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Guns and the precarity of manhood

Guns and the precarity of manhood

This is an excerpt from chapter 6, “Enraged, Rattled, and Wronged” of Enraged, Rattled, and Wronged: Entitlement’s Response to Social Progress by Kristin J. Anderson.

Manhood is precarious. Unlike womanhood, manhood is hard won and easily lost and therefore men go to great effort to perform it—for the most part for other boys and men—sometimes to their own and others’ detriment.[63] Men will go out of their way to not appear unmanly or feminine—they adhere to an anti-femininity mandate. For example, men are reluctant to take jobs that women do. Men hold out for diminishing coal-mining jobs when they should be applying for home health aid jobs. Women have been flexible and have pushed themselves into men’s jobs; men have not pushed themselves into women’s jobs.[64] 

There are consequences of the investment in maintaining manhood for individual men, as well as the rest of us. Men learn to be fixated on performing masculinity which often entails aggression. Men tend to believe that aggression is more typical than it actually is—as we learned earlier. They falsely believe that women are attracted to aggressive men, when, in fact, women tend to view aggression as weak and impulsive, a loss of self-control, and not sexy or charming.[65] 

Gun popularity among men is linked to threats to their gender status … How do we know? First, men with higher sexism scores believe it should be easier to buy guns; men with lower sexism scores say it should be more difficult to buy guns.

Entitlement tells White men that they shouldn’t have to bow down to those they perceive to be below them. In 2018, Markeis McGlockton, an African American man, pushed a White man to the ground because the man was yelling at his partner outside a convenience store. The man pulled out a gun and shot and killed McGlockton and was not prosecuted because of Florida’s stand-your-ground law.[66] Stand-your-ground laws and gun ownership are manifestations of feeling entitled to never back down. Gun owners often justify owning or carrying a gun with fears of violent crime however, over the same period in which gun purchases have risen, violent crime has dropped. In truth, support for gun rights for White men is linked to perceived threats to their racial privilege.[67] Gun popularity among men is linked to threats to their gender status as well. How do we know? First, men with higher sexism scores believe it should be easier to buy guns; men with lower sexism scores say it should be more difficult to buy guns.[68] Second, firearm background checks increase in communities where married men, but not married women, have lost their jobs.[69] Presumably, recently unemployed men become interested in guns at a time they feel vulnerable. In addition, when wives out earn their husbands, gun sales increase. [70] These men seem to see guns as one way to shore up masculinity. As we saw above, Jonathan Metzl’s work finds that guns are used by White men as a means of preserving racial privilege, even as Whites wind up being disproportionately harmed by the presence of guns.[71]

 It turns out in laboratory studies it’s pretty easy to threaten men’s masculinity into panic that then motivates them toward compensation. It’s worth taking a second look at a study described in Chapter 4 where Julia Dahl [72] and her colleagues asked young and mostly White men to complete a “gender knowledge test.” During this test participants were asked questions such as, “What is a dime in football?” and “Do you wear Manolo Blahniks on your head or feet?” The respondents were then randomly put into either a threat condition—being told they scored similar to the average women—or a no-threat condition—being told they scored like the typical man. Their grouping had nothing to do with their actual answers on the test. Men threatened by being associated with women were more likely to feel embarrassed by their responses, angry, and wanted to display dominant behaviors. Anger predicted greater endorsement of ideologies that implicitly promote men’s power over women. Specifically, men’s social dominance orientations and benevolent sexism (and both are correlated with entitlement) increased if they were exposed to the masculine threat. How did the threatened men in this study appease that threat to their masculinity? By endorsing the legitimacy of men’s societal power over other groups, particularly women.

Featured image by Jari Hytönen on Unsplash, public domain

Recent Comments

  1. Prof. Emmit Johnson

    I find Kristin Anderson‘s excerpt laughable and contrary to not only common sense and logic but also all recent, more accepted research. It sounds as if there’s an agenda being promoted. Such dishonesty!

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