By: Isa Woldeguiorguis & Marta Bobinski
As we process feelings of shock, disbelief and anger in the aftermath of the mass shootings that occurred in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio this past weekend, we are hearing many media outlets focus on the shooters’ mental health as the reason behind the violence. Yet, mental health professionals and experts do not agree with that claim. It is true that some folks who suffer from mental health problems become violent, but the majority do not. “There is no real connection between an individual with a mental health diagnosis and mass shootings” states Bethany Lilly of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.
The individuals in the most recent mass shootings were identified as two white men, a common trend in the history of mass shootings in the United States. Of the 96 mass shootings since 1982, all but two were committed by men, predominantly white men.
The relatively new buzz term, “toxic masculinity” has been around since the beginning of time, and patriarchy, aka male dominance, has existed across the globe. Through media, family, military, and more, men are taught to be strong, dominant, and show little to no emotions; they have to maintain an appearance of a “tough-guy”. This stunt in emotional capacity lays a solid foundation for violence.
Toxic masculinity is also a huge backbone of white supremacy.
Michael Kimmel, a sociologist at Stony Brook University, who has written several books about masculinity and gender writes, “American white nationalism offers American men the restoration of their masculinity. The feeling of being emasculated comes from a feeling of entitlement. Entitlement is what fuels the anger and desire to restore what’s “rightfully ours.” As we evolve into a multicultural and inclusive country, some white, heterosexual, cisgender men strike back to regain status as the most privileged in our society.
With these two identities directly linking to gun violence we cannot deny the harmful impact that white supremacy and toxic masculinity has in the United States. We are deeply impacted by patriarchy and misogyny in our culture and it’s important to take responsibility in how it not only affects ourselves, but others.
Destructive events such as mass shootings require a deeper understanding to not only promote, but especially practice healthy masculinity. At The Center for Hope and Healing, Inc. we are proud of our Engaging Men & Boys Program, which involves men and boys in the movement to end sexual violence by encouraging healthy masculinity, fostering strong role models, and building male allies in the community.
Visit us at chhinc.org to learn more and at our social media handle @chhlowell.
Isa Woldeguiorguis is the Executive Director of The Center for Hope and Healing, Inc., in Lowell
Marta Bobinski is the Communications and Volunteer Coordinator of The Center for Hope and Healing, Inc., in Lowell