Thought Catalog

Are Gender Roles Really To Blame For Our Nation’s Violence?

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The shooter behind the tragedy at UCSB cited his inability to receive attention and sexual interest from women as his main reason for his rampage. And while this disturbed individual is an extreme example, his attack brings to light some startling aspects of the state of our country.

The UCSB shooter’s comments prior to his attack sparked the #YesAllWomen Internet movement—through which women share their daily encounters with misogyny. Their words are powerful, disheartening, and eye opening.

We tell women to avoid walking alone at night instead of figuring out why thousands of men are rapists. Many men have this idea that if a woman is dressed provocatively, whatever happens to her is her own fault. We have ways of punishing people who commit acts of violence and we try to make it more difficult to carry out such attacks, but we seem to neglect the root of why such violence occurs in the first place.

It starts from the second children are born when we dress them in pink or blue depending on the baby’s sex. Immediately, males and females have a gender identity that is already planned out for them. We give young boys action figures and toy guns and provide young girls Barbie dolls, princess gowns, and Easy Bake Ovens. By the time children enter kindergarten they already have these ideas that men should be strong and brutish, and that women are less capable versions of their male counterparts—and are simply here to fulfill the needs of men.

The UCSB shootings are the absolute worst-case scenario, but the gunman is also the epitome of much that is wrong with our society. As a male, he felt entitled to sex with women. And when that didn’t happen, he turned to violence.

Look at high school football. Purposefully beefed-up men recklessly throw their bodies at each other on the field, while dainty, scantily clad, females stand to the side and cheer them on. We are raising our males to say, “Look at me I’m tough,” and our females to say, “Look at me I’m pretty.” And God forbid they don’t live up to those ideals.

It’s not healthy or fair to anyone.

We teach kids that judging someone by the color of their skin is wrong, and yet we attribute meaning to color by dressing our children in blue or pink depending on sex. We know homophobia is wrong, but homosexual relationships are virtually absent from children’s literature and movies—likely why many don’t know how to respond when they are faced with it in real life. We tell our youth to respect girls and boys alike, but in every kids movie the big tough man saves the female who is helpless without the assistance of a male.

While the UCSB shooter clearly had far deeper issues than a sense of entitlement, misogyny was a major factor in his ultimate decision to carry out the attack.

Our country, which prides itself on freedom for all, locks individuals into inescapable prisons of their own identities that are based on surface characteristics—and then attributes value and status to particular identities. These varying social statuses not only result in sexual violence, but also racism, homophobia, and misogyny.

It’s not cliché to say that we need to create a world of equality and acceptance; it is simply a fact.

Stop blindly following the arbitrary identities society has created for us. Stop making it seem like males and females are supposed to be one way or another. If people choose their identities for themselves, accepting everyone for who he or she truly is as an individual will be so much easier.

I’m not naïve enough to think that our country will ever be free of hate, sexual objectification, and violence, but I’m optimistic enough to think that we could have a hell of a lot less of it. TC Mark

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