It happened again this week, and then it happened again, and again. Shootings. But not just shootings, killing of innocent people. By men (not women, mind you), all with something to prove. It’s tough to bring myself to write about senseless tragedies and how we ALL need to “step up” to stop these shootings. The posts are everywhere, and at times, read like rhetoric. Empty promises to live life to the fullest. Vowing to do better. Banning together to finally enact change.
For me, what matters most is that yet another state and school system has been affected. Another candlelight vigil has been had and another community has been left heartbroken. Another set of families have been left wondering why, wishing they could hug their son or daughter just once more, pleading into television cameras, urging politicians to do something. What matters is that we are all affected, as if these shootings have become a virus, afflicting every town, every state, every region of the country.
So that prompted me to take another trip to Sal’s, because, like it or not, these shootings are being carried out by boys and young men who struggle with certain pillars of what we’re told makes a man – in power, in control, and entitled. We can’t just think about preventing violence against women today. We also must consider what we can do today, that will help prevent violence against women tomorrow. So here are a few ways we can reach, and engage, boys and young men in redefining masculinity, in a forward-thinking, big picture vantage point.
What do we know about these shooters? Amongst other traits, they sought power and control, they wanted respect, and they had a sense of entitlement. As we learn from Dr. David Lisak, these are the same salient characteristics, and driving forces, of those 8-15% of guys (in a given school, campus, or community) that commit rape. Even though this is a small percentage of guys who commit sexual violence, they are inflicting pain on about 20-25% of women in a given school, campus, or community, and terrifying women everywhere, who search for ways to keep themselves safe from victimization. So redefining masculinity has a direct correlation on the safety and well being of women.
But that shouldn’t be our only reason for redefining masculinity. How many more men can we lose to jail or death or troubled lives, all because they think women “owe” them something? We should prevent violence against women because in doing so, we also reach men who are venturing down the path of destruction.
The impact of the good guys cannot be overstated. By reaching that one floundering, ostracized, or socially-awkward young man, you can not only help HIM, but potentially help the handful of women he may go on to victimized, ensuring their lives will not be turned upside down by brushes with sexual violence, at the hands of another boy-turned mad, scorned by rejection. Getting through to a young man like your nephew, cousin, or student can have a profound impact on him, as well your daughter, sister, or neighbor.