It’s the Same Male Violence

December 17, 2012

National

“I don’t believe rape is inevitable or natural. If I did, I would have no reason to be here. If I did, my political practice would be different than it is. Have you ever wondered why we [women] are not just in armed combat against you? It’s not because there’s a shortage of kitchen knives in this country. It is because we believe in your humanity, against all the evidence.” - Andrea Dworkin

Last Friday, Adam Lanza murdered Women and Children in Newtown, Connecticut with a .223-caliber Bushmaster, a semi-automatic civilian version of the military’s M-16. It’s similar to the weapon used in the 2002 sniper killings in the Washington, D.C., area and in the recent Portland, Oregon shopping mall shooting. Both the D.C. sniper attacks and the Clackamas Mall shooting were perpetrated by Men - as most of these spree killings are.

As most lethal violence is.

Under U.S. President Bill Clinton, Congress, with both chambers controlled by Democrats, banned AR-15-type rifles, including the .223-caliber Bushmaster. Congress enacted this ban in September 1994, shortly before Newt Gingrich took control of the House of Representatives. The assault weapons ban expired in 2004, and Congress, catering to the political clout of the gun-rights lobby, did not renew it. Both chambers of Congress had a Republican majority at the time the assault weapons ban expired, the same party as then-President George W. Bush.

I have been watching – like all of us – the finger pointing over what led Adam Lanza to slaughter Women and Children in an elementary school. Predictably, the Second Amendment people are saying “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Predictably, Nancy Lanza, Adam Lanza’s first victim, is being blamed because she owned the guns (legally) that Adam Lanza used to murder Women and Children (oh and by the way, interpersonal family violence is what we call Domestic Violence). Predictably, the Mainstream Media is looking to find a why for this “extreme violence” – Adam Lanza must be “mentally ill” or have some other defect not present in normal Men that caused him to act in a way normal Men would never act.

Normal Men. Normal Violence.

Abnormal Men. Abnormal Violence.

I don’t know where where Normal ends and Abnormal begins.

It is true that giving Men access to high-powered firearms increases the body count when they decide to act on murderous impulses. It is true that if we as a country decided to restrict access to firearms, we would see a reduction in the number of incidents like those in Newtown and Portland, simply because these Men would not have the firepower to carry out their plans. It might also be true that if we had better mental health interventions for mentally ill “people” like Adam Lanza might have been, we might see a reduction in violence.

I am not convinced, however, that the Male Violence Adam Lanza visited on Newtown is a different kind of Male Violence from the Male Violence visited by Men on others every day, in many ways.

I am not convinced that Adam Lanza is an aberration.

I am not convinced that there is Abnormal Violence and Normal Violence.

Statistics bear out that Men commit most violent crimes, about 87% of all homicides. Males are almost 4 times more likely than Women to be murder victims. Significantly, Men commit 91.3% of all homicides involving a gun, suggesting that lethality increases because of the weapons Males choose. Data from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Surveydetails that across all types of violence, Males commit most crimes most often. Statistics demonstrate that Males commit violent crimes at greater rates than Females, and are more likely to use a weapon that will cause death.

And yet, when these incidents of Abnormal Violence occur, and Women (Feminists) point out that, once again, it’s Men doing the violence, Women are told to shut up, that we are sexist, that we are trying to co-opt a tragedy to further our Man-hating agenda.

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Maybe you’ll believe it when someone with a penis says it?

The Male Violence Adam Lanza visited on Newtown is the same Male Violence Men visit on others – particularly Women and Children – every single day, in every state in this country, in every city in each state. It’s the same Male Violence that keeps Women and Children in fear of death and assault in every country on this planet. It’s only a matter of degree – severe, horrific, incomprehensible degree.

Humans – Men and Women – need to stop debating whether Men are more violent.

Men are more violent.

Men are by far the principal perpetrators of murder (and let’s not get started on rape, war, torture, incest, sexual abuse, and genocide).

Why? What is it about Men and “masculinity” that leads Men as a class to such violent behavior? Is this something Men learn? What can we do as a society to help Men unlearn these “masculine” lessons? Or is Male Violence innate? What if certain “behaviors” (i.e., violence) that we understand as “masculine” can be biologically traced to neurological structures? How do we solve that problem?

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There is something horribly wrong with Male Socialization.

We need to have this conversation. We need to ask why.

I do not believe that Men are born violent. As much as this will make radical feminist readers of this blog cringe, I believe there are “good men” who don’t want to give their lives to Male Violence. I know some “good men.” I love some “good men.” And I have to believe this in order to be able to function in this world, because the alternative is a life of unspeakable sadness (I am also willing to acknowledge here that I could be wrong).

Male Violence is a noun. It is a thing that little Boys are socialized into – Boys are taught to be tough, strong, aggressive. Boys becomes Men who are taught to be tough, strong, aggressive. And Boys are taught that they are better than Girls, that their life matters more than the life of a Girl, that their needs are more important than those of a Girl. Boys are taught that Girls should cater to them. And Male Violence is used to reinforce the superiority of Men over Women, to remind Women and Girls that we are here for Men.

Your son, dad, brother or boyfriend may not be violent, but Men as a class are more violent than Women.

Your son, dad, brother or boyfriend may not believe that his life matters more than yours, but he – like all Men – has been raised in a system where this lesson is taught every day, in every way, until it becomes “fact.”

We need to be able to say that Men are more violent than Women, out loud, and have this statement be recognized as true – because it is true. We need to be able to name the problem because if we cannot name the problem, we can never hope to “solve” it.

How do we move this seemingly immovable mountain? Where do we start? How do we change things?

Scum-O-Rama, a radical feminist blog, called for a ban on guns. I agree. As Men are more likely to own a gun (and more likely to use a gun in the commission of a violent crime), that seems more than reasonable, in light of the overwhelming evidence of how Male Violence harms Women and Children.

And we have to do more – we have to do so much more. Because I don’t believe that the violence of Adam Lanza is different in kind from the violence of the Man who beats his Wife, or the Man who rapes, or the Man who molests Children – it’s a difference of degree. It’s the same Male Violence.

Cynics say that any discussion of “change” in the wake of a national tragedy is “opportunistic” and “wrong.” I say, what else can you do, what else should we do, in the face of such tragedies? It would be squandering a moment in time, when the country is focused on the horror of this Male Violence, to not discuss how Male Violence has shaped our society, to the detriment of Women and Children.

And we should be having this conversation anywhere there is a discussion about a Man with a Gun.

Because this will happen again. And again. And again.

We have to keep talking about this until we never hear the words “in breaking news, a man with a gun…”

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About Cathy Brennan

Gender Atheist.

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71 Comments on “It’s the Same Male Violence”

  1. thistlespace Says:

    This is excellent! Thank you for putting it out there. I went on my local community radio station today and brought up the fact that it is male violence that we are dealing with and that we need to empower women in order to create a new society. Much love to you from Wisconsin!

  2. doublevez Says:

    This is a really terrific essay. I think it could only have been written by a mother of a son, wanting more for him. I can’t imagine how hard that must be to contemplate the massive job you have to do, to keep him safe from this toxic culture.

    I’m reading such ignorant articles and comments, quotes, from educated people, physicians, saying it’s the mother, she was likely paranoid (then, all gun owners?) and deeply wrong to have those guns. The father left, anyone read any stories about his culpability here?

    • bugbrennan Says:

      I have been intermittently weepy since this happened, and yes, I fear for my son. We have had several long talks about it, and I expect that will continue. My daughter is too young to know what happened, but as she’s roughly the same age as the children killed, I’ve also been nauseous thinking about what that man did to them and what they must have thought at the last.

      I haven’t seen any daddy blaming – by all accounts, he paid extra alimony and was a “nice man.”

  3. Becky Green Says:

    I’m currently reading a book by Karl Marlantes called, ‘What it is like to go to war’, which is simultaneously illuminating and horrifying. He describes his time as a marine in the Vietnam War. He killed numerous people during the war, came back with PTSD, but is in no way considered mentally ill. So, please keep that in mind while reading some of his quotes. He gives a glimpse into the male psyche and its relationship with violence.
    _____________________________________________________________________

    -“Boot camp doesn’t turn young men into killers. It removes the societal restraints on the savage part of us that has made us the top animal in the food chain.”

    -“The least acknowledged aspect of war, today, is how exhilarating it is. This aspect makes people very uncomfortable. Not only is it politically incorrect; it goes against the morality taught in our schools and churches. The hard truth is that ever since I can remember I have loved thinking about war–and I wasn’t the only one.”

    -“In Vietnam there were times when I swelled with pride at the immense destruction I could deal out. There is a deep savage joy in destruction, a joy beyond ego enhancement. Maybe it is loss of ego. I’m told it’s the same for religious ecstasy.”

    -“The realm I enter now, the transcendent realm one reaches through violence, is one that society says it condemns but in fact celebrates everywhere, on film, on TV, and in the news. It is because of this split that these feelings are very dangerous.”

    -“We have a shadow, says Jung. There’s a part of me that just loves maiming, killing, and torturing. This part of me isn’t all of me. I have other elements that indeed are just the opposite, of which I am proud. So am I a killer? No, but part of me is. Am I a torturer? No, but part of me is.”
    _____________________________________________________________________

    I don’t believe most of the males who commit mass violence are mentally ill. I think they’re a disturbingly average byproduct of a culture that uses violence for both entertainment purposes and as an economic bedrock (wars, guns, bombs, etc.$$$) Consciously or not, society regulates male violence; it either amplifies or quiets men’s innate impulse for destruction.

    Sorry for being so lengthy, Cathy.

    • bugbrennan Says:

      Please be as lengthy as you want. Those quotes are terrifying. Kathleen Barry’s Book Unmaking War, Remaking Men: How Empathy Can Reshape Our Politics, Our Soldiers and Ourselves has similar excerpts.

      Yes, disturbingly average. Like everyone, I’ve been reading the coverage of Adam Lanza and the attempts to paint him as an exceptional freak turned killing machine. So, I also read about all the spree killers since George Hennard at Luby’s in the early 1990s. These men sound painfully average. I don’t think it takes a “special” man to act on his violent impulses. I think it takes a “special” man not to. If that’s actually true, I am really worried.

      • FCM Says:

        brownmillers chapter on war (against our will: men women and rape) has similar quotes from men specifically on the topic of raping, gang raping and murdering women. the men themselves describe the most atrocious misogynistic violence literally as “standard operating procedure.” one man reported that he had no idea “why” he pulled out his gun and shot the woman he had been raping in the head after his buddy did the same thing to the one he had been raping, suggesting that it was some kind of groupthink or that he had tied-in psychically to his buddy and automatically followed suit because reasons. it was fucking terrifying, and i agree that these things suggest that there really is such a thing as a “male psyche” and what its really like. i think males in groups and even very small groups are extremely dangerous, but we also know that individual men are terrifyingly destructive too. i think mothers of sons *should* be really worried. but you already know what i think about that.

      • bugbrennan Says:

        I do. And like I said, I’m willing to acknowledge I might be wrong/have a significant blind spot.

  4. CL Says:

    Overwhelmingly male, yes, and mostly white male. Add in “affluent” too. I think the analysis of gendered violence misses something important when it is separated from race and class. Please give this some thought.

    • bugbrennan Says:

      I give this constant thought – I agree class and race matter. I think, though, that we do women a disservice by pretending that the violence of Adam Lanza is a special, different violence and thus more worthy of attention.

      BTW, I disagree that spree killers are more likely to be affluent. I spent time yesterday reviewing them, and there seemed to be just as many working class guys as affluent ones. That’s on my maleviolence blog.

      • zrusilla Says:

        I do want white male killers to be discussed in terms of their class characteristics, in order to lead the discussion to cultural factors. (It’s also high time they walked around with a sign around their neck announcing their race and sex like everyone else, see how they like it, but that’s secondary.)

      • bugbrennan Says:

        I agree – but in our zeal to identify white male violence, I don’t want to lose focus of the violence that impacts our sisters in other communities.

  5. Joy-Mari Says:

    There’s a BBC documentary about violence. Watch it. “How violent are you?”

    Do men “learn” violence? If yes, which supernatural force “taught” them?

    Also, WP doesn’t like my personal domain email address :/

  6. bugbrennan Says:

    President Obama will “actively support” efforts by Democrats to reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons next year, the White House announced on Tuesday.

    Press secretary Jay Carney said the president would back Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) when she introduces legislation at the opening of the next Congress to ban certain assault weapons in the United States.

    Carney said the president would also support other gun-control efforts, including legislation to close the so-called “gun show” loophole and prevent the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips.

    The president has reached out to lawmakers who have expressed a new willingness to consider gun restrictions in the wake of Friday’s mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. Carney said Obama spoke on Tuesday with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a member of the National Rifle Association who this week called for a fresh look at restrictions on firearms.

  7. Quesadilla Says:

    The problem with legislating against any kind of weapon is that the military, cops,and other privileged parties will STILL HAVE THEM. That is very, very bad and will mean the defeat of the resistance at least temporarily. Yeah, autos are sloppy pieces of crap for bad shooters who can’t hit the broad side of a barn with a rifle and scope. They’re for total amateurs with bad aim and no finesse.
    It would be nice to see autos out of make, and that’s the only solution. The manufacturers have to stop making these weapons for anything to change, stupid gun availability wise. Laws just will not do it.

    At least the tools who think their autos will do them any good when they can’t even see their enemy are kidding themselves.

  8. Francois Tremblay Says:

    When you call for a ban for guns so we have no more Men With Guns, does that also include our gallant steroid-crazy power-mad crowd-beating policemen? There’s no point in controlling male gun violence unless you look at the biggest sources of male gun violence. Not to mention all the assault weapons the US government exports around the world…

    Gun control cannot be a reality unless capitalism and the patriarchy are made history.

    • bugbrennan Says:

      There is a point in banning guns separate from police – also, I agree with you re law enforcement.

      • Francois Tremblay Says:

        Well, I think in general countries where guns are banned have different kinds of homicide. I don’t think banning guns eliminates violence. Only examining the causes of violence and doing something about them can eliminate violence. Of course, the power elite cannot do that because some of the main causes are economic and gender inequality, and that would mean rejecting capitalism and the patriarchy. Fuggetaboutit!

  9. Joy-Mari Says:

    Francoise, I doubt anyone arguing for gun control thinks it’ll cure society of violence. But it will reduce killing sprees. Some random killer wouldn’t be able to shoot down 20 people, for example.

    Yes, Cathy, that’s the documentary. It’s scary that all of us have the potential to enjoy killing. But what’s scarier is the statistics that show men are far more likely to do so.

    • phonaesthetica Says:

      Yes: A random killer wouldn’t be able to, say, KNIFE his way through the secured doors of an elementary school.

      • bugbrennan Says:

        Or use a hammer. Or a pen.

        I can’t be bothered responding to the “it’s pointless to ban guns” comments, honestly. But for high powered rifles, no dead children and women. This seems obvious.

      • FCM Says:

        seriously. it *is* obvious. but apparently the fact (or likelihood) that we will never solve the problem of violent men means that we are obligated to make their job of annihilating large numbers of women and children easier. these kinds of responses are stupefying.

        we just want a chance to survive our injuries. it is completely true that they will still use hammers, pens, hands, feet, drag us from cars etc. because men are breathtakingly violent. banning guns is harm reduction only. and hammers, pens, and cars are useful for other things, get it? other useful objects survive a cost-benefit analysis. guns dont, when you factor in the cost to women and children. obviously they benefit men a great deal, but thats only half of the equation.

      • FCM Says:

        seriously, fuck you tremblay. we are talking about violence against WOMEN on these feminist blogs, not “violence” or “gun violence” generally, and by speaking about these things “generally” i know you are talking about violence against MEN. frankly i hope male violence against men escalates until you wipe yourselves out, but thats just me. i am not against that, and i dont logically have to be since they are not the same. so dont conflate one with the other. mkay?

      • bugbrennan Says:

        I am currently watching leftist women struggling to make white male violence different from “the rest of the violence” on Facebook. You’re exactly right – we are discussing male violence against women. That’s the discussion.

        Also, I need a graphic about intersections and how stopping at a four-way intersection means no one gets anywhere, ever.

      • Francois Tremblay Says:

        Yes femonade, you read my mind. OBVIOUSLY all I care about is violence against men. Jesus H Christ on a pogo stick. OBVIOUSLY when I said the patriarchy needs to be made history before the issue is resolved, I was talking about violence against men. OBVIOUSLY when I was talking about cop violence and called them steroid-crazy I was talking about violence against men.

        I was talking about violence done BY men, and anyone who read it would have understood that. If you’re going to call me out, call me out for being a man and socialized as man, or call me out for being pro-abortion, or whatever, but calling me out for something I didn’t say is just crass. The entry was about MALE VIOLENCE. I was talking about MALE VIOLENCE. But thanks for painting me as the enemy on your blog because you can’t fucking read.

      • FCM Says:

        how are they attempting that? im not on FB. are they succeeding?

      • bugbrennan Says:

        It’s just frustrating to have the same conversation over and over. Male violence isn’t enough, I guess.

      • FCM Says:

        male violence AGAINST WOMEN, dumbass. do you even hear yourself?

      • FCM Says:

        that insult was meant for tremblay obvs. sorry you got caught in the crossfire!

  10. karmarad Says:

    You are absolutely correct. Thank you.

  11. FeistyAmazon Says:

    Yep, and I find it very, very strange that they are NOT interviewing the father or his brother, of the perpetrator, even though they went out of their way to handcuff the brother. And they are not mentioning much of the horrors at that movie theater where that guy went off, ballistic outfit and all(just like this one had a ballistic vest) at the Batman movie and shot off many, many rounds….though most were young adults, and more injured than killed, it still was an absolute horror. It will get to the point where folks will watch movies just at home in our entertainment centers, rather than risk homicide, and will homeschool their children for the same reason…becoming more and more isolated in our castles, and less and less able to engage in society for fear of said violence, just like women are afraid to walk the night!

    I’m sick of the fucking rightwing rhetoric around their precious guns, and then they want to ARM teachers? Where does the insanity stop? And some states they’re going around ‘open carrying’ in malls, coffeeshops, wherever they want. All it takes is one conflagration and it’s the Wild Wild West and shoot ‘em up at the OK Corral…oh they got them shoot em ups already, it’s called ‘drive by shootings’. How many children have died as a result of those? And innocent women too?

    Men and guns, VERY BAD COMBINATION all the way around, worldwide! Sure wish it could be like the Organian Peace Treaty, where the Beings of Light, when the Klingons and Captain Kirk and the Enterprise are ready to engage, all of a sudden heat up all weapons,both on the ship and their phasers, as they’re ready to go to war…so hot that they drop their phasers and take their hands off the phaser banks. They both argue they ‘have a right’ to their war, and the peaceful Organians begin to be seen as Beings of Light, that war and violence is so abhorrent to them that ‘we cannot be around creatures like yourself and you are both disgusting with your violent tendencies that it is painful for us’, they have evolved beyond the need for violence….

    It will take evolution, not violent revolution…..let the Womyn lead!
    -FeistyAmazon

  12. jose Says:

    99% of rapists are men. You can’t argue with pure data about men and violence.

    I don’t worry about whether this is innate or learned because what’s relevant is that we can be non-violent: Kids can be raised in a way that will result in a non-violent adult, and that’s all that counts. It can be done, so it should be done. We need to ask why we aren’t raising our boys in such a way.

    • FCM Says:

      “raising our boys” = blaming the mother. stop doing that. male violence is not womens fault, and that INCLUDES backhanded “compliments” to mothers that they have raised “wonderful” sons, even when they apparently did. both imply its womens fault and indeed that women control the outcome AT ALL no matter what their sons turn out like (but especially when the result is bad). if you believe women control or even influence the outcome either way, prove it. if you cant prove it, show SOME EVIDENCE on which you are basing your belief. if its just a baseless assumption you are making, cut it out. its misogyny 101. thanks.

  13. Hari B. Says:

    Thank you for writing this piece–thoughts of the kind that need to be disseminated widely and then wider still. Thoughts that need to become the basis of actions to heal the horror we live.

    Just one thing though. In your response to fcm, you said: “I’m willing to acknowledge I might be wrong/have a significant blind spot.”

    A mother of both sons and daughters myself, I do not acknowledge any such blind spot, and I hope that feminist mothers of sons will stop entertaining this notion. The people with the blind spot are womyn who have no children but still claim to know something that mothers can’t seem to grasp. In fact, birthing and raising sons has given me a view that non-parents simply cannot have: I have known some humans from their earliest existence, and this means I’ve had the opportunity to see that babies are just babies and it takes a lifetime of socialization (far beyond input of parents) to make a baby into a gendered ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ and ultimately into a ‘womyn’ or ‘man’. Only people who have no real familiarity with babies could possibly believe that any baby is actually *born to kill, maim, rape and torture.

    I am sick and tired of feminists–almost always non-mothers–telling me that I am biased by my love for my sons, blinded to the reality of their presumably ‘inherent violence’. My emotional attachment to my sons has not hidden from me the fact that despite my efforts to be feminist mom, my sons still grew up with a frightening sense of male entitlement given to them by our culture, not by me. And my attachment to my sons also has not hidden from me that babies are born fully human, and it takes a lifetime of pervasive and insidious conditioning to turn a tiny helpless loving needing HUMAN BEING into a rapist, a torturer or murderer. Just the same as it takes a lifetime of pervasive, insidious conditioning to turn a tiny HUMAN BEING into a passive, helpless victim of rape, torture and murder, AKA a womyn in patriarchy.

    • bugbrennan Says:

      We all have biases – the least we can do is to be honest in discussing them (I am not suggesting you are, here, I am speaking for my own experience/perceptions). Thanks for the comment and for reading.

      • Hari B. Says:

        Yes, we all do have biases…including those who claim that a feminist mother of sons is biased. To correct myself: it’s not that I have no bias, it’s that my opinion does not need to be excused (nor yours or any mother’s) on the basis of potential bias. I’ve never seen fcm or other non-mother feminists admit to their bias, nor seek to qualify their opinions on this matter in any way. Instead, many claim they are *better equipped to ‘know the truth’ than a mother could be, due to her bias. I hope that you, a strong voice of reason in the feminist world, will no longer qualify your opinion on this matter, either.

      • bugbrennan Says:

        I’m unconcerned with what other women do on their blogs wrt stating a bias/blind spot. I can only control what I write and how I express myself. Thanks for your comment.

  14. Miranda Says:

    This has been a really fascinating read – also the comments! I worry all the time about raising my boys, worry about how best to raise them to not be the way society seems to want them to be… but it’s so tough – already my 3 year old is obsessed with guns (something he seems to have picked up through playing with other boys his age). I’m just so thankful to be living country where guns are not widely available. Interesting point about how the media focused so much on what the mother did/didn’t do. It seems so unfair to me. There’s too much pressure on mothers these days, sometimes it feels like I will be crushed by the weight of everyones expectations – including my own.

    • bugbrennan Says:

      It’s hard stuff. I also let my kids play with toy guns. We’ve now agreed, no more. Teachable moments every day. I just wish they were so fatal.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Moron Issue Framing. Or, Why Male Violence Against Women and Children Survives a Cost-Benefit Analysis « femonade - December 19, 2012

    [...] calls for banning firearms in the wake of the most recent school annihilation are stupefying.  heres one now, from some allegedly pro-feminist dood equating male violence against other men with male violence [...]

  2. Dismantling Hegemonic Masculinity with Disarmament and Demilitarization in 2013 « UpRoot - December 31, 2012

    [...] It’s the Same Male Violence [...]

  3. GataAgressiva411 & Male Violence | You think I just don't understand, but I don't believe you. - January 27, 2013

    [...] you for sharing this article with me. I read it, and I agree with what’s said here. As for the CT shootings, I’m [...]

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