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White Masculinity’s Ties To Rape and Gun Culture

White Masculinity’s Ties To Rape and Gun Culture

We’re still collecting all the pieces from the massacre in Newtown, but one thing we do know, is there’s a clear link between this country’s gun culture and rape culture and that link is white male masculinity with something to prove.

Don’t take my word for it. Instead, take a look at the ad campaign from Bushmaster, the manufacturer of the assault rifle used to murder almost thirty people, most of them children, in Connecticut. Bushmaster grants “man cards” to visitors of who can prove their masculinity by answering a series of manhood questions. Complete the quiz successfully and get a card that proves you’re a man. Or buy their weapon and presumably use it. In as assault. Because it is an assault weapon, after all.

Let’s get the obvious components out of the way. A company called “Bushmaster” is suggesting that purchasing, and presumably using, its assault rifle will restore spurned masculinity. I’m no Freudian but I think there’s something about overcompensation in there somewhere.

All snark aside, what we do know, and what we must confront, is the fact that while more men die of gun violence than women in a given year, gun deaths are overwhelmingly committed by men. Since 1982 there have been 62 cases of mass shootings in this country and the vast majority were committed by young white men. As Soraya Chemaly smartly notes “White boys and men are not biologically or genetically predisposed to be homicidal mass murderers or domestic abusers. However, violence is part of how American masculinity is defined. And guns are part of that violence.”

Which is what makes the Bushmaster ad campaign, and the countless other pro-gun = pro-man ad campaigns so dangerous. They play on a white male cultural sense of entitlement that feels under threat while signaling that ultimately violence, and specifically gun violence, is the surest means to restore that entitlement and undo that emasculation. As Bushmaster’s tagline says, ” Consider Your Man Card Reissued.”

It’s this tie between American male masculinity and violence that is at the core of rape culture as well, and it’s what fuels the Tea Party Congress. White men may be an ever-shrinking portion of the American electorate, but they have a deadly grip on gun control policy in this country. 56 percent of white men oppose stricter gun control laws, while overall 53 percent of non-college educated whites oppose such laws. And while ten percent of women in this country own a gun, 59 percent of women support stricter gun laws. And while there’s no evidence to show that mass shootings like the Newtown tragedy have women in mind as victims, when 11 of the 62 mass shootings take place in schools, there’s a greater likelihood more women will be victims.

Until we break this tie between violence, sex and American masculinity we can’t expect rape culture or gun culture to go away. And we can’t break that tie if we’re too afraid to admit it exists.


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Top photo from Mike Saechang via flickr.

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5:27AM PDT on Mar 13, 2013

@ Val: "They (white men) murdered hundreds of children."

Sorry girlfriend, this is the area where your gender wins. Women are the primary murderers of children. Children under the age of four are almost exclusively killed by women. Thousands annually. According to the CDC American women kill more of their own children than any other mothers in the industrialized world. They are also by far the most physically and emotionally abusive towards children. They commit between 25 & 30% of intrafamilial sex abuse.

You Go Girl!!!

But can we expect empathy from women for those boys who were maternally abused as childen? Show me examples. Boys don't exist to feminists.

7:35PM PDT on Mar 12, 2013

I am white and am in no way offended by this article. My boyfriend is part native american, and the rest Irish-European and he is not offended either.

Of course, people of both genders and of all colors/nationalities commit murder. That is not the issue. Power (and the loss thereof), stress, greed, narcissism all seem to be part of the psychological equation. It applies to all people, but mostly men.

The article - however - is about the real and well-documented trend of White Guys With Issues Who Lose It And Murder En Mass By Gun. We all know about Hitler, Franco, Stalin, the Hapsburgs, The Spanish Inquisition, The Crusades, etc. So, mass murder has a long and storied history among all men, and European men have their very own unique niche.

If White Guys are so grand, why can't they admit that some of them have major problems with masculinity, mental illness and guns?

The sooner we stop coddling White Guys With Issues and letting them get away with violence by just "explaining it away," then we can get somewhere great in this country. I am tired of people rushing to the defense of some of the most historically psychotic individuals of all time. And access to guns must be limited to stop this pernicious, horrific problem.

The following is just a teeny tiny list of White Men With Issues, Guns and Explosives who committed Mass Murder Over the Last 100 Years in workplaces, churches, schools, homes, restaurants, etc.. They murdered hundreds of children,

4:20PM PST on Mar 8, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

5:25PM PST on Feb 25, 2013

Yep, this article is just more BS left wing propaganda. White's have done plenty of horrible, evil things in this world, but are far from the only race who's done such. White men obviously don't have a monopoly on racism. Racism is embedded in every race in this world, unfortunately.

6:43AM PST on Feb 23, 2013

Wow what horse shit. There's a place I think in Greenland and everyone has a gun. They are all trained at a young age. They have next to no crime because everybody knows that tey all carry guns. Guns DON'T kill people. PEOPLE kill people. Men are not only to blame either... ANYONE can pick up a gun.

10:55AM PST on Feb 19, 2013

What a lie.This doesn't just apply to just white men.

7:56AM PST on Feb 12, 2013

I won't read this article because of it's fertilizer head line. This is a racist article. With a head line like that you are assuming that only WHITE MALES RAPE AND ONLY THOSE WHO OWN GUNS. In LA they have arrested a lot of Hispanics for rape. I guess you chose to ignore those rapes.

7:32AM PST on Feb 9, 2013

I believe that over the past few years, we have heard a lot about growing minority populations, a lot about voting blocs and demographic changes. I believe that this has started to make white men (who still hold a disproportionate amount of the political and corporate power) to perceive themselves as marginalized. I think the media feeds into this growing perception. I think this is dangerous. I think the combination of a feeling of lost masculinity combined with perceived social marginalization is a deadly combination in a country with an already violent culture.
I think it would behoove us to explore this more.

7:09AM PST on Feb 9, 2013

I think it's difficult for us as a culture, one that has been so dominated by white men for so long, to look at ourselves rationally. Yes, the Virginia Tech shooter was Korean, but 90% of the others were white males (one of the 62 shootings the writer mentioned was a white woman). We as a nation are all too comfortable with the profiling and "othering" of communities of color. In fact, studies have been done on the subject of violence and the media ad nauseum. What they have found is that we are much more likely to hear about black on white crime than any other. We are much more likely to see black or brown criminals than white ones in our movies or television shows. When gang violence happens, which we almost never hear about, people characterize that as black kids acting like black kids do.
When mass shootings happen, of which the vast majority of them are committed by white men, the media frantically tries to get out the "lone wolf" characterization. Mental illness, violent video games, Goth lifestyle - the media will never address the fact that it's mostly white men who commit these horrendous acts of violence against their communities and that maybe there is something we need to address in that demographic. In fact, white men are largely exempt from any kind of criminal or mental health profiling at all.
I believe that over the past few years, we have heard a lot about growing minority populations, a lot about voting blocs and demographic changes. I believe that th

6:30AM PST on Jan 30, 2013

Jessica, thank you for your contributions to correcting our problems in society by race and gender. Please continue to help us understand how things work. Please write more stories on:

- How black males commit more violent crime per capita
- How black women are more likely to use crack cocaine
- How white women get the most abortions

I would love to continue reading your series.


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