Mass Murder Has A Gender

Posted on August 7, 2012 by


When the headlines start screaming about gunshots on campus, or a shooter on a rampage, we really don’t need anyone to stop and clarify that it’s a man.

Of course it’s a man. It’s always a man. Except that one time, but otherwise, it’s always a man.

So you might say that mass murder or spree killings have a sex – which is a more accurate word to describe a biological identifier. But the title of this post is that mass murder has a gender.

Gender, as opposed to sex, is a social construct. It is whatever we mean when we say masculine or feminine; it is the implied behavior when we exhort someone to “Be a man!” or “Act like a lady!”

The gender of mass murder is also a social construct. I know that there are plenty of people who will want to argue with me and say that women don’t go on spree killings because it’s not in their nature or because women are fundamentally nonviolent. This is a biological argument that I don’t buy.

Mass murder is a social construct, not a biological fact. If it were somehow in men’s essential nature to commit these crimes, we’d see uniform male participation in mass murder across cultures.

Ah, but we don’t.

Try Italy, for the sake of example. Just one mass murder that happened in 1925. But France? France has had seven incidents that would fall in this broad category. Mass murder is culturally bound.

And it’s a social construct that men do it and women don’t.

It’s time to spend less time talking about guns, which has already been overworked, and more time talking about the role of culture and gender in these events.

As a society, we should be asking ourselves what we are doing when it comes to socializing gender roles in that we socialize our men to be violent. We socialize them such that when their mental illness escalates, a spree killing is what their brains seize upon.

There are mentally ill women all over the world, who don’t turn to mass murder when their illness worsens. Or essentially sane women who are filled with hatred and bigotry, yet never devise a plan to kill as many people as they can.

Just as there are mentally ill and sane men the world over, who are just so much less likely to think of killing people than American or European men.

Let’s set the gun issue aside, and see what we can do about the social issue instead.

The answer to reducing and preventing these crimes, after all, will never come with ammunition.  Instead, the answer lies in the social construction of traditional masculinity. And what society can build, society and tear down and rebuild even better.