Mass Shootings Are Rooted in Our Culture of Male Disconnection
The solution begins with our young sons.
I absolutely support an assault weapon ban and common sense gun control laws. That said, until we effectively shift our current culture of masculinity to one that is healthier, male violence will continue.
The narrow retrogressive rules of our Man Box culture of masculinity bully young boys out of expression/connection, leaving them isolated, disaffected, vulnerable to extremist recruitment in dominance-based masculinity.
Niobe Way’s research in her book Deep Secrets documents how by late adolescence boys are trained out of once close male friendships by our culture of masculinity. Seeking to prove they are not “little kids, girly, or gay” boys give up close friendships they once said they would “go crazy without” leading to lifetimes of male isolation. It’s at that point that boys suicide rates become four times that of girls their age.
Judy Chu documents this same ongoing process of socialized disconnection among boys in a two year study of a cohort in a pre-K class. She documents the process by which four year old boys are already being trained to hide their emotional acuity, taking on the stereotypical disaffection our culture projects on them in her book When Boys Become Boys.
If we are to combat acts of extremist violence, it’s crucial that we see this *first* phase; the systemic process by which boys’ natural capacities for expression/connection are suppressed, isolating boys, making them susceptible to recruitment into hierarchical dominance-based masculinity and its associated violent extremism.
Consider the following: We’ve all seen the immense joy young boys create in their close male friendships. Way’s younger interviewees said they “loved” their best friends, “would go crazy without them.” Now, consider the amount of abuse it takes to convinces boys to give that up.
How do we address male isolation? A big part of this is about each of us as men reaching out to do our men’s work in ever widening circles of connection. Gun culture is rooted in our isolated and extremist retrogressive masculinity. Men hold the key to creating circles of healthy connecting masculinity by inviting others in out of the disaffection, isolation so common in our culture. Organizations like The Mankind Project are doing this work. Many more such organizations exist.
It is also crucial to connect with and hold space for boys to bring their full selves, to share what’s going on for them in our homes, schools, churches, athletic teams and so on. Men like Ashanti Branch and Coach Erik Becker are doing this work beautifully in educational settings.
Boys have the ability to maintain their connection and expression in the world. Chu’s research shows this. But they need our help in order to do this. We must be there for boys as parents, teachers, coaches, grandparents. When one caring person is there for a boy to share what’s going on for him, his relational resiliency grows.
The solution to violent male extremism lies in what we all want and need at the most fundamental level: human connection. Our dominance-based culture of masculinity is isolating boys, leaving them disconnected as we stand by and watch. It’s time to get in the game with the boys in your life. And with the men in our circles. Offer to listen. To be there. The healthy connecting culture of masculinity this creates will transform our culture.
Is someone that you love ready to break out of Man Box culture? Pick up a copy of The Little #MeToo Book for Men and learn how.