There’s a lot being said about mass shootings these days. A lot of anger and despair at yet another senseless killing. So far in 2022, we’ve had 214 mass shootings in the US – more shootings than the number of days of this year.
We all know the numbers – they’re astronomical. And while the US criticizes the human rights records of many other countries, this country is among the worst in terms of gun violence. We’re not as civilized as we claim to be. Americans are 25 times more likely to be killed in a gun homicide than people in other high-income countries.
America loves its guns. We’ve got more guns than people, in fact. When it comes to civilian-owned guns, the figure is 120.5 firearms per 100 residents. Excessive?
What’s worse, gun violence kills more women and children. Since 2020, guns have been the leading cause of death for American children and teens.
Not disease. Not road accidents. Guns. A man-made problem. Quite literally, man-made.
Because men are overwhelmingly more violent than women.
Not all men! I hear you say.
There are some women who are violent! I hear you say.
Yes, sure. Some. But saying so, while politically correct, is statistically incorrect. In fact, women who murder often do so to defend themselves from abusive men.
I’m writing this because I want to think about the link between men who perpetrate mass violence and men who perpetrate violence against women.
There’s a connection between violence and sexism.
Between 2015-2019, more than 11,000 women in the US were killed with a gun. Every month, an average of 57 women are killed with a firearm by an intimate partner. This – the deliberate murder of women – is called femicide. It’s not a word we often hear in the US. Our failure to recognize and use this term means that this hate crime too often goes uncounted. What we don’t measure, we don’t see, as they say. What we don’t see, we don’t act upon. So – femicides continue, without adequate prevention, protection, and policy responses.
There are common personality traits to mass shooters – a profile and a pattern that emerges all too clearly. The shooter is likely to have experienced early trauma, often in the form of bullying, which builds into despair and isolation. Rage and suicidal thoughts are part of this pattern.
And another thing, routinely evidenced but almost always ignored: patriarchal structures that breed toxic masculinity.
Here, unfortunately, is the root of the problem. Take patriarchal values, add notions of masculinity that dictate that men must be tough (and other heteronormative ideals), and voilà! a dangerous ideology of “honor” built from the need to cover up vulnerability through violence.
So it comes as no surprise that mass shooters tend to be men. And these are men who tend to also hate women.
There is another common characteristic to these mass shooters. Most have a history of domestic violence fueled by misogyny.
There’s research for this. Those who commit mass shootings also commit violence against women. In an analysis of 749 mass shootings between 2014 and 2019, “60% were either domestic violence attacks or committed by men with histories of domestic violence.”
Here’s more academic backing on the link between sexism and violence – and lots of other evidence and examples. Read the full piece here: https://linaabirafeh.medium.com/guys-guns-and-gender-based-violence-693827d6fe67
Well, damn, I hear you (and me) say. What to do about this mess? This “mess” is a public health crisis. Undiagnosed mental illness, lack of social connection, and entrenched toxic masculinity need to be part of the conversation.
So, let’s deal with the gun problem. The US is one of only three countries in the world that gives anyone the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. And let’s not even talk about women’s rights to their bodies. It’s easier to get a gun than make your own healthcare decisions.
Let’s also talk about what guns do to women. Firearms are used more than any other weapon in instances of intimate partner violence.
Let’s also tackle toxic masculinity, normalizing other – healthy – ways to be a man. Online hate speech and platforms that breed misogynist and racist rhetoric increasingly translate into dangerous action in real life.
The media has a major role to play here, but this violent masculinity is present in our everyday lives through families, friends, social networks, college campuses… kinda everywhere.
Finally, there are other ways to take action. We need to close the gender wage gap so survivors can more easily leave abusive relationships.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) should be preserved – and expanded.
What is VAWA, I hear you say? Head here: https://linaabirafeh.medium.com/guys-guns-and-gender-based-violence-693827d6fe67
So – what’s the takeaway here? We’ve got a gun problem. And we’ve got a violence against women problem. And we need to see the link between the two, so we can maybe, eventually, perhaps, hopefully do something about it.