). Where is the challenges? where are the intellectual debates that makes you think and perhaps reconsider? that is not a feminist blog. That is a church.

        We have only to gain keeping those people away from here….

      • Ww Lisa! First the MRA’s are pissed at the GMP, and now the Feminazis as well. I’ve alwas felt that if you have BOTH extreme ends mad at you at the same time, you must be doing someng right!

        • Lisa Hickey says:

          Exactly, bobbt, exactly.

        • Mr Supertypo says:

          ” Lisa! First the MRA’s are pissed at the GMP, and now the Feminists as well. I’ve alwas felt that if you have BOTH extreme ends mad at you at the same time, you must be doing someng right!”

          Hahahahaha so true. We are on the right track :-D

          (Edited to change feminazis to feminists. Your anger is understandable but let’s not call them feminazis okay? – GMP Moderator)

          • I do agree with having to mod out certain words, but there is a lack of clear and accurate terms that can be used as a polite shorthand to communicate both nature and extremity as well as fervour.

            I was wondering at a highbred such as crossing Extreme Ironing with the idea of extremity of view, attitude and behaviour whilst claiming it is feminist. We could have Extremely Ironed Feminist, or maybe Overly Starched Feminist. On the other hand you could see them as natural so Organic Feminist or Unkempt Feminist may work.

            It is hard to find language which keeps everyone happy, and on side – and figuring out how to accommodate those with extreme tendencies does need a very delicate touch. Maybe “Delicate Feminists” could be used in an ironic way with a colour expression to indicate levels of exuberance. So a Delicate Pink Feminist would be lower on the .. er… exuberance scale than one with a deep maroon tone, or maybe a mauvey shade of pinky russet with a fleck of magenta.

            It is hard finding the right language to get the message across.

    • Mr Supertypo says:

      ” Let’s not “silence” discussion of how almost all of the mass murders of the last few decades were by men.”

      I agree, and that mean that places like the GMP are needed even more. We need more jems like this so we can discuss all facets and shades all parts of these tragic events. Without tabu’s or censorship. Otherwise you wont do any good to anybody.

  6. wellokaythen says:

    Pilates is unmanly? Have they ever _tried_ pilates? It kicks your ass. I challenge any manly man tempted to buy a Bushmaster because of this ad to take an hour-long pilates class. Jump in at the advanced level and see if you can cut it.

  7. wellokaythen says:

    In terms of journalism, the issue of language is not a small one. When does a multiple murder become mass murder or a massacre? This is something that editors and TV news producers have to decide on an all too regular basis – how much attention to give this story relative to other tragedies? The number of dead seems to be a key factor.

    Very few people would say this out loud, but American society has some unspoken threshold when it comes to attention about shootings. Four or five children dead wouldn’t bring the President to town or lower the flags across the country. A few teachers killed would not make front-page news on a national scale. One of the many unfortunate results of the Virginia Tech shooting is that mass murderers have raised the minimum number of deaths required to merit the public’s attention. If I’ve noticed this, then surely the heavily armed copycats have noticed this as well.

    • It is quite easy to see the issue – you use google news and do a search for “Family+Shooting”. Pre 2011 if you had 2 or three family members killed it got wide coverage and then suddenly you need 5 or 6 dead to get media reporting. It would appear that mass is a movable issue – and the media is in charge and not ordinary people.

  8. Thought provoking. What defines a man? In the stereotype of manhood, none of the mass murderers would fit the mold of what most of society would call a man. They were male but not man. They found themselves ostracized by their peers and society in general. Mental health is certainly at the forefront of the problems these individuals faced. But mental illness has always been present among us. Is it more prevalent now than in the past, or do we just recognize it better now? Or, do we just use the default term of mental illness for anyone who fails to have the moral fiber and character it takes to resist this kind of behavior? I don’t know the answers to these questions. But I do know a man when I meet him.

  9. And in many cases, the final catalyst was that the mass murderer was somehow humiliated before going on the spree

    True, however, most of them suffered that for quite some time before killing anyone or themselves. So I think the questions being asked about gun control (because most of these shooters use high-powered rifles with large magazines), mental illness (because most of these shooters suffer from some mental disorder), and questions about how the male identity may play a role in this (because many of them seemed obsessed with things that were hyper-masculine) are good to ask.

    I think the mistake is jumping to the conclusion that these men and boys killed people because they lost their “male privilege”. That is laughable at best. All of these men and boys suffered from social and mental problems that likely led to their behavior. In this recent case, Lanza’s mother tried to hide her son’s disorder. What would have happened if she got him help instead?

    Those are the things we need to be doing. We cannot stop every potential mass shooting, but if we start addressing how isolated a lot of men and boys are, we might begin to reach those who are more likely to hurt others or themselves.

    • I think the mistake is jumping to the conclusion that these men and boys killed people because they lost their “male privilege”. That is laughable at best. All of these men and boys suffered from social and mental problems that likely led to their behavior. In this recent case, Lanza’s mother tried to hide her son’s disorder. What would have happened if she got him help instead?
      Yes.

      It’s gotten to the point that when a guy does something bad the start and end of the explanation is male privilege. Usually this gets hinged on how girls are treated in similar ways but don’t go on violent sprees. What gets conveniently ignored is the fact that boys are treated in such ways AND they are raised with the idea that violence is the great equalizer.

      Of course this combination is not 100% sure to lead a boy to commit mass violence but I think it’s worth looking into.

      • Mr Supertypo says:

        agree the privilege and patriarchy, while it look good on paper, is basically pretty useless in finding solutions. Its close to Evo psychology. Cool soundings but to general to have any individual impact. I dont see how anybody employing this privilege meme are close to a realistic solution.

  10. Interesting that we havnt heard very much from the father???

  11. I can think of few better examples of how insidious this “tough” problem is than the automobile industry.

    Automakers and their marketing wizards have been hand-crafting the public’s perceived need for the kind of vehicles they want us to buy for more than 5 decades. They’ve profited handsomely (to put it mildly) by skillfully shaping our desires & subsequent purchasing habits by building false perceptions and stroking our redneck egos about how horsepower equals manhood. As Sam Elliot reaffirms in his booming God-I-wish-I-was-that-tough-sounding voice, if your ride ain’t got a “Hemi,” well brother, you’d better start checking the contents of your shorts.

    We’ve been snookered into believing that we need the horsepower to do zero-to-60 in 6.5 seconds or else we’re pansies. If you’re driving a small car with a fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engine, you must either be destitute (because affluent people drive big cars with beefy engines) or maybe you’re just a rice-eating commie…

    By golly, if you’re not driving a big-ass, rubber-burnin’, God Bless America, gas-guzzling truck, well, Bob Seger & John Mellencamp are gonna come over to your house, kick yer ass, drink yer beer, and prolly take your girlfriend!

    Wanna “man up?” Start taking a realistic view of your vehicle as transportation rather than an extension of your groin. Is yours one of the hundreds of thousands of trucks on the road serving as little or nothing more than a single-occupancy commuter vehicle?

    • WOW!!!!! I went from driving Trans Am, Alfa, and a long line of hyper-powered Police Interceptors that would maintain 200MPH as long as there was fuel, to a VW Diesel Wagon that gets 50mpg. Must be the Androgel.

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