Our society discourages men and boys from expressing their emotions besides anger. This is a problem.
Not coincidentally, a common thread between all mass shootings in the U.S is that they are nearly all committed by men. As TIME reports, 98% of all shooters are men. This aspect is often overlooked. Before my male readers get defensive, this does NOT mean that all men are bad, it means that our society has a deeply problematic notion of how men are supposedly supposed to express (or not express) themselves. In addition to adequate gun control, we need a society where men are not constrained by a narrow, violence-centered idea of manhood.
Charlie Hoehn, a blogger and speaker has some important insights on this issue: He says,
“From an early age, we have an unhealthy ideal of masculinity that we try to live up to. Part of that ideal tells us that Real men do everything on their own. Real men don’t cry. Real men express anger through violence…The byproduct is isolation. Most men spend the majority of their adult lives without deeper friendships, or any real sense of community. Not to mention a complete inability to release anger or sadness in a healthy way…We are a culture that continually neglects the emotional health of our boys, and our men.”
Another dimension is that a majority of mass shooters previously committed violence against women. Domestic abuse is a common thread among shooters. This is something we need to take seriously. As professor and writer for the Washington Post, Nancy Leong points out, “Take violence against women seriously. It’s a red flag.”
We, women and men, owe it to each other to demand a definition of masculinity that is not so constraining.
From what I can tell in my friend circles, men are beginning to be able to express themselves more: My male friends are supportive of each other, goofy, fun, and express affection for each other while still being manly. Men are more than their anger or violence, and it’s about time our society supports that.
If you haven’t already seen it, there is a documentary about this subject. Here is a preview: