The recent movie theater massacre in Aurora shocked the country. On some level, it did to movie-going what 9/11 did to flying—essentially, took away the innocence of what had hitherto been a common, everyday occurrence.
And, predictably, in the face of world-rocking disasters set into place by humans, the situation has been parsed on many levels. Who was this James Holmes? Why did he go with “The Joker”? What could happen to cause a doctoral student to run amok? What does this mean to the gun-control pissing contest? Did Holmes’ psychiatrist have an obligation to alert authorities as to his profoundly violent tendencies?
I found myself most intrigued by a piece from Erika Christakis, an administrator at Harvard University, positing that mass murder has a tendency to be … well, a male-dominated club. While Christakis admits that it’s not like women never kill (and there’s the odd female serial killer that’s floated through history), it’s an inarguable fact that the most shocking acts of violence, including but not limited to mass murder, have been “overwhelmingly perpetrated by men”.
In fact, Christakis goes so far as to say throw out there that “our silence about the huge gender disparity of such violence may be costing lives.”
Imagine for a moment if a deadly disease disproportionately affected men. Not a disease like prostate cancer that can only affect men, but a condition prevalent in the general population that was vastly more likely to strike men. Violence is such a condition: men are nine to 10 times more likely to commit homicide and more likely to be its victims. The numbers are sobering when we look at young men. In the U.S., for example, young white males (between ages 14 and 24) represent only 6% of the population, yet commit almost 17% of the murders. For young black males, the numbers are even more alarming (1.2% of the population accounting for 27% of all homicides). Together, these two groups of young men make up just 7% of the population and 45% of the homicides. And, overall, 90% of all violent offenders are male, as are nearly 80% of the victims.
A lot of my teacher friends and colleagues and I have a theory on fighting that goes on in schools—basically, if girls get into a fight, it’s forever. Oh, they may smile and “make up”, but both sides (and their legions of friends) will never forget the situation. It gets dragged up repeatedly, often into adulthood. Boys get pissed at each other, beat the shit out of each other, and have basically forgotten the whole thing within a month and often become friends.
As this has always been my attitude, I found those statistics troubling, to say …