Hyper-masculinity kills

ABBI COBB, Opinion Columnist

“If you think women are crazy, you’ve never had a dude go from hitting on you to literally threatening to kill you in the time it takes you to say ‘no, thanks,’” said Kendra Wells, feminist cartoonist. And perhaps this says it all, but permit me to say more.

Last Friday, a man by the name of Charles McKinney shot 29-year-old Janese Talton-Jackson in Pittsburg. McKinney allegedly shot the woman in response to being turned down.

Let us switch the conversation for a minute from “gunman and mental illness” to “gunman and overcompensation for lacking expected level of masculinity.” Popular media loves the former and often dismisses the latter.

The stringent qualifications of maleness are requiring men to express attributes that they cannot offer, which is in turn putting women at an increased risk of being victimized by acts of reclamation for simply declining unwanted advances or leaving coercive situations.

The premise of this particular incident is not an isolated one. In fact, many mass shooters cite their disappointment regarding their “beta male” status and their inability to get a girl friend or their inability to cope with rejection.

Remember the young male shooter who killed nine at a community college in Oregon in October of 2015? He was so frustrated about not having a girlfriend that he essentially took the lives of nine others before taking his own. And what better way to redeem your masculinity than through an act of mass murder?

The severity of retaliation demonstrated by these men is the ultimate portrayal of the desperation resuliting from consistently coming up short in masculinity points. After all, it is us, society, telling these men that they must be aggressive, assertive, powerful, but most of all they must be dominant in order to be a “real man.”

So, what is a man to do when the ability to play his masculine role is taken away?

Before I am written off as a man-hating feminist, let me make this clear: gender construction, specifically that of masculinity, is not only harming women, it is affecting people everywhere.

Not living up to the standards of maleness makes it difficult for many men to establish an identity that is specific to their gender, causing confusion. In some cases, it seems this role confusion leads to an internal state of crisis until the individual reacts in the form of violence against others.

Maybe it is time to reconsider the messages we are sending to young boys and men about gendered expectations and entitlement. It’s time to take a genuine, analytical approach to how women and men alike often times fall victim to society’s obsession with hyper-masculinity.