A Rutgers student newspaper published an op-ed article that blames ‘toxic masculinity’ for the recent mass shooting in Florida. In this editorial piece from Rutgers’ The Daily Targum, contributor Francesca Petrucci asks her readers if “we can equate femininity to passivity with little statistical evidence, why is it that we cannot equate masculinity to gun violence with large statistical evidence?”
“We often label these folks as ‘madmen’ with ‘mental illness,’ but when will we begin to label masculinity as having gone ‘mad’?” Petrucci wrote. “While many argue that most mass shooters are ‘mentally ill,’ only 14.8 percent out of 88 shooters were diagnosed with a mental illness, according to a database of mass shootings since 1966.”
The author then went as far to suggest that it’s time to start labeling ‘toxic masculinity’ as a mental illness in the same vein as schizophrenia or a personality disorder.
“If mental illnesses like schizophrenia and personality disorder are influencers, we also must remember that only some express illness violently,” she wrote. “Is it time to categorize toxic masculinity as a mental illness?”
Petrucci’s article is somewhat reminiscent of an editorial piece released by Politico Magazine, which has the headline of “Don’t Blame Mental Illness for Mass Shootings; Blame Men.” In that Politico piece, the author writes, “Yet, while most mass shooters in the past 35 years have not been found to have a serious mental illness, nearly all of them do have one thing in common: their sex” and “if we want to stop the problem of mass shootings, we need to fix the problem of toxic masculinity.”
Sociologist Eric Madfis is cited in the Politico article, suggesting that the connection between mass shootings and the male gender may be derived from cultural standards regarding how men are expected to respond to victimization and stress. Madfis works as an associate professor at the criminal justice department at the University of Washington-Tacoma, and has written a 2014 journal article which dissects the intersectional (gender, race, economic class) identities of America’s past mass shooters. He says, “Women tend to internalize blame and frustration, while men tend to externalize it through acts of aggression.”
The Politico article also states that “In fact, being of the female sex is actually considered a protective factor against becoming a perpetrator of serious violence” while mentioning that women only commit “a very tiny fraction” of mass shootings. According to Statista.com, which collects information from more than 22,500 sources, “between 1982 and February 2018, 2 mass shootings (in the U.S.) were initiated by female shooters, (while) 94 (were perpetrated) by male shooters.”
However, the Rutgers student clarifies in her article that “men are not inherently violent or mad”, and points to Aaron Feis, a football coach who sacrificed his life protecting students from a hail of gunfire in the Parkland High School mass shooting.
For Petrucci, simply being a male isn’t enough to potentially drive someone to commit a mass shooting, but it is the culture surrounding masculinity that is the alleged culprit. She finds masculinity as a whole to be “a social construction created through media, culture, and business, which teaches men how to behave and what to value,” according to an interview from Campus Reform.
“Toxic masculinity are the facets of this social construction which are dangerous or toxic to men, women, and non-binary people and has implications for society at large,” she wrote, pinpointing the blame on social norms for men’s violent behavior.
The Rutgers student author wrote that, “men are socialized to act in ways which hurt others and themselves. Men have higher rates of perpetrating domestic violence, have higher rates of substance abuse, and simply being male is factored into one’s risk of being a mass shooter,” while also claiming “this is not a critique of men.”
Petrucci suggested that her piece was not an indictment on the inherent character of males, but rather a “critique of the masculine gender box,” which she described as “a habitat constructed to teach men how they should behave.”
“The box instructs its inhabitants to be financially stable, eat partially cooked animals, and have a love affair with women and violence,” Petrucci wrote. She then concluded her article with a question. “The question is not if masculinity is a social construct, but rather how many more lives will it take to transform this construction?”
Meanwhile, the Rutgers Conservative Union is working to defund the student newspaper where Ms. Petrucci’s article first appeared. This conservative group insists that The Daily Targum has an incredibly obvious “left-leaning bias.” The Targum currently receives an estimated $1 million per year off of a $11.25-per-student fee. The Rutgers Conservative Union is informing students that they have the option to request a refund per the fee’s official policy.