Sunday, October 11, 2015

What the Oregon Shooting Reveals about Masculinity

As in the case of all mass shootings, we attempt to examine all clues the shooter left behind and decipher to some approximation his psychological condition, background, and motivation. Our hope is to determine a cause that leads to a plan for prevention. Mass killings in the past have been marked with various elements such as mental illness, racism, and even jihad. As the evidence has unfolded, factors identified in this case include the shooter’s view of religion, poor relationships, and mental stability. However, we cannot dismiss an obvious connection with him and all other mass killers: he was an angry male.

 Most parents worry little about whether or not their boys will become mass killers; after all, the everyday challenges of child training carry enough relevant worries and daily hassles. However, the reoccurrence of mass shootings committed by angry males should cause us to pause and examine issues that apply to masculinity and young men.

Why have young men, filled will anger, resorted to unleashing their rage with a gun on innocent people? Higher blood flow in the cerebellum and higher levels of testosterone indicate that young men will not be dealing with their anger by merely sitting still and reflecting on the unreasonableness of their temptations. The male gender approaches life with energy and aggression – whether we like it or not. Males will act; the key is to steer those actions in an acceptable manner.

Masculinity in American society has been minimized by gender neutrality at times and neglect at other times. Society has decided that boys should act a little more like girls, and girls should be permitted to act like boys. Additionally, because they are boys, they are perceived to need less attention. Parents of boys spend less time playing with them, reading to them, helping them with schoolwork, and communicating with their teachers.1 

Boys need healthy relationships – a support system all mass killers seemed to lack, and they need their masculinity to be reinforced and legitimized. Society has branded masculinity as chauvinistic, oppressively aggressive, and uncompassionate, labeling males in a way that makes the entire gender repulsive. Rather than defining masculinity like a feminist, why not write the script for young men the way the Creator intended them to be: productive, protective, and responsible? Rather than guide boys to behave in ways that conflict with their masculine nature, encourage them to acquire the attributes of other successful males. Biblical examples give us mighty men of valor like David, forgiving men like Joseph, bold men like Peter, and loving men like Jesus Christ. 

Professor Bridges noted how America has sowed the seeds that now reap an environment for mass murderers, “It’s a terrible statement about American masculinity, to say that when you’re emasculated, one way to respond is to open fire.”2 Neglect and warped views of masculinity have caused far too many heartaches. Let’s embrace masculinity, demand that it demonstrate integrity, and nurture it with mentoring relationships

1Bertrand, M., & Pan, J. (2013). The trouble with boys: Social influences and the gender gap in disruptive behavior. American Economic Journal. Applied Economics, 5(1), 32–64.