Gun Violence: Exposing Toxic Masculinity As a Prime Suspect by Matthew Suarez Pace LMFT

Opinion
7 months ago
Gun Violence: Exposing Toxic Masculinity As a Prime Suspect

I loved playing Clue as a kid. Winning the game required a player to correctly identify three things: person, location and weapon. After a mass shooting, the debate tends to narrowly focus on two things: gun control and mental health. Inspired by Clue, I want to suggest a culprit: toxic masculinity, in the school, with the semi-automatic weapon.

It doesn’t take a sleuth to figure out that toxic masculinity (TM) has its bloody fingerprints on nearly every revolver or AR-15 that has taken a life. Though the men pulling the trigger often die, toxic masculinity escapes the crime scene unquestioned. TM, which reinforces a culture of male violence, needs to be part of every debate about gun violence, and undermining it a part of any solution.

There are men challenging TM, but aren’t talking about it. Silence is also a symptom of TM and is a barrier for men who are invested in evolving beyond hyper-violent, emotionless creatures. With that in mind, I invited men to share how they challenge TM. Here are just some examples of what they’re doing that left me feeling hopeful:

  • Sharing fears and failures.
  • Hugging and saying, “I love you."
  • Exploring sexism and homophobia.
  • Nurturing children.
  • Crying openly.
  • Letting kids paint their nails.
  • Wearing pink.
  • Housekeeping.
  • Teaching dancing.

Each is a wonderful act of defiance, unmasking an accomplice to every shooting, and is a step closer to finding Colonel Mustard and Professor Plum hugging it out, in the kitchen, with pink nail polish, instead of a revolver!

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Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead
Thank you for this, Matthew Suarez Pace LMFT . You are absolutely right about toxic masculinity. We need to talk about it so much more than we do. I appreciate your discussing this issue with other men. What they're doing makes me hopeful, too.
Mike Prochaska
Of course there are men challenging it and really there not as much hyper violent males in the world as you see on the “news” and media. Just that what they show and that part of my reason for blogging about involved men. But there are more men challenging these things then ever. Dad groups, involved dads and men. Man what really changes your world well
Mine was when became a parent but I don’t think there really more male violence now then before.
Does everyone else?
I don’t know. Kind of feel like it starts with the president. We have Obama’s who were so kid friendly and involved father to trump who seems to bring male volience topics out more in the media and people feed off it.
Elisa All Schmitz 30Seconds
This is so insightful, Matthew Suarez Pace LMFT ! Matt Pace Thank you for doing this important research and writing about something I don't think many of us know very much about. Putting a label on it really helps crystallize it as something to address. I grew up with a dad who cooked, did laundry and other household chores, despite the fact that his own father was an Old World hunter who wouldn't think of doing such things. He is a great role model for my son. I love your "Clue" analogy and can't wait to see Colonel Mustard and Professor Plum hugging it out, in the kitchen, with pink nail polish, instead of a revolver. Thank you!
Nicole DeAvilla
Thank you for bringing up this important topic. It really does need to be addressed.
Matthew Suarez Pace LMFT
I appreciate your thoughts and reactions, everyone!
Mike Prochaska
Is it good to label it or bad? We don’t label kids so should we label this?
Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead
There’s a whole body of psychological research on this. So the term and the information we have on it are grounded in scholarly research.
Mike Prochaska
Can u share a link or a picture of article so we can continue discussion
Keith Sereduck
Hmmm. Not so sure about this. While toxic masculinity could be an issue (and I agree with Mike Prochaska, that it's really not as prevalent as you think,) I think the findings point to a different suspect. Not all mass shootings, but the school shootings specifically, are almost exclusively done by kids who have been bullied BY toxic males (bullies) and mean girls (not sure if there's a female equivalent to TM but I'd say that's pretty close) because these little boys (because that's what they are) are different. The schools don't listen to the. Or their parents. They're usually quiet to begin with which makes them MORE quiet. They don't generally have a support system or friends. They're either not talking to their parents or their parents arent hearing them. Bullying is out of control. And finally, whether boy or girl, they snap. Maybe it's a suicide. Maybe it's a school shooting. Somewhere along the lines people raised kids that have no respect for authority or anyone who's different, much less themselves. I saw in the news last week that a man found out his son was being a bully on the bus and made jog to school in the rain. Maybe a bit extreme, but maybe not. I think parents have to talk more with their kids. They're on one side if this. Bully or victim. To me, that's where the problems begin and the solution lies. It's not the president. It's not labels. It's the fact that some people, too many, have no idea what they're children are doing or who they're doing it to. Male or female. That's my 2 cents.
Mike Prochaska
I so see this point of view waiting to read the research
Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead
Mike Prochaska : To your question/comment above (which I wasn't able to reply to)... There's not just one article or link to share. It's really an entire body of research. I can make some recommendations, but I'd rather point you to Matthew Suarez Pace LMFT's recommendations first, as he's the author here and also much more of an expert than I am, being a family therapist and Psychology professor. I'm sure he'll suggest something once he catches up on all these comments. :)
Matthew Suarez Pace LMFT
Hi Mike - here is some literature to check out on the concept of hegemonic (toxic) masculinity. It is not exhaustive, of course, but might be a helpful start. The Psychology Today piece offers a critical perspective of some limiting aspects of this concept, too. I welcome others to share any literature that adds to this as well!
Augoustinos, M., Hunter, S., & Riggs, D. (2017). Hegemonic masculinity versus a caring masculinity: Implications for understanding primary caregiving fathers. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, Vol. 11(3)

Rethinking Hegemonic Masculinity in a Globalizing World by Christine Beasley
Connell, R. W. 1995. Masculinities. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Connell, R. W., and James W. Messerschmidt. (2005). ‘‘Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept.’’ Gender & Society 19:829–59.
Donaldson, M. (1993). What is hegemonic masculinity? Theory and Society, 22, 643– 657.

Fausto-Sterling, A. (2000). Sexing the body: Gender politics and the construction of sexuality. New York, NY: Basic Books.

www.psychologytoday.com/us/blo...
Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead
Thanks for sharing some of the literature, Matthew Suarez Pace LMFT . I'd also suggest that folks check out Dr. Jackson Katz's work. He's known for his scholarship and activism on issues of gender, race, and violence. He's also the co-founder of Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP), one of the most influential gender violence prevention programs in North America. You can check out his popular TED Talk here: www.ted.com/talks/jackson_katz...
Keith Sereduck
I have read it and do agree, Cassiday . I actually wrote my own tip dad: Gun Control & Mental Health in America: Speak Up, Speak Out (It's Not Just a Lesson for Our Kids)
In which I say that we're basically not speaking up when we see things happen or we're hearing what others are saying. I think a lot of it is mental health issues. A lot if it is bullying. A lot of it is parenting (or the lack thereof. Should we have tighter gun laws? Quite possibly...but, to put a label in them and then it away as an angry man with a gun does a disservice to everyone that's dealing with problems like this.
Mike Prochaska
Yes I agree with Connor sense Dad tip all the way! Parents need to be advocating for their kids
Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, @TheRealKeith. I am the first to say that we should be raising our kids to be kind, and that educators should be addressing bullying more effectively. I'm both a parent and an educator myself, and I write on both of these (related) topics. I'm also a bullying prevention advocate, and I've looked at whether or not bullying plays a role in school shootings, as some have suggested. If it does, then I wonder: why aren't we seeing school shootings by students of color, LGBTQ students, trans students? We know that students in these marginalized groups are bullied, and yet they aren't committing school shootings.
Keith Sereduck
It's like I said, there are 2 groups. The "marginalized" groups you mention sadly tend to fall into the group that involves suicide rather than shootings. Heck, Emma Gonzalez (who would fall into that group under different circumstances) has admitted to bullying the shooter at Parkland in many occasions. Bullying may not be THE cause but it is A cause. As I've said, bad or dispatched parenting and mental health are equal causes, I believe. To say it's just an angry white man or a because of guns helps no one if that's what we focus our sole attention on. We can take everyone's guns and send them into space, make all white men go to separate schools (obviously these two things will never happen and I'm being sarcastic) and this will still happen. We need a multi pronged effort. Also, as someone else mentioned, the final piece should involve a more secure (read as armed guard or police officer) environment (ALICE training also shows promise) for the cases that can't be stopped ahead of time. Let's face it, the school, local government, and law enforcement all filled in parkland. This student was acting out for years. If his parents were unable to over him help, the school system and police had more than enough evidence to intervene. Clearly, it never should have happened. As for it appearing that all the shooters (whether at a school or not) are white, white men do make up the largest group so it would make sense that most would be white but they haven't been. Virginia tech. Dc sniper. The Texas police shooter. Anywho, the point being, there are many causes and types and all of them need to be addressed to create a viable solution.
Stacey Roberts
Thank you for your 2 cents
I saw that clip of the parents who made their kid jog to school for bullying...that’s parenting! (imho) maybe if more parent let the punishment fit the crime there’d be less crime. And talking to them or taking away a phone or computer doesn’t qualify. But like you said, a parent has to be there and involved in their kid’s lives. Fortunately for this kid, he’ll probably think twice before he tries to bully anyone again.
Mike Prochaska
Cedilla ryann Buckley says

“Toxic Masculinity” is a joke. No such thing. Masculinity is a good thing and a Necessary thing, and our society is suffering from the increase in brow beating and shaming our men and boys for having it. And true masculinity does not include a natural tendency to harm others. That is rooted in problems that have nothing to do with a boy behaving in a masculine way. Just like girls, boys need to be taught to be decent human beings. We all need a heavier dose of kindness and respect for and confidence in, our attitudes and treatment of others. But that does not mean getting rid of gender roles or getting rid of masculinity. “Toxic Masculinity” is a dangerous lie made up by insecure women with an unhealthy feminist agenda. My boys are learning to properly handle guns, play with swords, have a winner and a loser in their sports, compete with and rally together with other boys in all kinds of games. They open doors and give up their chairs for ladies, and often make jokes about farts and boogers. They are boys. They are learning to be good men. The focus of attack or repair should not be on taking away their masculinity or any part of it, but instead focused on teaching them how awesome their masculinity and its tendencies are. And teaching them how to apply it properly in their lives.
Matthew Suarez Pace LMFT
I appreciate all of the various thoughts and reactions to this...it certainly has helped me continue to think about this issue in a deeper way! A few thoughts...
First, the issue of gun violence and mass shootings involves a complex set of variables that extend far beyond men and masculinity. My piece is meant to highlight an aspect that seems to get overlooked in many of these conversations.
With that said, I think there is a misunderstanding... Toxic Masculinity, for me, is not about all things masculine being 'bad'. It is not 'masculinity is toxic' which seems to be how some folks are seeing this. However, toxic masculinity is, well, toxic. In other words, any framework for masculinity (and how it is understood and performed) that is limiting and rigid to me is problematic and needs to be examined for its role. Facts are facts...men are the ones primarily responsible mass shootings (since 1982 94 mass shootings by males, 2 by females)... We need to explore the various issues contributing to men and boys engaging in this kind of violence. Among the many worthwhile areas to examine is masculinity in all of its forms.

It is noteworthy to also explore what is behind some intense reactivity to this as well. I wonder what gets in the way of so many men believing that this is problem, or even being open to the possibility?

I vehemently disagree with the sexist comment above that suggests this is the result of insecure women and an unhealthy feminist agenda! On the contrary, if men were so 'secure' why get so defensive when masculinity gets questioned? Listening to the voices of women is exactly one of the BEST things men can and should do.

No one is coming for anyone's farts and boogers...where in the world would we be without them! However, as men I believe we do have some evolving to do. Men need to step up and hold each other accountable and push each other forward in the process!
Mike Prochaska
Thank you for sharing the research I honestly never even heard of this term till I read this tip So I wanted to read more.
Stacey Roberts
Mike Prochaska i should’ve said the culture that’s been created by the absentee father and the effects it has especially on the boys. How? I have some ideas, but it’s such a broad issue it needs a lot of differently trained people to come up with a solution and then that’s probably just scratching the surface. Do you feel this is an issue?
Stacey Roberts
I think the culture of fatherless boys is what needs to be addressed???
Mike Prochaska
I still on the fence. I see both sides
Matthew Suarez Pace LMFT
I appreciate all of the various thoughts and reactions to this...it certainly has helped me continue to think about this issue in a deeper way! A few thoughts...
First, the issue of gun violence and mass shootings involves a complex set of variables that extend far beyond men and masculinity. My piece is meant to highlight an aspect that seems to get overlooked in many of these conversations.
With that said, I think there is a misunderstanding... Toxic Masculinity, for me, is not about all things masculine being 'bad'. It is not 'masculinity is toxic' which seems to be how some folks are seeing this. However, toxic masculinity is, well, toxic. In other words, any framework for masculinity (and how it is understood and performed) that is limiting and rigid to me is problematic and needs to be examined for its role. Facts are facts...men are the ones primarily responsible mass shootings (since 1982 94 mass shootings by males, 2 by females)... We need to explore the various issues contributing to men and boys engaging in this kind of violence. Among the many worthwhile areas to examine is masculinity in all of its forms.

It is noteworthy to also explore what is behind some intense reactivity to this as well. I wonder what gets in the way of so many men believing that this is problem, or even being open to the possibility?

I vehemently disagree with the sexist comment above that suggests this is the result of insecure women and an unhealthy feminist agenda! On the contrary, if men were so 'secure' why get so defensive when masculinity gets questioned? Listening to the voices of women is exactly one of the BEST things men can and should do.

No one is coming for anyone's farts and boogers...where in the world would we be without them! However, as men I believe we do have some evolving to do. Men need to step up and hold each other accountable and push each other forward in the process!
Mike Prochaska
Thank you for sharing this!!
Mike Prochaska
Thank you for sharing these!
Stacey Roberts
Minds are like parachutes, they only work when they’re open!
Kameba78
Wonderful. Thank you for this profound point of view, and for the supporting research. Boy have you touched on something...

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