Getting to the bedrock of mass shootings

The latest horrible mass-murder shooting happened this past weekend at UCSB. The shooter, Elliot Rogers, offers a crystal-clear and chilling example of the way patriarchy keeps breeding misogyny and male violence. This perspective will not be one that our mass media adopts. Already, Roger’s bloody rampage is being framed as a mental-illness issue.

Roger’s autobiographical “manifesto” found here is a frightening read. If you decide to click through to read it, be warned that Roger’s writings are disturbing. However, his diary entries document abundantly how patriarchal standards of maleness, masculinity, hierarchy, and seeing power as dominance shaped both Roger’s self image and what he perceived as the only actions to take in order to rectify and reestablish his status as a “real” man.

Here’s just a snippet of what Roger’s wrote about his plans and motivations:

“The Second Phase will represent my War on Women. I will punish all females for the crime of depriving me of sex. They have starved me of sex for my entire youth, and gave that pleasure to other men. In doing so, they took many years of my life away.

I will arm myself with deadly weapons and wage a war against all women and the men they are attracted to. And I will slaughter them like the animals they are. After I picked up the handgun, I brought it back to my room and felt a new sense of power. I was now armed. Who’s the alpha male now, bitches.” — Los Angeles Times, Isla Vista Shooting.

gun and bulletsUndoubtedly, Roger felt that he wasn’t measuring up. And the standards he desired are patently patriarchal: having sex with blonde white women, being viewed by other males as powerful, virile, and among the elite, and increasingly, that only by being such a violent badass and committing pre-mediated murder would he gain respect, sex, and power–or die trying. Roger’s attempts to reject a patriarchal “wuss” role by taking on a “warrior” role also demonstrate that:

  • he desperately wanted sex (to bolster his sense of manhood)
  • that sex needed to be with white blonde women (a patriarchal hierarchical definition of beauty and status reward)
  • that sex with that group of women was only “awarded” to “warrior” guys
  • and that violence was the only acceptable response to his perceived rejection and lack of socially acceptable male status.

Read my explanations of those “wuss” or “warrior” roles here. Or, if you’re not sure what patriarchy is, read this.

To put this UCSB mass murder in further context, read what Jackson Katz and Byron Hurt have to say about male violence and mass-murder shootings in “Male Call: A Conversation about Masculinity and Violence” found in the latest print issue of Bitch:

“While other factors are important, gender is the single most determining factor contributing to mass shootings. Imagine if only women committed mass shootings. Would gender be off the table to discuss, or would it be the central argument? If 98 percent of school shootings and rampage killings were done by women, would we not look into it? . . .

It’s frustrating: over and over again you hear these analyses that there are no characteristics connecting these shooters, or ‘we’re looking for patterns in these behaviors.’ If gender is even mentioned as a connection pattern, it’s noted and not discussed, or it’s sidelined completely. It’s just incredible.” — Jackson Katz

Investing in patriarchy and in the system of patriarchy looks and feels powerful, but at the end of the day, it’s a very disempowering state to be in because there are so many devastating consequences that come along with being invested in a rigid, narrow view of manhood.

We have to name it: people are not going to make the connections between [patriarchal] masculinity and suicide. . . . Or masculinity and higher rates of violence. Masculinity and higher rates of physical and sexual abuse toward girls and women. Masculinity and mass shootings. Masculinity and gun control. They’re all interrelated, and when you begin to name it and talk about it openly, publicly, people will then be able to make connections.” — Byron Hurt

I also point you to another long-time male feminist activist on the issues of patriarchal gender roles and male violence: Allan G. Johnson.  Johnson is the author the The Gender Knot:Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy among other books, and has written articles on his website about male violence as well as the connections between patriarchal masculinities and mass-murder shootings.

And, to forestall any protests about the fact that I’m not featuring any female feminists on this issue on this post, I want to state that I’m doing that deliberately. Women, first and foremost, are the voices of awareness, protest, action, and analyses on this particular issue of patriarchy. By not featuring any of them on this particular post doesn’t mean that I don’t honor them or lean on their hard-won insights and clarity. It just means that this time around, I want to acknowledge that there are some feminist men speaking to other men about these grave and ubiquitous issues–male violence, misogyny, and patriarchal male gender roles.  I’m thrilled that that male feminists are actively working and speaking to change this particular area of patriarchy ’cause honestly, it’s about damn time.

This newest heart-breaking tragedy, again, gives us a lot to feel, think about, absorb, and learn from. I know that just recognizing that these mass-murder shootings are gendered actions that ooze out of the body of patriarchy can be a lot to process.  So, I’m just going to mention, but not elaborate on, that my personal stance as a feminist mythologist is that we also need to change our stories in order to break free from patriarchal mindsets and actions.

We’re all taking steps to disengage from the violence, domination, hierarchy, sexism, racism, and separatism that patriarchy continually promotes.  I recognize that some of those steps might be small, halting, or tentative, while others’ steps may look like swiftly running. Thank you all for all the steps you take every day while outraged and grieving in our hearts and souls that more families are facing such loss.