We Need To Talk About Gender: The Overwhelming Maleness of Mass Homicide

My TIME.com column today:

There’s a predictable cycle of mourning and recrimination that follows a massacre like the shootings last week in Aurora, Colo. First come the calls for unity and flags flown at half-mast. Then the national fissures appear: the gun lobby stiffens its spine as gun-control advocates make their case. Psychologists parse the shooter’s background, looking for signs of mental illness or family disarray. Politicians point fingers about “society run amok” and “cultures of despair.”

We’ve been down this path so many times, yet we keep missing the elephant in the room: How many of the worst mass murderers in American history were women? None. This is not to suggest that women are never violent, and there are even the rare cases of female serial killers. But why aren’t we talking about the glaring reality that acts of mass murder (and, indeed, every single kind of violence) are overwhelmingly perpetrated by men? Pointing out that fact may seem politically incorrect or irrelevant, but our silence about the huge gender disparity of such violence may be costing lives.

Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2012/07/24/the-overwhelming-maleness-of-mass-homicide/?iid=op-main-lede#ixzz21XiRK0JP

About ErikaChristakis

Yale Lecturer in early childhood education/Licensed teacher/Former preschool director and Harvard College house master/some-time journalist. In possession of: unmarketable bachelor’s degree (Harvard, anthropology), semi-marketable graduate degrees (public health, education…). Rewarding career at the intersection of family, society, and schools (including long stint in parenting vortex). Forging a new path to connect all of the above.
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45 Responses to We Need To Talk About Gender: The Overwhelming Maleness of Mass Homicide

  1. Tomasz Rakowski says:

    This article is sexist. Man are genetically wired to be violent and solve some problems through violence. Millions of years of evolution, coming from our ancestors, and you’re turning that into a Public Health Issue ? This is human nature, deal with it. If condition remain the same it will be eventually out breed, provided women stop selecting stronger and violent mates. Nerdy peaceful guys barely breed, on the other hand, big muscular and a bit scary have no problem.

  2. gunnygene says:

    So what are advocating? Mass castration? That’s the usual remedy for aggression in dogs and bulls, and males of any species. You might want to think this thru.

  3. Mark Paulino says:

    Erika, I am a 51 year old male who has not committed acts of violence as society deems them. I want to say that I can’t agree with your article more about violent tendencies in males. I’ve been asking friends and family (both male and female) what is wrong with my gender. I am a straight father of 2 boys. War games and violence pervade every game they wish to play and watch. Violence is shoved down our throats not only in games but on TV and in movies. There must be a better way of channeling the energies of young men than what we’re doing as a society. Obviously, what we have now, simply DOESN’T WORK.

  4. Matt P. says:

    Interesting article Erika. I very much agree that too often we let political correctness get in the way of truly analyzing differences in behavior between the sexes.
    While I agree with your article, I feel like you wrote an article that says “Men are more violent than women. In other news, the sky is blue…” Maybe I’m being a bit arrogant in thinking everyone agrees with this, but what I really wanted to see you write is a huge question that you didn’t even try to touch: ‘What does it mean that men are more violent than women?’
    What in society do we need to change? Why can my wife and I both watch the same violent TV shows/movies/games, but statistically I would be the one that it impacts on an emotional level that could drive me to crime?

  5. Marilyn says:

    At last someone has had the guts to point out that it’s men who are doing the mass murdering. This fact has been ignored. Thank you. There’s a lot of soul searching going on, yet the media it seems is quiet about this issue. So, what’s that all about?

    • Chris says:

      Marilyn,
      Most likely laziness. The FBI doesn’t publish the statistics on violent crime by gender anywhere easy to find. You really need to know where to go to find the statistics.
      That said, does gender *really* matter at all? Out of the six billion people on the planet, there have been twenty or so spree killers since 1900. You are quite literally more likely to die of the earth opening up and swallowing you than ever running into a serial or spree killer.
      So there are some plain facts:
      1. A $50 alarmed door release would have prevented this and will prevent it in the future. Making these releases mandatory in all public buildings that hold more than 50 people is the only actual change that can be made that will make any difference.
      2. You cannot stop a spree killer. They are willing to die to achieve their objective. Locking the back exit will prevent another attack like this. The next guy will find a way around that. The Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq has the most secure entry control in the world, and people have still found their way inside.
      3. The killer himself is a unique case. Hundreds of thousands of people will have identical psychological profiles, and 99.99% of them never kill anyone but themselves. You can satisfy your curiosity, but knowing why he did it will not prevent a single future incident. Only HOW is important, and I already covered that.
      4. The truth is boring. The actual review Law Enfocement will publish about what they learned from this will be short and boring. All but two of the shooting victims who reached medical aid lived. The entire incident was over faster than an officer could have responded, and the killer was caught alive. Other than alarming the door, you could not ask for better results.
      5. The best possible results are of no comfort to the families of the dead, which is why no one will say that. It just adds to the pain.
      6. The only important people now are the wounded, their families, and the heroes who risked their lives to protect others, who had the skill to keep so many alive in the field, and the hospital staff that have saved so many with their knowledge and skill. Any other news story, including this one, is fluff meant to fill space.
      I do commend the author for her humility in her biography. We all have to make a living and writing fluff for Time.com beats running the Nation desk at the Huffington Post. ;-)

  6. C. Wright says:

    Oh my, the topic of your article is so hard to fathom that I don’t know where to start. It is such a complex issue that I don’t know where to start. Where would our country be if it weren’t for males who decided to stand up and fight for individual rights? What about defeating fascism? There is a difference between the sexes that is quite obvious, but it extends way beyond humans. To simply place blame on males is unfair and unenlightened.

  7. Ryan says:

    Begs the question: is society driven by games/activities/TV and movies, or are those things born out of a men’s need for them?

    I’m a 30 year old male – an IT professional in a very conservative Fortune 500 company(simply a point-of-reference, nothing else). I’ve practically been spoon-fed violence/etc since I can remember. My generation grew up with G.I. Joe, Wolfenstein, and DOOM…Mortal Kombat the like were revered in my adolescence.

    I would be concerned if these things disappeared from society…and left our complacent drib-drab lifestyles devoid of such “outlets”. After long and stressful days/weeks in the office, I crave plopping in front of my TV or monitor and dealing out punishment to monsters, thugs or enemy soldiers. I long to go out with my friends and fight random opponents in all-too-intense paintball re-creations of life-or-death scenarios. I could see myself being lost, angry and without an outlet if these harmless activities were not there. It’s a chicken or the egg argument, and it is hardly easy to answer.
    -R

  8. doublevez says:

    Thank you for your article. However, I wish you wouldn’t confuse Gender with Sex. “We need to talk about SEX ” is what you mean, so why not say it?

  9. Van says:

    Erika, please look at the facial expressions of the killer. He is either mentally ill, or under the influence of a type of cold war mind control. Remember the spy movies where an undercover agent was completely brainwashed into doing horrible things. Look at this young man’s face. I don’t believe he even knows what he did.

  10. Chris Cherry says:

    My wife’s doctoral thesis was on this topic, and having read it a number of times I’d like to use what I learned from her research to respond to your article/posting.
    Mr. Paulino’s self-incriminations aside, the research shows that both men and women are equally prone to anger and violence, but women have a greater number of interventional mechanics and also tend to direct their violence inward due to a culture of low self-esteem.
    There is an extremely high correlation between mass murderers and the amount of physical attention and affection received in the first few years of life. It’s in these years that our brain develops the capacity for empathy, the lack thereof is a major indicator for psychotic rage.
    Two other significant factors are high intelligence and poor social and communication skills. This leads to a feeling a feeling of isolation and disaffection.
    To a lack of empathy for others, you add an inability to express or even learn to understand one’s own feelings, and a feeling of being rejected by society and you get the recipe for a future violent person – be they male or female.
    Next there is a high correlation between mediocrity and mass murder. Mass murderers are almost always described as “talented” and “promising” but are very rarely ever successful at their chosen endeavor. They are competent, but lurk in the shadows of their profession rarely doing anything of note. Their co-workers will almost always describe them as someone they worked with but really didn’t know anything about.
    In every case, you end up with a person who has little understanding of his own or others emotions, feels isolated and rejected by society in general, and while convinced of his own superiority feels that his work is simply not understood or he would receive the recognition everyone else seems to get.
    When this kind of person ultimately snaps, their anger can be directed either inward or outward. When directed inward, the person tends to take out their anger on themselves, the ultimate expression being suicide. When directed outwards, this is usually directed at whomever manifests itself in the person’s mind as the source of their life-long difficulties. Workplace shootings, murder-suicides of family, etc fall into this category. Most rarely, the person feels so isolated and alienated that they define mass groups of people as the source of their woes. These people may target a class of people – political opponents, a cultural group like Jews or Muslims, or even members of an opposing tribe like Hutus or Tutzis.
    Your topic questions why mass murderers are almost exclusively male. My response was that females have greater opportunities for intervention and a tendency toward other expressions.
    Females are less likely to become truly isolated as women are better communicators than men, the current theory being that men evolved as hunter/gatherers where remaining silent for long periods of time was necessary, while women evolved caring for the settlement where commuication was important to coordinate labor.
    Women also have lower societal expectations of performance. For example, if a woman is unemployed, it does not carry the same social stigma as men. If a woman does not excel at her profession, there are any number of support organizations that will tell her that women cannot succeed on their own because of a centuries-old bias toward men. Lastly, when women do experience violent rage, they tend to turn it inward against themselves – my wife didn’t really explore this issue in depth, but it seems to fit the overall self-esteem issues commonly discussed about women in general.
    So just as disrupting any of the series of events that lead up to a tragic accident ultimately averts the tragedy, so does disrupting any of the series of lifetime events that leads to the creation of a mass murder averts that tragedy. In our society, white males are assumed to be automatically gifted with superior lives and opportunities to women or minorities. This is an extreme and dangerous generalization. The highest predictor of the future of a child is the socio-economic status of their parents. There is a very low correlation to race or sex. Therefore, it’s likely that white men, women, and minorities all are exposed equally to the lack of attention and affection that leads to a lack of empathy, but as they grow older they receive more support for any percieved deficiencies in communication or career performance, intervening in the chain of events that lead to mass murderers.

    • wildhog says:

      “Females are less likely to become truly isolated as women are better communicators than men”

      Just because they talk more doesnt make them better communicators.

  11. Chris says:

    Van,
    He was most likely under court-ordered sedation.
    -Chris

  12. Erica,
    While some may suggest that your article is somewhat “anti-male”, I do not view it as such. As a male, I recognize that it simply points out a (to me, obvious) fact that men and women are different. It doesn’t mean that one is better than the other, we are just different. Yes, men may be more aggressive in certain situations. However, history has required us to be so and the flip side to the equation is that men have used this trait primarily to protect women and children. Anthropologically speaking, it was men who were the hunters, the protectors, the defenders of the home. And if there is some genetic residue as a result, then perhaps the feminists need to recognize that this has been a prime factor in the survival of the species. Men are also victims of their gender. It is men who have been conscripted into war, have given their lives to protect those who they love. It is men who chose to go down with the ship in order to protect women and children.

    So maybe this genetic trait does manifest itself from time to time in a horrific way. But these are anomalies. Men, by and large, would give their lives to protect people, and women are the ones they most fervently protect.

    Therefore, do not judge us too harshly. We are your fathers, your brothers and your sons. We love you. We want to care for you. Our genetics may engender us with more aggression, but if that were not so, perhaps you would not be here to write your thoughts in this article.

    Take care and be open!
    – Frederick Potter

  13. Steve says:

    “Overwhelming Maleness of Mass Homicide”? Good heavens, this reads like a screed from a 1990s’s gender-feminist manifesto. While it may be true that the majority of “mass homicide” acts are committed by men, it’s also true that such acts are so rare among a population of 160 million men that they fail to register in any statistical sense whatsoever. One stands a significantly higher risk of being struck by lightening than perishing in a mass homicide, and no rational individual lives in fear of attending a movie, a concert, or for that matter, a lecture in Ms. Christakis due to apocalyptic visions of mass homicide being committed by rampaging men.

    Ms. Christakis’s proclamation amounts to nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to peddle negative stereotyping, fear mongering, and collective guilt, practices long favored by demagogues at the forefront of various hate-based ideologies. If Ms. Christakis’s wishes to promote a discussion on the gender aspects of violence, perhaps we should begin with something far more prevent in our society than mass homicide, such as child abuse, which federal statistics clearly show to be committed primarily by females. What say, Ms. Christakis?

    • Take another look at what I actually wrote, and not what you think I wrote. If you wish to read it, my blog post today describes in much greater detail what I said and why. One of the reasons you believe that women are more likely to be “abusive” to children (which is not the same thing as physical violence and, specifically, murder – the subject of my column) is because many statistics do not accurately take into account non-permanent males as family members/parents, e.g. unmarried couples, step-fathers, boyfriends etc. In short many men are not a sufficient presence in a child’s to even be available to abuse a child!! Or to be counted in child welfare and abuse statistics. But this is hardly something to hold up as ‘proof’ that men are …what? less violent? Give me a break.

      I wonder why are you tying yourself in knots trying to disprove a basic reality: men are vastly more likely to be both victims and perpetrators of murder. This is a terrible tragedy, and I used the recent mass homicide as an extreme example of a much more widespread and equally devastating problem of violence. I don’t mind being mocked or described as a a 90s feminist. I care about boys and young men, and want to make our society a better place for my sons, and the young men I teach and mentor. Putting our heads in the sand about risk factors for violence is a non-starter. A better approach is to design programs and policies to protect vulnerable men – such as depressed, suicidal adolescents – who are at risk for disaster. These men DO resister in a statistical sense. Surely you must understand this. We have one of the highest murder rates in the world outside of a war zone.

      • Steve says:

        Yes, I read your blog entry today, and yes, I would even concur with some of your observations. However, with all due respect, you appear to miss my point of my posting. I make no effort to “disprove” or otherwise dispute that men are more likely to be both victims and perpetrators of murder, and that this indeed is a tragedy worth discussing. My objection lies with the specific characterization you employ to associate men with “mass homicide”. Yes, we can say the majority of such acts are committed by men. However, the number of such acts committed are indeed statistically insignificant when considered against a population of 160 million men, and therein the basis for my objection to your tag line. I believe that characterizing such rare events with proclamations as in “The Overwhelming Maleness of Mass Homicide” are not helpful to any discussion on the matter, and serves only to play upon fears already popularized in our media culture.

        And yes, I am aware that summary statistics of are often devoid of context and subject to significant misunderstanding when considered in isolation. In this manner, you were correct to provide context to my reference regarding woman and child abuse. I would encourage you to do the same when considering references to “mass homicide” and men.

        Far from “putting my head in the sand”, I would certainly agree that our society needs to have a informed discussion with regard to the factors that influence acts of violence. Furthermore, I would argue that the discussion absolutely cannot occur without an examination of the role that gender plays. However, such discussion cannot be productive in an environment based on fear, ignorance, or gender-bashing. Perhaps we can agree on this as well.

        be it directed at either men or women.

      • Steve, well spoken and intelligently presented. Perhaps you should be the one submitting articles!

  14. Everyone makes good points. If I might also interject that men are also almost equally the victims of domestic abuse and yet there are no shelters and nowhere near the support systems available to women. One might ask if men are more statistically prone to violence, would a lack of support for them be a contributing factor? If the situations were reversed and men had the support that women do and women had the support that men now do, would the violence statistic be significantly changed?

    So are we going to blame the gender or fix the problem? Any problem cannot be fixed unless there is a realistic grasp of the root causes. If you believe that men are inherently evil and violent, then I guess that attitude is also part of the problem.

    • Steve says:

      Fredrick – I appreciate your thoughts. Unfortunately, we will not have the answers to the intriguing questions you raise until men have the same access to legal protections, social services, and support networks long enjoyed by women.

      When identifing factors influencing violence, one must also be cognizant that men are significantly more likely to be homeless, without jobs, without access to health care, living in poverty, denied access to their homes and children as a result of divorce, and incarcerated for crimes for which they did not commit. I do not argue that such injustices validate violence of any kind. However, I believe it would be naive to ignore these factors when considering how violence may be influenced.

      For the past 40 years, our elected representatives, as well as those in academia and the media have focused their attentions on empowering women to overcome the gender-based challenges they faced. I believe it’s well past time to do the same with regard to men. Perhaps a good place to start such effort would be to stop bashing men with headlines making reference to “mass homicide”. Who knows what may result? Perhaps a world just a little less violent than today.

  15. BobF says:

    Murder/mass murder is the collateral fallout from a gun-freedom obsessed society. Erika, grow a pair and take on the NRA!

  16. Eugene solberg says:

    My first response was to get defensive. My second response was to try to figure out why. My third response was to want to talk about it with a friend (did not happen). Finally, I slept on it. I have come to the conclusion that no matter how many disclaimers you give, your article is written in a manner that subtly transmitts an attitude of sexism.
    Someone more clever than I am, could probably pinpoint it for you. Maybe, it’s the words you choose? For instance, your question :
    How many of the worst mass murderers in American history were women?

    Why drag this in? You have already titled Men as the problem. This subsequent question was not necessary to make your point.
    Wether you intend to do so, or do not intend to, you are baiting the hook…..

    You appear to have started out to make a point, but left out any answers or attempts at solutions.
    This also (to me) leaves an impression of sexism. There is no empathy expressed or implied.
    Disclaimers “yes”. Empathy or problem solving “no”.

  17. Eugene solberg says:

    William J. Bennett, a CNN contributor, is the author of “The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood.” He was U.S. secretary of education from 1985 to 1988 and director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush.
    (CNN) — Great evil often brings out the best in good men, men like Todd Beamer on Flight 93, Medal of Honor recipient Michael Murphy in Afghanistan, and now the Aurora three — the three young men, each in different parts of theater nine, who gave their lives to protect their girlfriends.
    Twenty-five-year-old Jon Blunk was sitting next to his girlfriend, Jansen Young, at the midnight premiere of “The Dark Night Rises” when the gunman (who shall remain nameless) opened fire in the dark theater. Blunk instinctively pushed his girlfriend to the ground and threw his body on top of hers. Blunk, a security guard, served eight years in the Navy and was in the process of re-enlisting in hopes of becoming a Navy SEAL, family and friends said. He was killed in the gunfire; his girlfriend survived.
    Twenty-four-year-old Alex Teves dived on top of his girlfriend, Amanda Lindgren, when the gunfire erupted. Covering her body, he took the bullets so they did not harm her. She survived the massacre; he did not.
    Matt McQuinn, 27 years old, threw his body in front of his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, as the shooting continued. Yowler survived with a gunshot wound to the knee; McQuinn’s body absorbed the fatal shots.
    These men were three of the 12 innocent people killed early that morning. Their incredible sacrifice leaves us asking: Why? Why would a young man with his entire life ahead of him risk everything for a woman he has no legal, financial or marital obligations to?
    As Hanna Rosin so eloquently pointed out in a recent article, calling it chivalry would be a tremendous understatement. By all appearances, these men believed that a man has a responsibility to protect a woman, even to the point of death. They believed that there are things in life worth dying for and the innocent woman sitting next to them was one.
    They believed, to put it simply, in a code of honor. They put the lives of the women before their own, an old fashioned notion to be sure, but certainly an honorable one (if you have any doubt, ask the survivors). Their instincts were to protect, not run away.

  18. Eugene solberg says:

    Do your research next time, especially as a representative of a prestigious university Harvard!!!
    FYI: Jennifer San Marco
    Goleta postal shootings: Goleta, California
    Jan. 30 (mylifeofcrime.wordpress.com)
    Former postal worker Jennifer San Marco, 44, shot dead a former neighbor then drove to the mail processing plant where she used to work. Inside, she opened fire, killing six employees before committing suicide. Total injured and killed: 8

    “How many of the worst mass murderers in American history were women? None.”????
    Walla….You should be ashamed of yourself

    • Do you actually think I said that women are incapable of violence? I said the “worst mass murders in American history were committed by men.” This is a fact. Check the definition of “mass homicide.” I didn’t suggest that women can’t do horrible things. I acknowledged that they can.

      Do you think citing rare exceptions, in some attempt to ‘out’ me, actually changes the basic reality? Men commit murder 9 times more often than women. They are 80 percent of its victims. We could go further and talk about rape and torture, virtual violence and pretend violence…

      I’m not ashamed. I’m glad I had an opportunity to say something that is painful and complicated and heartbreaking but NEEDS TO BE SAID. We need to understand what’s going on when people commit unspeakable acts so we can help to prevent them. If young men are at dramatically increased risk, we need to figure out how to help them. Nothing shameful about that.

      • Eugene solberg says:

        “How many of the worst mass murderers in American history were women? None.”????

      • Eugene solberg says:

        Do you respond with this much venom to your children?

      • Eugene solberg says:

        An FBI crime classification report identifies an individual as a mass murderer—as opposed to a spree killer or a serial killer—if he kills four or more people in a single incident (not including himself), and typically in a single location.

  19. Dave says:

    Here we have a well-written article that states a blinding flash of the obvious. I guess if Erika lived in the real world she might have seen that for many reasons, which others stated above in other posts, her general thesis is probably true. All you need to do is read the newspaper everyday in any large city or look at prison roles or look at a thousand other indicators. So now what? Isn’t it more helpful to discuss how we help men and women that have issues making them more prone to this behavior? What I would really like Erika to know is that the for the vast majority of men, who are really pretty good guys, good husbands, fathers, sons and friends, your tone and attitude is really quite offensive.

    • What I would really like you to know is that for the vast majority of people concerned with truly understanding how to prevent violence, a first step is figuring out why certain populations are most at risk, and developing interventions to support them. This is called public health practice, and we do it every day, all over the world, except when we talk about violence prevention.

      I actually think your ‘doth protest too much” attitude is part of the problem for implying that there is nothing more to say about violence. Since we see it every day in newspapers we should just shut up about violence lest we hurt the feelings of all those nice family men (men I love and care about, for example)? Seriously?? The start to solving a problem is owning it. Why can’t we do that as a society? I’m sick of being polite on MY blog, while others call me a sexist and irresponsible cunt etc. I am well aware that the vast majority of men are wonderful. And yet… we have a glaring sex difference in the distribution of violence. (And violence is not just a statistically trivial phenomenon, by the way, like the 100 or so people who die from lightning strikes every year. We’re talking about thousands and thousands of people who die from violence or suffer the consequences of unjustified war, torture, rape and so on.) We MUST look at what’s behind this problem of violence, as we would do with any other health problem. Why are young men — especially young black men — at such greater risk of violence? You think this is common knowledge. Not from the responses I’m seeing! And if it IS such common knowledge, why don’t people talk abut and DO something about it? Instead, commenters like you call me out for sexism. We need to find solutions to violence. The first start – as with any other public health problem – is to thoroughly understand risk factors and design prevention and amelioration strategies around them.

      I believe there is a segment of the population — largely poor young men – who are at extremely heightened risk of death and mayhem. “So now what?” you say. Stop being “offended” and help find some solutions. Surely good, decent non-violent men can handle an honest discussion of risk factors without wilting like flowers or feeling their manhood has been assaulted. If not, we have a bigger problem than I’d realized.

      • Eugene solberg says:

        Let me make it very clear: Men are more prone to physical violence than women are.
        I would guess that I’ve known that for about 58 years now. Please do not think that I get offended about a simple fact like that. Within my limited abilities and sphere of influence I do as much as I know how to do, and do as much behavior modification as I can figure out how to do (so as to set an example for my adult male children).

        I am afraid that your pen scribbles faster & with less thought than you intend. You probably thought that you had a new insight and were very proud of yourself as you gushed out your newfound enlightenment for the masses of us. All yoou did was state the obvious in a very condescending manner.

      • wildhog says:

        “We’ve been down this path so many times, yet we keep missing the elephant in the room”

        Nobody is missing the elephant in the room. We all know that men are more violent than women. Try telling a group of people at a party or something that you’ve recently “figured out” that most murderers are male. They will look at you like you’re an idiot.

        “Why are young men — especially young black men — at such greater risk of violence?”

        Males evolved to compete with each other via violent means. Dominant males have been getting the females for millions of years. And males in their late teen / early adult years have the highest testosterone levels and thus the greatest tendency towards competitiveness and violence against their peers.

        “And if it IS such common knowledge, why don’t people talk abut and DO something about it?”

        Do something about what? Violent crime? People do of course. They call for stiffer prison sentences, debate gun control, increase the presence of law enforcement, use security cameras, gated communities, badge-access work and living areas, etc. Beyond deterrents like that, you’re talking about rewriting the human genome to erase millions of years of evolution. Thats not in the cards at this point.

  20. John E says:

    This really is a load of sanctimonious crap. So, most violence is perpetrated by men? Well done, you get a cookie for figuring that one out. Maybe you can wow us all by telling us that the sky is blue and grass is green. What is this article actually saying? What’s the point of it? You’re just trying to imply that men are inherently violent, but we’re actually not. Anyone with any sense knows that most men are not violent. If most men were violent, all of our lives would be stricken with terror everyday and we’d be scared to leave our homes. But this isn’t the case. Most men are like most women; we just want to get on with our lives in peace without any stabbing, shooting, mugging or battering. Please don’t try to imply that men have some latent “illness” that we’re trying to suppress. I’m not just some statistic, I’m not a robot that was “programmed” to behave violently, I’m an ordinary person with my own mind and I don’t have violent outbursts or go on rampages. These maniacs who go on murderous rampages are not fair representations of normal men, and don’t you dare imply otherwise. You’re being deliberately incendiary.

    • Oh goodness, I’m genuinely sorry I’ve made you so angry. It wasn’t my intent at all to be incendiary and I think if you were to re-read what I said, you might see that I actually completely agree with you that most men are not inherently or predominately or irrevocably violent. Nonetheless… as I keep trying to make clear: we have a major problem that is overwhelmingly skewed in one direction with respect to who is perpetrating and being victimized by violence, and we need to help the young men who ARE at risk for violence for understanding what’s going on that puts them at risk – are we supporting boys’ mental health and development adequately (clearly no, in my view!), are we giving young men — especially young black men – the right opportunities and guidance? Are there aspects of our culture, such as media violence, that contribute to the problem? Sorry you think this is “crap.”

      I appreciate the feedback, even though it is tough to feel misunderstood! I can see that you feel that way, too, and I’m sorry about that but I do feel really strongly about understanding the scourge of violence in our society. I never said – nor feel – that MEN are “ill.” But for sure I think homicide is sick.

      Maybe try not to react so defensively? There is NOTHING in what I wrote that should make you, or men in general, feel attacked.

  21. James says:

    It is very simple. Men have a lot of testosterone, women much less. Nature designed it this way so that the human race could survive. At the base men and women have the same emotions, but how they express themselves in the world was initially determined by the need for survival on a hostile planet.

    Biologically humans are not much different than our distant ancestors. That is, our instincts, hormones, unconscious drives are the same. Not the intellect, but as we can plainly see, the intellect becomes a tool of the instincts in most humans, not the other way around. Just look at the popular culture.

    All the same instinctual and hormonal mechanisms of our human ancestors are not only still existing in the human form, but are dominant. Women will never experience what it is like to be a man, and will never understand the influence of high amounts of testosterone in the blood. This not a character choice. But what is a choice is how boys are raised. For the most part individuals never take their own development into their own hands, but simply are the way they were raised.

    So if you have a young man that had no female nurturing when he was a baby, female values and way of being are then foreign to him. You only have to see the results of what being loved does…it is a critical factor.

    So, all the talk about the virtue of women over men simply is ignoring the difference between the two. Men are not women. And no political correctness ideology is going to solve this issue.

    If women really want a healthy society, they will first heal themselves so they are to love, nurture, PROTECT, and cherish their baby boys. By the time a boy is in his late teens, the intervention to help him is very large in terms of time and effort.

  22. The misbalance we are speaking about here is sociologically driven and is not a gender or genetic propensity. In other cultures, female mass murderers are quite common. We just label them differently. We call them terrorists. But because one straps a bomb onto themselves and walks into a crowd for political or religious motives does not change the fact that women are also quite capable of mass homicide. If the writer wishes to find solutions to the problem she poses, then she can find many clues in the responses from those on this forum, including several descriptions of the societal imbalance that emotionally impoverishes men. I don’t see these respondents as “whiners” but people who are upset at the treatment and characterization of men in our society.

    I suppose that would be a big clue.

    • I understand the gist of what you are saying and agree to a large extent about societal impoverishment of men. But it feels a little disingenuous given that men have been on top, as it were, for thousands of years. Surely they bear some role in this sorry state of affairs? Women can be terrorists, of course, and to beat a dead horse: I did NOT say women can’t commit violence. But are you really trying to make the case that women terrorists are “quite common”? Compared to men? In absolute numbers? Of course there are different social constructions of violence; one persons ‘revolution’ is another person’s massacre etc. etc. But by any definition of violence, can you seriously propose a single society where women outnumber men as perpetrators of violence? Even if you were to find one, historically, it would be an outlier – a rare exception that proves the rule – as we all know very well. It’s unbelievable how people are twisting themselves in knots trying to prove this is not the case.

      Re “Whining.” I think you can cut me some slack, given the names I’ve been called. I believe a lot of men are pushing back and feeling upset because it’s a genuinely hard transition to make, culturally, to be knocked off the perch a bit. There’s bound to be hard feelings and unfairness as others move into spaces traditionally occupied by white men. I am hugely sympathetic to the neglect of men in our society (HENCE: my article!). But women have lived with this impoverishment for eternity – and still do in most parts of the world. It’s very sad that so much of humanity involves a zero-sum game; it should not be so.

      And on a more narrow point: I think if my name were Erik Christakis, not ErikA Christakis, this piece at TIME.com would have made fewer waves.That in itself is cause for dismay, no?

      • Erika, I can understand why you would feel attacked given the overwhelmingly negative responses to your article. I also am quite familiar with the feminist complaints about the treatment that women have historically received and, in many countries, are still receiving today. However, I (and many other men I know) do not wish to be punished for the crimes that we did not commit. Your response seems to indicate an underlying bitterness and anger towards men based on the roles that they have traditionally held. I think that the pendulum has now swung the other way.

        But if men and women want to make our society a better place for everyone, is it really helpful to fan the flames of gender hatred? If you believe that you have not done that and that there is nothing in your writing that could accuse you of doing so, then I would suggest that the responses would indicate otherwise. It is obviously a sensitive point for many and so perhaps a more empathetic approach would have garnered a more positive result and perhaps even contributed to solving the problem rather than driving a wedge between the genders that would further exacerbate the situation.

        People tend to cling very tightly to their worldview and to try and place ourselves into the perspectives of others is a very difficult thing to do. However, both men and women need to attempt to do so if any progress is to be made.

        I do not believe that you are getting this response because you are a woman. I believe that these responses are an excellent litmus test of the overwhelming frustration and anger that men feel in our society today.

        Perhaps it would be grist for another article that would bring to light these issues from the perspective of men. And how amazing it would be if this article were to be written by a woman? But if such a concept gives you a visceral sense of disgust, then some serious introspection may be in order.

        I consider myself to be extremely egalitarian and a large part of my business if helping women to raise their self esteem and enhance their relationships with their partners. I love, celebrate and support women.

        I am also quite familiar with the disproportionate amount of injustice that is perpetrated upon men in our society. I suggest that if you try and view things from their point of view you may experience a paradigm shift that will shed further light on the problems you describe. But to do so, you will have to let go of your own anger and bitterness and recognize that while men and women may be different, by and large the overwhelming majority are good people. While you may protest that you do not deny this, at the end of the day what really matters is the results. How sad that the results seem to be just creating more anger.

        I am sorry you have experienced this negativity on your own blog. Please try and use the experience to reach out to those who have reached out to you and to the audience of any future pieces you may write. If the chasm continues to widen, no one will benefit.

  23. Eugene solberg says:

    OK, Now that we have gotten the picture more “in focus”, I think this has been valuable for all of us. Thanks for providing a forum Erika. I do believe you did not intend on the article sounding like it does.
    Maybe we should all do a beer……You know- like President Obama.

    I hope you and your family enjoy a weekend of fun & laughter.

    Gene

  24. We all bring our baggage with us when we read anything. The article may have been reasonable. If the author is to be believed she did not search the literature or know anything about America before she wrote the article. Certainly her editor should have warned her about the hate mail. The editor must have known that making people upset is the way to sell magazines and that hate mail proves that the article was a success.

    About the baggage. Most American males myself included were raised in an atmosphere of anti-male hatred. This hatred has been going on since the 1950s.

    Wendy McElroy, wrote in 2001 that some feminists “have redefined the view of the movement of the opposite sex” as “a hot anger toward men seems to have turned into a cold hatred.” She argued it was a misandrist position to consider men, as a class, to be irreformable or rapists. McElroy stated “a new ideology has come to the forefront… radical or gender, feminism,” one that has “joined hands with political correctness movement that condemns the panorama of western civilization as sexist and racist: the product of ‘dead white males’ I think this view is still held my most college educated women.

    Biologists invented artificial sperm, and announced that there’s evidence that the Y chromosome is deteriorating and may even disappear. All this turned out to be wishful thinking but it was part of the on going anti-male propaganda.

    In 2005 Maureen Dowd’s book Are Men Necessary finally got men to stick up for themselves but still men are attacked and considered inferior everywhere. When I write a story I often have to say nasty things about men if I want to sell it.

  25. Tonyquinn says:

    There is, despite what Mr. Potter apparently believes, a significant amount of scientific research to support the overwhelming predilection for male violence and a good amount of evidence for genetic and gender basis. A good non-technical read is Matt Ridley’s “The Red Queen”. That having been said, about the only two things that separate human-kind from other animals are foreplay and a culture driven sense of morality. The first has no bearing but humans are, or should be, capable of controlling those instincts/violent urges based on a developed sense of right and wrong. Biologically speaking,however, violence is the default male biological condition.

  26. Eugene solberg says:

    “If you feel that this group of professionals (listed below) are not aware of the male statistics regarding mass murderers, you might share your hypothesis with them”.

    http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Report-Psychiatrist-tried-to-discuss-Holmes-3753399.php

  27. lauren raine says:

    So interesting to see the response you had to this so important article. It’s amazing really……….the statistics are glaring. Right down the line, from historical wars to everyday violence, women are doing less than 5% of it, even thought they are half of the population. Why indeed does no one really want to talk about this, except a few “feminist wackos” like myself? Thank you for your article, and consistently excellent writing.

    • Josh says:

      If anything, the disparity proves that men and women are biologically unequal. Men are more violent than women, and they also have a much easier time inflicting violence on others (because men are strong — stronger than women ).

      So feminism can’t explain this because feminism isn’t even at the stage of recognising biological differences between the two sexes.

      The author of this blog is obviously motivated by politics. If she were so keen on bringing to light unappreciated disparities, then she would have mentioned black crime a long time ago — but i suspect that that this would land her in hot water — or simply be counterproductive to her political agenda.

      But back to boys….

      I think that in so far as we can reduce mass homicides, that’s great, but we will never eliminate the gap between male and female mass shooters.

  28. wildhog says:

    “Pointing out that fact may seem politically incorrect or irrelevant, but our silence about the huge gender disparity of such violence may be costing lives.”

    How so? I think everyone knows that men, not women, are far more likely to be killers.
    You ask, “But why aren’t we talking about the glaring reality that acts of mass murder (and, indeed, every single kind of violence) are overwhelmingly perpetrated by men?” Well, what is there to say about it?

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