The Soapbox: What Do Most Rampage Killers Have In Common? They’re Men

There is one thing most mass shooters have in common in America: They are men. Of course Dylann Storm Roof — who went on a shooting rampage in a historical black Charleston church, killing nine, including a State Senator — is no exception to that rule. Though the racial aspects of the Charleston Massacre cannot be denied, nor should it be overshadowed (I also wrote about the cyclical history of White violence and terrorism here) the reality that men are often the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes against other men, women and even children should not go without scrutiny. Society must take a more bold stand against male violence.

When we evaluate the list of rampage killers, not only in the United States of America, but globally, it is impossible to deny that both are comprised of mostly men — and in the US, even more specifically, White men. From Columbine High School shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (who murdered 13 and injured 21), to James Holmes (who entered a dark movie theatre with multiple firearms, killing 12 and injuring 70), to Adam Lanza (who fatally shot and killed 20 children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School), the ever growing number of male mass killers continues to grow, while women are largely absent from headlines of such reported crimes.

Male violence against men, women and children does not end there. Per the homicide statistics collected by the United States Department of Justice, males committed the vast majority of homicides between 1980-2008, representing 90.5 percent of the total number of offenders.

Women are more likely to be victims of domestic homicides, while children under 5, killed by someone other than their parents, were murdered by men 80 percent of the time. To add further complexity to the discussion, young Black males had the highest homicide offending rate, white women had the lowest and black women are nearly three times as likely to die because of domestic violence compared to their white counterparts.

Given those statistics, some may jump to a few basic conclusions: Men are more innately violent than women, white men are more innately violent towards school children than any other group, black men are innately the most violent overall, and/or white women are the least violent.

Though I do not agree with any of these premises, there are still major implications that must be considered if a populous chooses to believe in theories of “innate differences” (which are both sexist and racist, by the way). How precisely do women protect themselves and/or their children from male violence, if males are indeed inherently violent? The belief that men and women are inherently different only reaffirms the female need to advocate for protection. When will society take steps towards protecting its citizens from male violence?

If one does not ascribe to the belief that men and women are inherently more or less violent because of biology, then the socializing factors that create these differences must be evaluated. Though many attempt to argue that societal definitions of “masculinity” and “manhood” are evolving — Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men, even declared the death of patriarchy — continued male violence against other men, women and children tells quite a different tale. Patriarchy forces men to view themselves as the purveyors of morality in society and the  “protectors”/owners of the women in it – all-powerful, in control and deserving of respect.

That theme is pretty hard to miss in Dylann Storm Roof’s self-righteous claim that his killing nine churchgoers was his attempt to protect his country and women: “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country,” were the words he told his black victims before opening fire on the crowd. It should not be overlooked that the word “our” implies ownership.

The grandiose patriarchal male desire for power was also found by FBI psychiatrists and psychologists to be the root cause for the Columbine Shooting. As Slate articulated about the FBI’s findings:

“It wasn’t just ‘fame’ they were after—Agent Fuselier bristles at that trivializing term—they were gunning for devastating infamy on the historical scale of an Attila the Hun. Their vision was to create a nightmare so devastating and apocalyptic that the entire world would shudder at their power.”

Much of the violence committed by men against other men, women and children is rooted in (and exacerbated by) the fight for power, dominance and control that is perpetuated by patriarchy. Not even a year ago, Mary “Unique” Spears was murdered by a man after rejecting his public advances. When she denied his request for her number, he shot at her multiple times, hitting her in the head. Very recently, a cop ran his wife off of the road and shot her multiple times in front of their daughter. He had a history of domestic abuse against his wife, but the court system refused to grant a restraining order because of his position within law enforcement.

Yet, society at large continues to instill patriarchal narratives of power, dominance and control, and wonders why male violence prevails?

Dylann Roof Storm was an extremist. He was a racist. His actions were deplorable. And none of those conclusions can be debated. However, it should not be excluded from the discussion that he was also a part of a demographic that is responsible for the most violent crimes in the United States of America and worldwide: Men. Whether one ascribes to the notion that men are simply inherently more violent or that violence is a result of socialization, this male rage/violence must be addressed. Society must rally together to end male violence. We should not wait for another death or mass murder carried out by a man to face the reality that something must be done.