Why is Mass Violence Always Men?

Why is Mass Violence Always Men? October 10, 2017

Every time there’s a mass killing, everyone wonders if it was committed by a Muslim terrorist, a right-wing terrorist or some other form of extremist. You know what we never have to wonder? If it was a man or a woman. Because it’s always a man.


Of 134 mass shooters who’ve preyed on Americans since 1966, just three have been women, making mass shooting a 98% male enterprise. More broadly, 90% of murderers are men — firearms are used in close to 70 percent of homicides.

Much has been written about the relationship between masculinity and guns: how gun companies target advertising campaigns to men seeking macho status, how a startlingly high proportion of mass shooters have a history of abusing women, how more than half of mass shootings involve a man killing (or trying to kill) an intimate and taking others out along with her. Indeed, stories are surfacing about the Las Vegas shooter publicly berating his girlfriend. But the reality of American men and guns is as much about a hyper-masculine fetishization of murder-toys as it is about tribal identity, a deepening identification of self and clan that radicalizes marginal views and magnifies personal entitlement and social distrust. This is a communal masculine ideology, not an individual one. There is no lone wolf. There is a rabid wolf pack…

In other words, there is less a broad American fixation with guns than there is a subculture of mostly white, mostly male, mostly conservative gun obsessives. Within this group, gun ownership is as much a hobby or an effort at self-defense than it is a way to forge an identity and bond with a like-minded community. The gun is simply the (extremely literal) external symbol of the underlying ideology: White male power comes through physical domination.

That’s only one part of a far more complex problem that almost certainly involves male psychology that was built in by our evolutionary past. Like all such tendencies, it isn’t universally true, but the patterns are clear. But I’m really interested in hearing people’s theories on the root causes of mass male violence. Here’s an article that contains some sociological theories about it, which deals with how men react to threats to their masculinity.

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