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We Need To Talk: Hateful Misogyny and Warped Masculinity Inspires Mass Shooters

This past weekend, we were all stunned to learn about the deadly mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. While it was almost immediately clear what motivated the shooter in Texas, it is taking a bit more time to gain the same type of insight into what compelled the Ohio shooter.

As I recently wrote, it seems indisputable that the El Paso shooter, having posted his manifesto online mere moments beforehand, was enormously motivated by right-wing radicalism and racial hatred — a rising sentiment behind these types of atrocities. The Dayton shooter, however, appears to be a somewhat less straight-forward case. Having not been so kind as to leave a manifesto behind, in the days since the shooting the public has gradually been learning more about his past.

People who knew him say the would-be shooter seemed troubled by mental illness, occasionally describing hearing “dark voices” and being emotionally volatile. But it would be foolish to simply chalk his crimes up to mental illness — it’s a far too common scapegoat trotted out after these incidents. After all, the vast majority of Americans with mental illness are not violent and do not carry out mass shootings.

It’s the revelation that the shooter had had multiple incidents during his public schooling that shines more light on his possible motivations. He faced school suspensions after it had been discovered that he had written a “hit list” in one of the school restrooms and, before that, had been suspended after school authorities discovered he had written a “rape list,” naming various fellow students he would like to sexually assault.

Other accounts reinforce the image that the Ohio shooter held misogynistic views, ranging from disciplinary behavior for accosting girls in his school to ranting to his friends about how he hated women.

While authorities are still working on drawing their own conclusions about the Ohio shooter’s motivations, these details echo what we’ve learned repeatedly about other perpetrators of violence, and, in particular, mass shooters — a history of violent misogyny.

This is an inevitable product of toxic masculinity for far too many men.

Culturally and socially, the United States is going through some serious growing pains. With the MeToo movement being the most visible example, American women (and women around the world) are finding unprecedented success in being heard when it comes to their stories of harassment and assault — and those committing these acts (many who have gotten away with doing so for decades unscathed) are finally facing tangible repercussions.

Alongside this we can also look to an increasing outcry over racial inequality and injustice. And though it might be hazardous to overlay laws of Newtonian physics on social dynamics, it is often the case that (many) forces are met with an equal and opposite force.

Sadly, it is all to common that as equality makes forward progress in society, there is often a reactionary compulsion to push back.

For many men (especially white men), there is a sentiment that with their diminishing (but far from lost) cultural dominance, white men are being marginalized or even becoming society’s under dogs. Of course, this is a deeply flawed world view but it is demonstrably taking a firm hold among far too many white American men.

Over a decade ago, this could be seen largely through the increasingly vocal (so-called) Men’s Rights Activist movement and groups like the Oathkeepers. In more recent times, however, these groups have not only persisted but have evolved into something even more hateful and dangerous. Finding a shelter online, this it’s what’s some call the “manoshpere” — this ranges from “red pillers” (a reference to The Matrix, suggesting that these men have taken the film’s red pill, enabling them to see the realities of their world) to online groups with names like Men Going Their Own Way, or MGTOW, who, ironically, have a strong fixation on women to radical right-wing groups like the Proud Boys.

These groups share a major theme: A belief that masculinity is under direct attack and must be fiercely defended. Naturally, though most of those in the manosphere merely play the role of keyboard warrior, like any spreading toxic spill, if left unaddressed, to spread without interference, will continue to contaminate and do fundamental harm.

Some of the these online communities, especially among incels (so-called “involuntary celibates”), are becoming ever insulated echo chambers. Many have gone so far as to idolize past mass shooters, in particular, Elliot Rodger. He was the 22-year-old behind the 2014 Isla Vista, California, killings in which he targeted women, and has emerged as a sort of patron saint for violent misogynists, many who applaud him for having the courage to “strike back” (an undoubtedly twisted view).

The disturbing reverence given toward Rodger sees him as someone who took up arms to stop feminism’s attack on masculinity, ultimately martyring himself. To some in the manosphere, he embodied what all men should seek to be: A man asserting his dominance in the only way men can and should — through the use of violence.

Never mind the fact that his victims had no idea who he was nor did Rodger know their political or social leanings — to him (and to those who idolize him), his victims, by being women, were automatically guilty of being complicit in trying to tear down and emasculate all men.

These men, disillusioned by romantic, social, and economic failures, struggling to find a direction in their lives, opt to take the path of least resistance; it is simply easier and more comforting to find someone else to fault for their lack of success. Be it immigrants, left-wing political figures, women — or all of the above — toxic masculinity can and has driven these men to reactionary, (and as we’ve seen) deadly behavior.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being masculine. But men and those around them suffer when the concept of masculinity is internalized as something that must be demonstrated through force and aggression.

But in the real world, it isn’t. A man who is secure in his own manhood does not need to lash out and hurt others. He does not need to find purpose through hate and loathing. He not only accepts others as they are, but first and foremost, accepts himself and aspires to be a better person.This past weekend, we were all stunned to learn about the deadly mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. While it was almost immediately clear what motivated the shooter in Texas, it is taking a bit more time to gain the same type of insight into what compelled the Ohio shooter.

As I recently wrote, it seems indisputable that the El Paso shooter, having posted his manifesto online mere moments beforehand, was enormously motivated by right-wing radicalism and racial hatred — a rising sentiment behind these types of atrocities. The Dayton shooter, however, appears to be a somewhat less straight-forward case. Having not been so kind as to leave a manifesto behind, in the days since the shooting the public has gradually been learning more about his past.

People who knew him say the would-be shooter seemed troubled by mental illness, occasionally describing hearing “dark voices” and being emotionally volatile. But it would be foolish to simply chalk his crimes up to mental illness — it’s a far too common scapegoat trotted out after these incidents. After all, the vast majority of Americans with mental illness are not violent and do not carry out mass shootings.

It’s the revelation that the shooter had had multiple incidents during his public schooling that shines more light on his possible motivations. He faced school suspensions after it had been discovered that he had written a “hit list” in one of the school restrooms and, before that, had been suspended after school authorities discovered he had written a “rape list,” naming various fellow students he would like to sexually assault.

Other accounts reinforce the image that the Ohio shooter held misogynistic views, ranging from disciplinary behavior for accosting girls in his school to ranting to his friends about how he hated women.

While authorities are still working on drawing their own conclusions about the Ohio shooter’s motivations, these details echo what we’ve learned repeatedly about other perpetrators of violence, and, in particular, mass shooters — a history of violent misogyny.

This is an inevitable product of toxic masculinity for far too many men.

Culturally and socially, the United States is going through some serious growing pains. With the MeToo movement being the most visible example, American women (and women around the world) are finding unprecedented success in being heard when it comes to their stories of harassment and assault — and those committing these acts (many who have gotten away with doing so for decades unscathed) are finally facing tangible repercussions.

Alongside this we can also look to an increasing outcry over racial inequality and injustice. And though it might be hazardous to overlay laws of Newtonian physics on social dynamics, it is often the case that (many) forces are met with an equal and opposite force.

Sadly, it is all to common that as equality makes forward progress in society, there is often a reactionary compulsion to push back.

For many men (especially white men), there is a sentiment that with their diminishing (but far from lost) cultural dominance, white men are being marginalized or even becoming society’s under dogs. Of course, this is a deeply flawed world view but it is demonstrably taking a firm hold among far too many white American men.

Over a decade ago, this could be seen largely through the increasingly vocal (so-called) Men’s Rights Activist movement and groups like the Oathkeepers. In more recent times, however, these groups have not only persisted but have evolved into something even more hateful and dangerous. Finding a shelter online, this it’s what’s some call the “manoshpere” — this ranges from “red pillers” (a reference to The Matrix, suggesting that these men have taken the film’s red pill, enabling them to see the realities of their world) to online groups with names like Men Going Their Own Way, or MGTOW, who, ironically, have a strong fixation on women to radical right-wing groups like the Proud Boys.

These groups share a major theme: A belief that masculinity is under direct attack and must be fiercely defended. Naturally, though most of those in the manosphere merely play the role of keyboard warrior, like any spreading toxic spill, if left unaddressed, to spread without interference, will continue to contaminate and do fundamental harm.

Some of the these online communities, especially among incels (so-called “involuntary celibates”), are becoming ever insulated echo chambers. Many have gone so far as to idolize past mass shooters, in particular, Elliot Rodger. He was the 22-year-old behind the 2014 Isla Vista, California, killings in which he targeted women, and has emerged as a sort of patron saint for violent misogynists, many who applaud him for having the courage to “strike back” (an undoubtedly twisted view).

The disturbing reverence given toward Rodger sees him as someone who took up arms to stop feminism’s attack on masculinity, ultimately martyring himself. To some in the manosphere, he embodied what all men should seek to be: A man asserting his dominance in the only way men can and should — through the use of violence.

Never mind the fact that his victims had no idea who he was nor did Rodger know their political or social leanings — to him (and to those who idolize him), his victims, by being women, were automatically guilty of being complicit in trying to tear down and emasculate all men.

These men, disillusioned by romantic, social, and economic failures, struggling to find a direction in their lives, opt to take the path of least resistance; it is simply easier and more comforting to find someone else to fault for their lack of success. Be it immigrants, left-wing political figures, women — or all of the above — toxic masculinity can and has driven these men to reactionary, (and as we’ve seen) deadly behavior.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being masculine. But men and those around them suffer when the concept of masculinity is internalized as something that must be demonstrated through force and aggression.

But in the real world, it isn’t. A man who is secure in his own manhood does not need to lash out and hurt others. He does not need to find purpose through hate and loathing. He not only accepts others as they are, but first and foremost, accepts himself and aspires to be a better person.

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