Disclaimer: I wrote these blogs a long time ago! I'm leaving them up as I don't want to delete my journey and I think showing growth is important. But it means that some of my views, and some language I use, is now different. Please be mindful of this, and that the content might be triggering, if you choose to read on.
Content warning: violence and abuse
I’m sure you’re aware that there’s been another mass shooting in America. Another. There's a big problem staring us in the face which nobody’s talking about. Hyper-masculinity.
People can argue all they want about who the shooter is, why he did it and which terrorist group he might be involved with, but doesn't seem very productive. It’s not stopping anything like this from happening again in the future.
A while ago I wrote a short story about a (fictitious) vulnerable man who drawn into the Men’s Right’s Activist Community following an emotional break-up with a girlfriend (I'll put a link to the story at the end of this post). I submitted it to a feminist magazine but they wouldn’t publish it. I got the impression it wasn’t their type of feminism, because it focuses on a man maybe? I wasn’t sure. It was quite a compassionate view towards him so maybe that was the problem, but I wanted to illustrate the dangers of men with mental health issues who don’t feel like it's acceptable to be weak, or ask for help. They don’t want to be seen to be ‘crazy’- they’re taught to be big strong men from a young age. Boys don’t cry. Boys don’t play with dolls, they play with Action Man.
Of course I’m not saying that women can’t commit such crimes. People commit mass murder because they’re psychopaths and their brains work differently. This can happen to anyone of any gender. Yet when was the last time you heard of a female mass shooter, or a female terrorist? I set about finding some statistics at this point…
“Males were convicted of the vast majority of homicides in the United States, representing 90.5% of the total number of offenders” -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_differences_in_crime#In_the_United_States
It was proving hard to find statistics specifically about how many mass shootings were carried out by women, but then I found this…
'Female mass killers are "so rare that it just hasn't been studied," said James Garbarino, a psychologist at Loyola University Chicago who has researched human development and violence. "There aren't enough cases."' - http://www.livescience.com/53047-why-female-mass-shooters-are-rare.html
I knew there weren’t many, but that’s shocking. And nobody seems to be talking about this. Feminists are labelled as angry or boring, or lesbians, or fat feminizai’s, or even terrorists, which considering the above, is almost ironic. Women are not storming into gay clubs and shooting people, or planning terrorist attacks, yet the power in our world is still in mainly in the hands of men. That is messed up.
Following the Orlando attack, of course gun laws needed to be reviewed in the US, but it’s a wider issue in society which we need to start changing now. Do you have kids? You have the power to teach them to be a better person. Instead of teaching boys to play with toys with guns and fighting, or encouraging them to see men with guns as powerful or successful, or teaching them that they can’t live without fear unless you have a gun, or that they need to ‘protect their woman’ with a gun, can they not just be allowed to be a little more feminine? Is there anything wrong with that? Let the boys play with dolls or whatever they want to. Don’t tell them not to cry when they’re sisters are allowed too. There is no harm in men showing emotion. The harm is done by asking them to hold it all inside.
The Orlando shooter had apparently been to the gay club before and used gay dating apps. He is also said to have had mental health problems and had been abusive in his relationships. Considering we live in a society which praises monogamy and points shame at anyone who does anything outside the ‘norm’ ie man/woman/marriage/kids etc, we don’t take emotions and mental health within relationships very seriously. It can be a hard thing for people to seek therapeutic help, but especially for relationship counselling (I work for a relationship counselling charity) as a failed marriage is seen as a huge life failure, even if it lasted a long time.
Following the Orlando shootings, people immediately questioned where the shooter was from and his religion, but people aren’t talking about the stigma attached to men with mental health issues and their reluctance to ask for help. Even if they do ask for help, it could be that adequate support isn’t available – there is never enough funding for mental health services (certainly here in the UK) and there probably won’t be unless there is a shift in the future to see mental health as being as important as physical health. Here, I see a man who possibly wasn’t able to be himself. To be living a life where his religion, community, possibly family too, didn’t allow him to be him. I’m willing to bet he had been encouraged not to cry, not to be emotional, or feminine, and to find a girl and get married and have babies. And I bet he’d grown up knowing that it wasn’t ‘manly’ for him to be upset, for him to ask for help, or to be emotional. Those things are feminine, and women are weak and only exist to be owned. This hetero-normative, patriarchal world is more damaging than we can imagine. I’m not saying we should feel sorry for him or justify what he did, it was horrific, but he’s dead. All we can do is take steps to try to support the people affected by this terrible tragedy and reduce the risk of it happening again. There will always be psychopaths in our world but we can help by not encouraging them by our rigid gender role expectations.
Boys can cry. Boys can ask for help. Boys can go for counselling. Men can love other men. It's 2016 for fucks sake - a man doesn't need to be 'a man' anymore. Anyone can be any gender or sexuality and they don't have to explain themselves to anyone else. Can't we let people just be?
Women are not weak because they are emotional. We all have emotions because we are all human beings. We are people, not products of our genitalia or sexual orientation. Femininity does not mean weakness. Feminism isn’t just for women. We need this now more than ever. We all have the power to make small changes in our lives, to think about the messages we give to kids, to think about the messages about gender roles they’re getting from films, TV and games. This isn’t about censorship, it’s about letting people be themselves without growing up with subconscious biases.
I’ve known men who think it’s only acceptable to be emotional about football. They can cry if their team loses because football passes one of the ridiculous unspoken masculinity rules, but they’re not allowed to cry if they have a row with their girlfriend, God forbid him being as weak as a woman.
It’s time to face up to something. Maybe what we see as 'weakness' is actually compassion and empathy, and these are strengths. Maybe they're the things that stop us from committing mass shootings.
Human beings have been around long enough now to know that we’re intelligent, emotional creatures. We are smart enough and adaptive enough to be able to change the way we think. We don’t need old fashioned traditions to govern how we act just because we were born into a particular gender or religion. We’re better than that. We can be whatever we want to be.