“Traditional Masculinity Has To Die”

Andrew Sullivan —  May 27 2014 @ 12:23pm

So proclaims Freddie deBoer in a post responding to the Santa Barbara shooting:

The association of male value with aggression, dominance, and power is one of the most destructive forces in the world, and so it has to be destroyed. Traditional masculinity has to die in just the same way that sexism and racism and homophobia have to die. It can’t be reformed, it can’t be rescued. It has to be replaced. It’s utterly infected, with the celebration of violence, sexual entitlement, throbbing misogyny, and a fake self-confidence that is almost always hiding total self-loathing. If the kind of sick masculinity that leads to these  crimes were a religion, people would call it incompatible with modernity. If it were a race, Fox News would talk about that race’s culture of violence. If it were a political ideology, it would be classified alongside white supremacy or anti-Semitism. How could it not be, given the spasms of horrific violence that we now expect to happen over and over again? I don’t excuse Rodger or anyone else for the terrible, unforgivable choices they make. The sickness within our culture is not an excuse. But it is part of the explanation, and it needs to be cut out like a cancer.

Oy. I understand and respect where Freddie is coming from, but I find the notion of extrapolating so broadly from a case of mental illness to an entire culture to be a little over the top. Absolutely, there are many aspects of misogynist, macho culture that are truly disgusting and need to be pushed back. #yesallwomen is a must-read for those of us shielded by virtue of gender from the verbal and physical onslaught so many women deal with on a regular basis. But severing “aggression, dominance and power” from maleness is as utopian a notion as removing all testosterone from half the human species. What we need is not grandiose and thereby doomed projects of cultural re-education, but a more powerful appeal to men to be gentlemen, to see maleness at its best as a tamed wildness.

James Poulos gets it right:

a searching, unflinching condemnation of postmodern male chauvinism can go badly awry if it labels the culprit as something called “traditional masculinity.”  Much like “traditional marriage,” traditional masculinity is a compound of competing, conflicting ideals. It has been for hundreds of years…

One tradition of manliness points [young men] toward the worship of wealth, sex, and power—and toward crushing depression if all those things elude their grasp. Another tradition of manliness would point them toward discipline, sacrifice, and self-denial. The first tradition, in fairy-tale terms, is the villain tradition. The second is for heroes. But in today’s world, the worst of traditionalism is being aggrandized, and the best is being lost in the noise.

Dreher considers “the role the sin of Envy plays in this evil deed”:

Envy, for Dante and his medieval world, is not really wanting what others have; it’s wanting them not to have it if one cannot have it oneself. Rodger was envious in both the medieval sense and in the more modern sense. We have created a popular culture in which the worth of people and the meaning of life is measured by hedonistic values, which are constantly celebrated by the culture. What’s more, we have created a popular culture in which young people are acculturated into believing that it is their right to have these things, and if these things aren’t readily available, it is a cosmic injustice wrought by someone else against their innocent person.

Jeff Deeney addresses the mental health outcry:

Involuntary commitments are not the silver bullet some want them to be in dealing with mass shooters. People who are involuntarily committed frequently leave psychiatric institutions little more stable than when they arrived. Some in the public assume that one can’t refuse medication in a psychiatric unit, when in fact forcibly medicating requires two doctors’ orders submitted to review by a judge, so many patients aren’t stabilized on medication because they resist taking it, even in a hospital setting. The public assumes that there is some life-changing intervention that happens inside psychiatric units after someone is committed, that leaves them permanently fixed after 72 hours. In fact, it’s more typical receive little more than observation to make sure one doesn’t harm oneself while on the unit. A social worker will refer you to an outpatient mental health program when you’re discharged, but if you don’t want to go to one you don’t have to. If you choose, like so many do, to return to the community with a small supply of medication you don’t intend to use let alone refill, that’s your prerogative.

This is why Elliot Rodger likely would have still committed murder even if the Sheriffs had detained him on the day they visited him. A 72-hour stay on a psych unit might have done little more than but make him more determined.

And Ezra wants less coverage of shootings:

There’s a reason the media rarely reports on suicides. Sociologists long ago discovered that suicide is contagious — and media coverage helps its spread. There are guidelines endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Mental Health, the Office of the Surgeon General, and others warning against “inadvertently romanticizing suicide or idealizing those who take their own lives by portraying suicide as a heroic or romantic act.” They also caution media outlets against credulously relaying the testimony of the deceased. “The cause of an individual suicide is invariably more complicated than a recent painful event such as the break-up of a relationship or the loss of a job,” they write.

But the national media reports ceaselessly on mass murders. Cameras are often there to cover the actual shooting, and they don’t leave until weeks or months after the final press conference. Magazines profile the killers, lingering on their fashion affectations or their love of death metal or their disturbed art or the maddening realization that they didn’t seem like killers at all. These are all natural attempts to understand a tragedy. But the end up glorifying the murderer — and possibly creating copycats.