Guns Fire Up Toxic Masculinity

Boys and girls can create self-esteem when given better tools

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These are a few of MY guns from my SF past and pastimes, Christyl Rivers

First of all, I think it’s important to remind everyone that it is not masculinity that is toxic, but the behaviors of some men that are toxic. Also, the behaviors of some women, but that is a separate topic. I think guns, and gun culture, promote toxic masculinity.

Very early in my career, I worked in a pre-school. Pre-school is often where the youngest students among us get their foundational, socialization. Many schools have a zero-tolerance policy on anything remotely resembling a gun. Those people who object have not really been around young children before, or they would realize how disruptive it is when a cute little rascal starts running around waving anything remotely gun-shaped, and screeching ratta-tatta-tat and bang-bang noises while the whole place erupts into chaos.

Little boys will use their hands, when no object is available. And, I remember very clearly that when I was young, we played “War” quite a lot, and even I internalized the importance of mock murder as a joyful, and boisterous thing, usually with a rifle shaped stick upon my small framed, tomboy shoulder.

Being one of the boys felt powerful. We were a military family with five boys.

That kind of socialization, however, the rowdy, wild, ‘Let’s kill all the Indians and Asians!’, mentality was wrong. I sincerely hope that parents’ guide their children away from such games. It needs to be put to rest with that dead century.

In that older century, women died far more often at the hands of their domestic partners, being more than eleven times more likely to be killed with a fire arm. Also, in those households where a gun is present, a woman is 500 times more likely to be killed if her ‘man’ has access to a weapon. Men also suffer greatly even though they are not murdered so often by women. They are murdered at a much higher rate by other men, often by the very object said to be for self- defense.

And then there is suicide. No one can ever convince me that men have been well socialized to cope with their pent-up anger and depression when in my own family suicide and homicide scarred the early part of my childhood there. In my family, our boys grew up to be very pushy with their girlfriends. There was aggressive sexuality, resulting in teen, and unplanned pregnancy. My brothers were silent, and cool, and strong, and tough, being raised in a military family under the iron fist of our father.

And now they are all dead.

But, when boys are taught to express their sensitive side, and have no censure on being allowed to do so, they become manly men. They become true protectors, and true allies.

When they are taught that their gender entitles them to objectify, harass, or in any way own others as a sign of non-pussy hood, they suffer. When their affection, or tenderness is shut down, they learn to be bad dads.

When they are taught that guns make your tough, this is a counterproductive narrative. When they come to believe that the reason men like guns is because men are strong and cool, they are vulnerable. Almost 60% of gun ownership is by males, and just 20% of gun owners are women, which leads to no good. When boys believe that the reason women like lipstick and roses more than guns is because women are just weak, they will see women as victims, either for predation by them, or in need of defense by armed males. This kind of protection is extremely rare as most attacks on females are usually by a trusted acquaintance, or by the very person sworn to protect them. Not only that, but in the now routine mass shootings we see (almost always white male perpetrators) more than 60% of such cases involve an angry domestic partner seeking revenge upon a woman he “loved.”

The gun lobby often points out that gun owners report they feel much safer with a gun in the home. This is statistically true. People feel stuff. But the fact that the actual data shoot a hole in the logic — along with ripping through the nearly three billion dollars we spend on emergency room visits that easy gun access helps provide — does not add up to a happy outcome.

People can believe non factual things. That you feel safer, does not mean that you are safer. Some people believe that America has been made great again, and that our thoughts and prayers are enough for the next persons walking around our gun-flooded streets not knowing they will be dead come the next mass shooting. Or, more likely, the next domestic dispute that will take a life this upcoming weekend simply because ours is a nation where we allow this.

Guns are only powerful because we create an aura about that steeped in mythic madness:

We “won the west!” We are patriots if we support the 2nd amendment but care little for the 14th. We are warriors. Our men in uniform protect and defend us. Our defense budget is huge because of our greatness! We can’t defend the next burning or flooded city because we need that money for weaponry. Our borders are like sieves and they are sending their worst. We are forceful, powerful, and self-reliant. It’s people who kill, not guns! It’s a mental health issue.

All of these statements are lies. They are easily disproved by the body count this week alone. We need heroes in our police force and military, not warriors.

We don’t support human rights and autonomy for women so much as we howl when guns sales are at risk, and then they call that stance “pro-life.”

Guns are a cultural left over from a bitter time when the power they give someone over others was seen as manly rather than cowardly.

Should we hunt animals for food? Yes. Do you need high capacity, fast, magazines for that? No. What about women who own guns? All the gun ladies I have ever met were bought by the husband/spouse to bolster his toughness and insecurity, and only registered in her name, so he could have more of them.

Immigrants and the mentally ill are least likely to use guns. The west was won by genocide. Wars profit defense contractors and we won’t support our veterans very well at all until we grow up enough to support the PTSD, and PITS, that most soldiers and rape victims suffer. And so on.

People still give toy guns, especially virtual gaming ones, to boys more than to girls. They also give toy cars to boys, and not to girls. Girls lose interest in guns as they mature, but not all boys do. Face it, a woman already has far too much hardware to lug around in her canvas bag.

As to toy cars, this is silly socialization. A mother will be far more likely to drop her kids off at school until more men step up and demand stay at home roles, even though she is far more likely to be victimized by harassment, assault, or even murder, as she moves through her busy day.

Domination works well in the animal kingdom because it is nearly always non-lethal. It goes terribly wrong for sapiens, because our technology always outpaces our wisdom.

If we have a nuclear war between India and Pakistan, or Korea versus largest military on Earth, it won’t be to protect and defend people, but profits. Put another way, our control of our firepower is ineffective because we believe false narratives.

Dominance over subjugated peoples, eco-systems, or women, is a disproven tool. History teaches us that equality and justice are better ways to go, and our sex differences are a tiny part of all we can be.

This century is still young. There is good news, too. Most men are not in love with guns. Most of them, and almost all women, don’t even want one at all. I think we should re-frame masculinity itself as we shape and create the new decade, because time is running out for the living planet, and the old conquest attitudes that created racism, sexism, and the climate crisis.

Written by

Ecopsychologist, Writer, Farmer, Defender of reality, and Cat Castle Custodian.

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