Male Gender and Mass Shootings: Is There a Connection?

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Elliot Rodgers, UCSB shooter, killed 6 people and injured 14 before shooting himself.

Dylan Roof. Elliot Rodgers. Omar Mateen. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. These men may come from different backgrounds and races, possess different religious beliefs and ages, but they have something in common: they all are mass shooters, and they are all men. In an article by the Washington Post, only 3 of the 103 shooters listed were female.

Mass shooting is a problem in the U.S. that only seems to be getting worse. There are many many names that can join the Washington Post’s list of shooters. And with few exceptions, the pattern of male gender continues. Clearly there is a connection, numbers do not lie. But what causes this disturbing connection?

These men all share traits that can be explained by toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity creates an environment that fosters aggressiveness and dominance, traits that can contribute to a mass shooter’s violent decision. Also, toxic masculinity encourages males to repress their emotions since “real men don’t cry”. Repressing one’s emotions is unhealthy and can lead to negative outcomes because the act of catharsis is necessary to a healthy emotional state.

Also, the environment that this type of masculinity creates fosters a sense of male entitlement, especially in white men, another trend seen in mass shooters. This leads to resentment and anger that can lead to violence. Also, men who follow these concepts on masculinity tend to have a sense of entitlement specifically towards sexual relations with women. A perfect example of this is Elliot Rodgers, who posted videos before going on a shooting spree stating that part of the motivation for his actions was that women rejected him sexually. This kind of lashing out due to a sense of entitlement demonstrates the toxicity of raising males in an environment that teaches toxic masculinity.

Furthermore, the threat of masculinity is another concept contributing to this explanation. The threat of masculinity is a concept that men react badly to the feeling that they have an inability to live up to societal expectations associated with masculinity.

Clearly America has a problem. The number of shooters and the number of victims is far too high and something needs to change. Before blaming gun laws or mental illness next time a man takes a gun and attacks innocent people, the situation should be studied from sociological viewpoint and blame the masculinity that fosters these renewing violent actions.

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