Guardian columnist: gun violence driven by 'toxic masculinity'

According to editorials written by Jessica Valenti of The Guardian and Amanda Marcotte of Salon, gun violence is a women’s issue, one that is driven by a sense of frustrated manhood.  Both writers present gun ownership as a kind of chest thumping, a danger to women and children and to civilized society.

I’ve written about Valenti’s antipathy to guns before, so it comes as no surprise to me to find her singing the praises of Hillary Clinton for making gun control one of the key issues of her campaign.  In “Hillary Clinton knows gun violence is a women’s issue. So should everyone else,” Valenti tells us that women should be able to parent [sic] their children in a safe environment and that guns create a particular risk for domestic violence.  According to data she cites, women are killed more often with guns by intimate partners than with any other method.

“Parent” was a noun when I was studying English, and Valenti’s grasp of the facts isn’t much better than her language usage.  I’ll take her numbers on domestic violence as given, but we have to put them in context of total homicides in this country.  The chance of being murdered is highest for black males, ages eighteen to twenty-four.  Women are killed at a rate that is about a quarter that of men’s, and whites at around a fifth of blacks.  If there’s a demographic argument to be made on the basis of homicide data, it’s that African-Americans are by far at the greatest risk for being killed, while women as a group have the least cause for concern.

In addition, making the claim that gun violence attacks a woman’s reproductive rights is a bizarre attempt to muddle our thinking on that subject.  Reproductive rights are concerned with a woman’s ability to control her own body and by implication to have access to contraceptives and choice regarding abortion.  But whatever a person’s beliefs on those questions, it’s generally agreed that children have their own individual rights as separate human beings, not merely as objects covered by maternal deflector shields.  Valenti’s argument here would turn children into property, only as valuable as their mothers declare them to be.

While Valenti presents an emotional appeal for gun control, Marcotte offers nothing but sneering.  Her article, “Overcompensation Nation: It’s time to admit that toxic masculinity drives gun violence,” wallows in hatred for men, a hatred that isn’t in the slightest disguised by the fig-leaf term, toxic masculinity.  She insists that “toxic masculinity” doesn’t mean all masculinity, but her examples of something other than toxic involve the Obamacare Pajama Boy and moisturizers—in the latter case, it seems she hasn’t read the advice of Strunk and White to use simple, unpretentious words like moisten.

But then, Marcotte arrogantly assumes that her vision of men and women and a nation is the only one that isn’t worthy of derision.  In her view,

we, as a country, need to get past the politics of tough guy posturing and move towards a more thoughtful, inclusive society. One with more dancing and less waving guns around while talking about what a manly man you imagine yourself to be.

More dancing and less waving guns around, and certainly no deciding for yourself who you are.  In other words, do as she says, or she’ll call you toxic, too.

Not that anyone cares.  People like Marcotte are often perplexed at why the rest of the world doesn’t acknowledge their genius, but what we’ve been given by feminism, by the civil rights movement, by the gains made for LGBT Americans, and by increasing support for gun rights is the realization that each one of us as individuals has the right to make our own choices and to live our own lives without seeking permission—especially without having to seek permission of those who look down on us from some pretense of a moral pedestal.

I have no reservations about calling myself a feminist.  All human beings have rights, regardless of sex or gender identity, and those rights aren’t subject to my approval.  But we do not defend the rights of some when we attack or curtail the exercise of the rights of others.  Gains for women do not have to mean losses for men.  We don’t live in a zero-sum world.  The more human beings who have full participation in the blessings of a free society, the safer we are, and the more opportunities we each have.  Valenti and Marcotte are playing the game here of cutting one group down for the promise of raising another up, but as the latter’s writing illustrates, the actual outcome would be a world in which we all glare at each other from the depths of shared resentment and bitterness.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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