Another mass shooting. Another white male pulls the trigger. Another series of articles about senseless tragedies and this American “culture of violence”.
Culture of violence? No. It’s a culture of entitlement. More specifically, it’s the subset of white males who are socialized to believe they are entitled to unregulated access to guns, violence, other people’s bodies, and dominant social status. When they experience feeling “less than” or rejected, their entitlement set includes expressions of rage and weaponized vengeance.
Michael Ian Black wrote a deeply personal and poignant op-ed after the Parkland shooting a few months ago. He asked how the boys of our culture had been left so far behind, as girls benefited from decades of effort from the feminist movement.
The traditional male traits, and the system from which men have benefited for centuries, no longer suits them. These enlightened men want, for their sons, what they perceive us to have achieved—the potential to tap into both male and female playing fields.
While this article was introspective, it seemed to shift the emotional labor of social activism over to women. It was as if females were once again being asked to take up the work needed to support their male counterparts. This happens in the home, in the workplace, and now in advocating a place of emotional equality.
Social change and revolutions don’t materialize on their own; people fight for them. Stop putting this responsibility on women and the feminist movement.
Trust me, we’re already fighting for your sons, along with all our kids. This seems to be the one concept that men have somehow resisted “bropriating” (the act of a male repeating, as his own, an idea previously suggested by a female colleague).
Another stark reality is that the closer your appearance is to the dominant culture in America—white, male, Christian—the less likely it is that you will be held responsible for crimes committed by (or against) your body.
Women take on responsibility for violence enacted on their bodies, as well as the emotional labor of managing how others must feel about that violence. During the recent trial of Larry Nassar, the US gymnastics doctor convicted of sexually assaulting female athletes, his victims were burdened with ‘how their families must feel’ in the media, because of the shame applied to girls and women who are exploited. Shame associates a sense of personal responsibility.
Female bodies are politicized. People of color are scrutinized for the actions leading up to their deaths. White male shooters are humanized, even pitied, as people speculate what might have been done by the victims to prevent this event from happening.
So, men, it’s up to you to create that model of masculinity which includes the full range of human expression.
Use your position of privilege to advocate for men and boys to collaborate, share, aspire, and embrace vulnerability as a potential for growth. Change the narrative from this limited definition of maleness to one that more closely aligns with the vision you describe for your son.
Gender is a social construct. Defining how your son experiences masculinity takes generations of effort. Time to get started on that is now.
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