The Bushmaster Male (Man Card in Tow)

Chandra Kumar recently wrote on my Facebook page:

One other thing not mentioned in the media: all these gun-happy killers seem to be male. Lots of women have ‘mental health’ problems too but I don’t hear about them going out on mass killing sprees. Surely this fact, in a civilized society, would be cause for reflection as well.

And then, this morning, Paul Campos wrote:

Now almost literally 100 percent of the mass murders and spree killings in America and around the world are committed by members of a very well-defined and particular social group: men.  Indeed it’s nearly impossible to find an example of a female mass murderer….Men commit the large majority of violent crimes, the overwhelming majority of murders, and practically all of the most violent murders (98.2 percent of current death row inmates are men).

Speculation about possible causes is the beginning of investigation, and so in that spirit, here goes.  (I don’t doubt for a second all of this will sound very familiar to anyone that has read more than one series of analyses that follow The All-American Mass Murder.)

The perpetrators of  spectacularly violent, elaborate killing sprees, besides being male, are frequently said to have suffered from some kind of ‘anti-social’ characteristic. Even if they weren’t the kind that pull wings off flies they were said to be moody, reclusive, given to dark, borderline unhinged ramblings, and so on. They were, in short, ‘misfits’. These folks didn’t fit in. They failed to meet some standard, follow some guideline for conformity. That rejection, that repeated cuff of the ears and the slap across the face, fed back and inward, till the repressed anger finally erupted in an attention-grabbing act. Still pretty familiar stuff. But why are males prone to such acts? What makes them particularly susceptible?

Because, in part, in this hyper-masculinized society, the male of the species is often brought up–in ways distinctive to males–to be acutely conscious of the consequences of the failure to conform. The lack of ‘fitting in’ is more often than not, the failure to match some notion of masculinity, well-established and cast in stone. The relentless invocation of generic notions of power and money and sexual conquest (preferably rough and dominating) as hallmarks of ‘success’ drums into most male heads a steady, repetitive maddening litany: you aren’t man enough till you throw off every single behavioral characteristic that might possibly carry the faintest whiff of the not-masculine (sometimes this is the feminine, sometimes this is just an established vision of the successful life). And our world’s cruelty doesn’t end there: these failures are not just met with social ostracism, they sometimes provoke mockery and violence. The misfit isn’t just ignored, he is sometimes tracked down, cornered and baited. That acute sense of failure at these moments of confrontation will be felt the most keenly by those aware that it represents the greatest distance from their supposed ideal state.

What better way to retaliate than to simultaneously strike back and exit? To go with an assertion of manhood, to carry a man card (like the kind issued by Bushmaster), to show up on the nightly news, the most accepted sign in our culture of having made it?

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