Tag Archives: masculinity

Where Violence Thrives

Whether we’re talking about youth violence, sexual violence, or intimate partner violence, all of which can involve gun violence, there are similarities in the lists of risk factors for perpetrating these crimes.

Violent offenders often have antisocial beliefs and attitudes.  They tend to be aggressive and hostile.  They are frequently involved in drug and alcohol use.  Perpetrators have typically been exposed to violence, such as witnessing family violence, being physically abused, or being sexually assaulted.  They commonly hold very rigid gender roles, equate manhood with aggression, and exaggerate their male stereotypical behavior.

Relationships play an important role.  Violent offenders often have families fraught with instability, maltreatment, patriarchy, and other unhealthy interactions.  Gang involvement increases the risk of certain types of violence, while rejection by peers increases the risk for others.  Low academic performance and unemployment are also common among perpetrators of violence.

People who commit violence don’t evolve in a vacuum.  They are influenced by family functioning, friends’ behaviors, and community dynamics.  Impoverished neighborhoods, socially disorganized neighborhoods, and violent neighborhoods increase the risk of perpetrating violence.  Communities that tolerate violence and fail to enforce sanctions against these crimes also increase the risk of violent offenses.  People in these communities live with many stressors, have fears, and lack faith in authorities to effectively address violence, which raises the risk of committing violent acts.

People see the lists of risk factors and still miss the point.  People who perpetrate violence are abusing their power in a particular situation.  In addition, many of the risk factors for perpetrating violence are examples of people and/or institutions abusing their power over others.  Reconsider the father who dominates his family, the law enforcement officer who refuses to file a police report, and the society that reinforces inequalities.

We each need to recognize our own power and refuse to abuse that power.  That would be a good first step to eradicating violence in our world.

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Personal Responsibility, Not Selective Passion

People have been moved by the tragic mass murder of 20 children and 7 women in Newtown. People are signing petitions. People are pushing for gun control and other policy changes. Everybody’s passion, as selective as it may be, to take steps to prevent another massacre is heartening.

And yet, the anti-violence advocate in me is feeling less than satisfied.

We aren’t going to fix this problem solely through federal legislation, no matter how good that legislation may be. Each of us also needs to take some personal responsibility for decreasing violence in our world by sending a strong message that violence will no longer be tolerated.

Let’s stop pretending that shooting sprees are unimaginable. Let’s acknowledge that our evening news, our blockbuster movies, and our video games are besieged with massacres and other violent acts. Let’s admit that lots of people have imagined and recreated and promoted violence for their own personal gain.

Let’s stop treating violence as entertainment. Let’s stop glorifying violence. Let’s stop trying to make the killing of characters ever more realistic and gruesome. We may not be the ones producing violent movies and video games, but too many of us are making violence profitable for others. Let’s not waste one more dollar or one more hour on glorified violence disguised as entertainment.

Let’s recognize violence in all its forms. The gunman who shoots dozens of people he does not know. The man who beats his wife. The guy who rapes his date. The kid who bullies his schoolmate.

Let’s make a pledge to never behave in violent ways. Let’s speak out against violence when we see it. Let’s encourage healthy work, school, and play environments. Let’s teach our boys strength through compassion and fairness. Let’s remember that what we do, not what we say, determines what kind of role model we are, and we are all role models to somebody.

Let’s stop our complicity. Let’s do our part to create a world where our young men truly can’t imagine shooting even one person, let alone 27.

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The Elephant Has a Name

No sooner had news of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre captivated our nation in shared sorrow, then gun control headlines quickly dominated the media, with mental health headlines coming in a close second.

So disheartening.

Not because I think keeping weapons out of the hands of people who are inclined to harm others is a bad thing.  And not because I’m against ensuring that people who have mental illness receive good services and support.

I simply was dismayed that 20 young children and 7 adults had been murdered, and once again it appeared that we were going to avoid talking about the elephant in the room.

But then, I heard an expert open the door a crack.  And then another expert seemed to imply there was an elephant.  I saw the articles of Jackson Katz and Michael Kimmel naming the elephant in the room.  Today, President Obama stated, “We’re going to need to look more closely at a culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence.”  Vice President Biden, a man who seems to understand the gendered nature of violence, the man who wrote the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, will lead a group to come up with a set of concrete proposals.

Perhaps there will be enough of us who are ready to change our social norms.  Perhaps we will find a way to sever the ties between violence and masculinity in our culture.  Perhaps we will get it right this time.

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