Are Men the Problem?
Are men are the problem?
Erika Christakis‘ piece in Time Voice recently asked “Why aren’t we talking about the one thing mass murderers have in common?” and her answer became her title, “The Overwhelming Maleness of Mass Homicide.”
Christopher Anderson, the Executive Director of Male Survivor gave us his response to the article. MaleSurvivor is a leader preventing, healing, and eliminating all forms of sexual victimization of boys and men through support, treatment, research, education, advocacy, and activism.
Below that you’ll find a link to another response by Eesha Pandit who blogged on feministing.com. Take a look and let us know what you think in the comments below, are men the problem?
I am male. A red-blooded, heterosexual man who listens to sports radio, loves the Yankees, and has listened once or twice to Howard Stern. When I say that, what do you assume about me? Go ahead. Search your thoughts for a moment. I’ll wait.
Now, when you read a headline that says, “The Overwhelming Maleness of Mass Homicide” does that change your thoughts at all? Take another second and think about that.
I would argue it’s very likely that, at least to a small degree, you now associate my maleness with mass homicide and violence. Further, the burden has now shifted to me to show you I am not prone to violent outbursts, denigration of others, chauvinistic behavior or other anti-social behaviors regarded as typically “male”.
Now what if I were to tell you that I have struggled with depression for almost my whole life? Has the burden shifted even more? “Of course not,” many of you will say that to yourself in your most enlightened tones.
But then you read this – “we know that the young men who go on murderous rampages are not always sociopathic monsters but, rather, sometimes more or less “regular” men who suffered from crushing depression and suicidal ideation” Has the burden shifted a little more? Do I need to prove to you that I am not about to pick up a weapon and vent my unexpressed rage at the world?
Let me take this one step further. What if I were to tell you that I was sexually molested when I was a child? What if I were to tell you that I have struggled on and off with suicidal thoughts throughout my life?
Try to strip away the fact that I have written these facts with some degree of skill. Let’s just take the points I’ve laid out for you:
I’m male. I like sports and have listened to Howard Stern.
Headline – “The Overwhelming Maleness of Mass Homicide”
I have battled depression.
Men who go on murderous sprees are often “regular” men who suffer from “crushing depression and suicidal ideation.”
I have battled suicidal thoughts.
I was sexually abused as a child.
What do you think about me now? Do you think I am more likely to commit mass murder than any other given person? Chances are you do. Knowing nothing else about me than those facts above you would be a fool not to. If all you knew about me were those facts, would you offer me a job? Would you let me babysit your children or take a job as a teacher? What do you think I can be trusted to do?
Erika Christakis’ recent article in Time actually tried to point out something that, deep in my heart, I agree with. There is something wrong with how we tolerate violence among males in our culture. However it took me 6 attempts to read the article finally get this point because it is buried so far beneath a headline that screams IT’S MEN WHO DO THESE HORRIBLE ACTS. DAMAGED, HURTING MEN.
Ms. Christakis says, “our refusal to talk about violence as a public-health problem with known (or knowable) risk factors keeps us from helping the young men who are at most risk and, of course, their potential victims.” That’s a fantastic statement, and I fully endorse it. But here’s the problem – that line is in the very last paragraph of the article. Most people who look at the article won’t even make it that far. Many of them will come away from this piece with one main point – males who suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts are more prone to committing atrocities than other types of people.
I want to have a conversation about how violence and abuse is a public health crisis. But, can I trust you to listen to me, Ms. Christakis? Or do I have to first prove to you that I’m unarmed, medicated, and denuded of all the worst parts of my maleness before I sit across the table from you?
Violence and abuse affect all of us. Males are victims of abuse in far greater numbers than we realize. For example, at least 1 in 6 males are victims of sexual abuse before the age of 18. Chances are the numbers are greater because of the immense stigma and shame surrounding the topic. On average it takes upwards of 20 years for a man to be ready to disclose a history of being abused to anyone. Millions and millions of men are carrying a burden of shame and stigma in silence. If we are to make any headway in helping males we have to ensure that our public discussion does not further stigmatize and alienate male victims by perpetrating the idea that males who have been victimized are that much more likely to go on and harm others. This pushes those who most need help further into the shadows by perpetrating the idea that people who are harmed are a potential danger to the public. If I know that the world will view me with skepticism, derision, and prejudice if I disclose that I am hurting, what do I gain by opening up about my pain?
Every survivor of abuse and violence needs hope and support in order to do the hard work of healing. This is as true for male victims as it is of female victims. In my opinion no person has the right to intentionally harm, abuse, or traumatize another. Sometimes we fail to see that a pen can do just as much damage to someone as a gun. In the future Ms. Christakis, I humbly ask you to keep that in mind. If you intend to help males, you would do well to try and not harm us with your words first.
“And that is why I find the kernel contained in Christakis’ article most valuable: we have to name male violence as a socio-cultural phenomenon – one that occurs in the context of race, class, gender, citizenship, ability, sexuality and so on. To name it without interrogating the intersections won’t take us as far as it seems Christakis would like us to go.”
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