Most Mass Shootings are Committed by Men. Is Toxic Masculinity to Blame?
It feels as though I’ve been seeing headlines about mass shootings all my life. Every time it happens, it’s hard. Vicarious trauma is a real thing, especially for folks who already suffer from PTSD. What is the root of most of mass shootings, the vast majority of which are committed by men? Toxic masculinity.
Make no mistake; this is not a condemnation of masculinity. Toxic masculinity is about masculine superiority, usually within cis-heterosexual men but also within LGBTQIA cultures, too. Amanda Marcotte recently wrote an article for Salon in which she sums up toxic masculinity as “manhood that views women and LGBT people as inferior, sees sex as an act not of affection but domination, and which valorizes violence as the way to prove one’s self to the world.” She writes, “Toxic masculinity aspires to toughness but is, in fact, an ideology of living in fear: The fear of ever seeming soft, tender, weak, or somehow less than manly. This insecurity is perhaps the most stalwart defining feature of toxic masculinity.”
Mark Follman, Gavin Arronsen and Deanna Pan of Mother Jones have been doing a long-term study of gun violence in America. You can see the data here. There have been 44 mass shootings since 2016: of the 143 weapons used, 75 percent of them were obtained legally. All killings, save for two, were carried out alone by single-shooters. Only one of those shootings was committed by a woman.
VICE published an article chronicling five times throughout history that women have carried out mass killings. Men are more likely to report owning a gun than women: 38 percent, compared to 31 percent.
“Women tend to use violence as a last resort, as a self-defense mechanism,” James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University, told CNN in July 2015 in response to the Charleston shooting. “Men tend to use violence as an offensive weapon.” According to TIME, when women kill, it’s “in a more intimate way.” Women are less likely to use guns; instead, it’s stabbing, drowning, suffocating — often a very close-range situation where they are looking the person in the eye as a final “f–k you.”