97% of mass shooters are men.
If there were a 97% chance of rain, I’d carry an umbrella.
If I had a 97% chance of winning the lottery, I’d buy a ticket.
If 97% of venomous spiders had fuzzy legs, I’d know which ones to avoid.
Ninety-seven percent of mass shooters are men.
Now, the male apologists might well be ready to point out that only a tiny minority of men are mass shooters. That’s absolutely true. I know plenty of men. I hope I don’t know any mass shooters.
But we can’t keep dodging this truth: 97% of mass shooters are men.
There’s something there, and we need to talk about it.
Following the shooting in Las Vegas last October, I talked about it. We have a serious problem with toxic masculinity in this country. It is part of a global problem: Most of our planet is steeped in aggressive and entitled attitudes about masculinity. Rape, assault, misogyny, domination… It’s all around the planet.
Campaigns in Australia and the UK have addressed high male suicide rates. On Australia’s Q&A, Josh Thomas discussed this issue: Men have it great, truly, so why are we killing ourselves? The obvious culprit is our inability to express our negative feelings in genuine ways, leaving us to lash out or implode.
I’ve previously argued that a keystone to toxic masculinity is this suppression of feelings, leading them to come out in violent, often explosive ways. That’s a major part of the problem.
The movie “Falling Down” tells the story of William Foster, an unemployed defense contractor, a white man who goes on a spree of violent crime trying to get to his daughter’s birthday party. Foster’s rage is based on his frustration that he deserves something that he’s being denied: “I helped to protect America,” he complains. “You should be rewarded for that.”
“Black Panther” is premiering this weekend. For months, social media has been filled with outraged white men complaining about how it’s racist… because it doesn’t have enough white people in it. Several months ago, social media was likewise filled with men ranting against “Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last of the Jedi,” because it has several strong women characters and the men characters aren’t consistently centered.
Years ago, Toni Morrison was asked by Charlie Rose to respond to accusations that she always writes about race; Morrison pointed out that the very question implies a deep white entitlement, that everything is for whites. Ta-Nehisi Coates made a related argument about the N-word: Not everything is for whites.
Recently, a Utah elementary school came under criticism for hosting a dance where girls had to go through an onerous process if they wanted to say “no” to a boy. The reason was that the school didn’t want boys to feel bad for being rejected.
This is a consistent cultural message: Men are entitled. To jobs, to entertainment, to having their feelings protected. Too bad if girls want autonomy over their own bodies: Boys are entitled. Rape culture comes directly from male entitlement.
Thankfully, no doubt due to internet pressure, the Utah school has changed its policy. That’s a baby step in fixing rape culture.
White male entitlement is the cancer: Mass shooters are the tumors.
After reading Arthur Bremer’s “An Assassin’s Diary,” Peter Gabriel wrote the song “Family Snapshot.” This song draws a picture of a man who has decided to kill a politician: “If you don’t get given, you learn to take, and I will take you,” Gabriel sings. That is male entitlement, in a nutshell.
In 1989, a mass shooter in Montreal killed fourteen women after identifying them as feminists. In 2016, a mass shooter in Charleston claimed he was protecting the country for whites. From Columbine to Parkland, shooters speak of wanting fame; this is why I strive not to use their names.
I agree with Michael Ian Black, who writes, “Until we fix men, we need to fix the gun problem.” Our problem of mass shooting comes from a poisonous mix:
- The suppression of genuine emotional expression by men
- A sense of entitlement held by many white men that everything revolves around them
- Ready access to guns
The long-term fix is to address that 97% statistic. We can’t keep pretending that there’s nothing wrong with the message we’re giving our boys.
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