Males and Mass Shootings: The Deadly Combination of Social Entitlement and Fragile Masculinity Open Access

Reever, Audrey (Spring 2019)

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This April marks the twentieth anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School. This tragic event remains to this day the mass shooting most often discussed in the media and elsewhere. Since this incident, the United States has become more familiar than anyone would like with the topic of mass shootings. 95% of the mass shootings that have occurred between 1966 and 2016 have been committed by males. Given this striking statistic, I argue that there is a possible connection between masculinity and mass shootings. I draw connections between the social theories of hegemonic masculinity and aggrieved entitlement and psychological theories that argue people with disproportionally high, but insecure, self-esteem may respond more violently to ego threats. I analyze the shootings at Isla Vista, CA, Virginia Tech, and Charleston, SC, connecting the shooters actions with their own perceptions of their masculinity and their need to demonstrate their masculinity when they lost social power. I argue that one way of combating mass shootings is to reevaluate the conception of masculinity in this country. By attempting to change the social narrative around what it means to “be a man,” we can end violence as a means of coercion and symbolic domination.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter One: Defining Mass Shootings 9

Chapter Two: Gender and Masculinity 19

Chapter Three: Masculinity and Crime 28

Chapter Four: Aggrieved Entitlement and High, Insecure Self-esteem 33

Chapter Five: Stressors 45

Chapter Six: Isla Vista, CA 50

Chapter Seven: Virginia Tech 53

Chapter Eight: Charleston, SC 62

Conclusion 67

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