Gender Not Discussed

by c153a on March 20, 2016 - 3:48pm

Michael S. Rosenwald, discusses in his article Are mass shootings contagious? Some scientists who study how viruses spread say yes, the possibility that mass shootings are a medical epidemic. He argues that mass shooting rampages (i.e. violence) are a learned behavior. He compares them to the simple act of yawning because as we know when we see someone who yawns, we tend to respond similarly almost instantaneously. It appears that we elicit the same response when it comes to violence.   Moreover, he also suggests that as certain types of people are more vulnerable to the flu, so are people who commit shooting riots. He believes that people who are socially isolated, depressed, and paranoid or have mental illness are more prone to this type of behavior than those who do not exhibit such forms of conduct.


The tone of the article, in my opinion, is not convincing. The title makes reference to scientifical proof.  Thus, I was expecting to be informed of actual data that would prove his point, but this was not the case. In that sense, I was disappointed by the lack of evidence and how irrational his ideas were.  I do agree that violence is a learned behavior since this argument roots from the concept of social learning theory that states that people are more likely to behave aggressively if they have been previously exposed to aggressive models (Robert L. Burgess and Ronald L. Akers).


Throughout his article Michael S. Rosenwald, draws examples for his arguments by recounting major mass shootings. However, all mass shootings he makes references to having been conducted by men. What is paradoxical is that nowhere in the article does he mention that men are more likely to perform such acts of violence than women. However, data solidly proves that this is, in fact, the case. In the US for instance, in the last 30 years, all mass shooting but one had been committed by men (Soraya Chemaley). That being said, the facts clearly state that gender is an important factor to take into account when discussing the causes of mass shootings.  In sum, it appears to never dawn on him that other issues other than psychological factors must be taken into consideration when speaking of this epidemic. His article was written in the beginning of the month of March of this year. Therefore, we cannot state that this article lacked updated information. Perhaps, he was oblivious to such facts or chose they be irrelevant to mention in his article.


Following his logic, since mass shootings are as contagious as the flu, then everyone regardless of gender, age or ethnicity should be prone to going on shooting rampages. However, statistics prove that women do not commit nearly as many shootings as men. That being said, why are women immune from this endemic? Also, race was never discussed in his 7-page article. Since 64% of mass shootings in the US last year were committed by white males (Mother Jones Magazine), why is this specific demographic in society mostly likely to commit gun violence?  Had they not given immunity shots as babies? Such questions are left unanswered.


Throughout the article, we are being influenced into believing that violence is a socialized behavior that imbibes everyone. The author omits to mention that men are the perpetrators of violence. He disregards gender as if it was not a factor to be taken into consideration when discussing such matters. We see this to be a recurring issue when the media discusses mass shootings (Jackson Katz). Therefore, the fact that the author lacks to take into account gender to discuss mass shootings is very representative of the ways in which the media does so as well. Jackson Katz argues this in his documentary Tough Guise. According to him, violence is specifically a gender issue, although some try to argue it being solely attributed to men because of their biology (i.e. Hormones). That being said, it makes us wonder why Michael S. Rosenwald does not mention this in his article.


In conclusion, the idea of mass shootings being a contagious virus leaves us with a glimpse of hope that such an epidemic could be stopped with the proper vaccine.  However, no solid scientifical evidence proves there to be a correlation between these two factors. Thus, to this day, mass shootings cannot be prevented by means of science. In that respect, we can only draw out reoccurring behaviors and patterns of shooters: white, males. However, this demographic in society is often regarding as elite. So, the media often omits to mention their gender and ethical backgrounds and uses gender-neutral pronouns to make references to these killers. Michael S. Rosenwald did this in his 7-page article for the Washington Post. Nowhere did he mention that men committed more acts of violence than men. Rather, he blamed mental illness and social isolation to such deviant acts. By drawing the focus away from men, he was not allowing from the reader to pin a needle on the actual cause of violence.  A common technique widely used by mainstream media.



Works Cited

Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Chemaly, Soraya. "Mass Killings in the US: Masculinity, Masculinity, Masculinity". Huffington Post. Web. October 9, 2015.

Earp, Jeremy, Jackson Katz, Jason T. Young, Sut Jhally, and David Rabinovitz. Tough Guise 2: Violence, Manhood & American Culture. , 2013.


Ford, Dana. "Who Commits Violence". CNN. Web. July 24, 2015.

Rosenwald, Michael S. "Are mass shootings contagious? Some scientists who study viruses say yes". The Washington Post. Web. March 8, 2016.






I found your post to be extremely relevant to the media content regarding mass shooters in North America. It is indeed flagrant that race and gender are rarely mentioned in the characterization of the perpetuators of such crimes.
It seems that you have hinted at a potential solution to this issue by targeting white males and screening them in particular for isolation or mental disorders. In this way you have approached the subject using utilitarianism to justify discrimination. A deontological perspective would condemn such an action completely since it treats others in a way that you wouldn't want to be treated. However, in the case of the prevention of violent actions we can't evaluate our decisions based only on the present but also on the outcome. If we can target a group that is more likely to be problematic, our efforts would be put to better use and would have more impact in getting help to individuals at risk. While we can’t exactly predict the outcome, your research has shown that the white male demographic represents 64% of mass shootings so in my opinion it would be unethical to not study their behavior more closely in order to save lives in the future. Thus, giving up an inkling of equality is necessary for the greater good.