A Common Trait Among Mass Killers: Hatred Toward Women By J. Bosman, K. Taylor and T. Arango
(same article is available on Web Archive)
By J. Bosman, K. Taylor and T. Arango
Aug. 10, 2019
The man who shot nine people to death last weekend in Dayton, Ohio, seethed at female classmates and threatened them with violence.
The man who massacred 49 people in an Orlando nightclub in 2016 beat his wife while she was pregnant, she told authorities.
The man who killed 26 people in a church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., in 2017 had been convicted of domestic violence. His ex-wife said he once told her that he could bury her body where no one would ever find it.
The motivations of men who commit mass shootings are often muddled, complex or unknown. But one common thread that connects many of them — other than access to powerful firearms — is a history of hating women, assaulting wives, girlfriends and female family members, or sharing misogynistic views online, researchers say.
As the nation grapples with last weekend’s mass shootings and debates new red-flag laws and tighter background checks, some gun control advocates say the role of misogyny in these attacks should be considered in efforts to prevent them.
The fact that mass shootings are almost exclusively perpetrated by men is “missing from the national conversation,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom of California on Monday. “Why does it have to be, why is it men, dominantly, always?”
….Federal law prohibits people convicted of certain domestic violence crimes, and some abusers who are subject to protective orders, from buying or owning guns. But there are many loopholes, and women in relationships who are not married to, do not live with, or have children with their abusers receive no protection. Federal law also does not provide a mechanism for actually removing guns from abusers, and only some states have enacted such procedures.
…The plagues of domestic violence and mass shootings in the United States are closely intertwined. The University of Texas tower massacre in 1966, generally considered to be the beginning of the era of modern mass shootings in America, began with the gunman killing his mother and wife the night before.
…A professed hatred of women is frequent among suspects in the long history of mass shootings in America.
There was the massacre in 1991, when a man walked into Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Tex., and fatally shot 22 people in what at the time was the worst mass shooting in modern United States history. The gunman had recently written a letter to his neighbors calling women in the area “vipers,” and eyewitnesses said he had passed over men in the cafeteria to shoot women at point blank range.
…In recent years, a number of these men have identified as so-called incels, short for involuntary celibates, an online subculture of men who express rage at women for denying them sex, and who frequently fantasize about violence and celebrate mass shooters in their online discussion groups.
Special reverence is reserved on these websites for Elliot O. Rodger, who killed six people in 2014 in Isla Vista, Calif., a day after posting a video titled “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution.” In it, he describes himself as being tortured by sexual deprivation and promises to punish women for rejecting him. Men on these sites often refer to him by his initials and joke about “going ER” — or a murderous rampage against “normies,” or non-incels.
Several mass killers have cited Mr. Rodger as an inspiration.
Alek Minassian, who drove a van onto a sidewalk in Toronto in 2018, killing 10 people, had posted a message on Facebook minutes before the attack praising Mr. Rodger. “The Incel rebellion has already begun!” he wrote. “All hail Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”
…Experts say the same patterns that lead to the radicalization of white supremacists and other terrorists can apply to misogynists who turn to mass violence: a lonely, troubled individual who finds a community of like-minded individuals online, and an outlet for their anger.
“They’re angry and they’re suicidal and they’ve had traumatic childhoods and these hard lives, and they get to a point and they find something or someone to blame,” said Jillian Peterson, a psychologist and a founder of the Violence Project, a research organization that studies mass shootings. “For some people, that is women, and we are seeing that kind of take off.”
David Futrelle, a journalist who for years has tracked incel websites and other misogynistic online subcultures on a blog called “We Hunted the Mammoth,” described incel websites as a kind of echo chamber of despair, where anyone who says anything remotely hopeful quickly gets ostracized.
“You get a bunch of these guys who are just very angry and bitter, and feel helpless and in some cases suicidal, and that’s just absolutely a combination that’s going to produce more shooters in the future,” Mr. Futrelle said.
…Instead, said Amy Barnhorst, the vice chair of community psychiatry at the University of California, Davis, who has studied mass shootings, what ties together many of the perpetrators is “this entitlement, this envy of others, this feeling that they deserve something that the world is not giving them. And they are angry at others that they see are getting it.”
It’s much easier to blame unthinkable acts of violence on something not many people understand — mental illness — than it is to confront the issue head-on.
But the reality is American women are more likely to have a serious mental illness than American men, yet the overwhelming majority of mass shootings in the US were committed by men.
…Time and time again, domestic terrorists are motivated by misogyny, racism, and xenophobia. But misogyny, racism, and xenophobia aren’t mental illnesses.
….Every time we blame a mass shooting on mental illness, we add another layer of stigma onto an already marginalized population. People with a mental illness are more likely to be victims of a violent crime than perpetrators.