I don’t know about you, but when I read stories about yet another mass shooting in the states, I tend to feel both sadness and a bit of smug relief that I live a border removed from that insanity. I think a lot of people here feel that way, because when a young man shot dead three police officers June 4th it felt a lot like a wake up call. So much for our smugness.
This week he was approved for a psychiatric assessment. He’ll most likely spend the rest of his life in the nation’s mental health facilities. If he’s found fit to stand trial, he’ll likely get a heavy sentence. Either way, he’ll never be alone again. Sadly, this story is so cliché I can’t be bothered to talk about it.
I do, however, want to talk about patriarchy.
Why is it that virtually all mass shootings are caused by males? Males under 30, if we’re specific; and white, to be even more granular. That’s like hitting the genetic jackpot! You won’t get fired for getting pregnant, be called a terrorist for wearing a turban, and still have a whole life ahead of you for doing whatever it is you want, because hey, you’re a white guy, you’ve already got a leg up on the rest of us.
Here’s my theory. I don’t think patriarchy is about gender. Don’t get the pitchforks out yet, though. Throughout the course of history, if there is one thing that has remained the same, is the quest for power. Everyone wants it, few get it. How do they get it? Usually over other people. Thing is that most people won’t just bend over and let someone rob them. So you have to establish that you deserve it more than they do. But you don’t, so you make stuff up.
We’ve been fed tons of lies to give away our power: the value of one skin tone over another, gender, genetics, nationality, wealth, class, religion (or lack thereof). These have all been used, among many others, in a narrative that seeks to strip us of our agency and tell us we lost nothing, because we never had it in the first place.
So let’s go back to Moncton. Here’s this guy. He has the right skin, the right gender, the right genetics (for the most part), the right nationality, and the right religion. That’s a lot of power he hasn’t had to give up. He might be well off, maybe not. It doesn’t matter, because for all the power that society has promised him, he clearly didn’t feel powerful. You don’t own weapons unless you feel you can’t defend yourself against what’s out there without access to lethal force. Especially considering how difficult it is to buy them here.
What societal force could create such a bizarre discrepancy between the power it claims to offer, and the power it actually does? A society that treats men better because they ARE better. Except when they’re not. Unless you are the lumberjack with a 180 IQ, who can build you a deck while bench pressing 300 pounds and then sealing a multi-million dollar business deal, all without ever reading a book, since reading is totally gay. Unless you are tall, with European features, a sculpted body, and an emotional detachment from the world, going through women like disposable tissues.
That’s a lot to expect from one person. It’s no surprise so many aren’t up to the task, and instead become bitter shadows of their potential selves. How many of our celebrated writers turned to liquor because a writer is no job for a man? How many chefs had to endure ridicule for doing a woman’s job before successfully pushing women out of professional kitchens for the sake of self-preservation? How many more men will we shame into suicide? How many stay-at-home dads will have to suffer criticism and alienation for not choosing the expected role of breadwinner?
A common defence of sexist behaviour today is the justification that not ONLY women are being objectified. It’s OK that that woman is a mindless drone in a tight swimsuit, because look – her counterpart is also a mindless drone in a tight swimsuit.
Let’s stop kidding ourselves. This was never about gender. This is about power, and telling us that gender matters is how they keep it from us.