Date of Award

5-22-2016

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

J. Daniel Schubert

Language

English

Abstract

Why are school shooters almost exclusively young, white men who frequently reveal contempt for women when committing their deadly crimes? I propose that the social construction of hegemonic masculinity informs perpetrators’ misogynistic attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs and contextualizes their self-righteous desire to commit acts of violence against others. School shootings are undeniably gendered acts of violence. To examine this phenomenon, I use qualitative case study analysis to analyze ten school shootings in the United States committed by men within the last eighteen years.

My analysis reveals the complex relationship between gender role expectations, male socialization, and violence. Hegemonic masculinity enforces harmful ideals of masculine heterosexuality, virility, and superiority that—for men who value these standards but are unable to attain them—imbues intense shame and anger. Furthermore, a distorted perception of women’s social progress in post-industrial American society provokes spurned men to comprehend these shortcomings as the fault of women. For shooters, gun violence is an opportunity to reclaim masculine pride.

My findings suggest that school shooters’ decisions to commit acts of violence are associated with the social construction of masculinity, primarily because of its reinforcement of white male entitlement and emphasis on unchallenged superiority over women. Therefore, dismantling hegemonic masculinity and its implicit misogyny is necessary in order to end the barrage of school shootings occurring across America.

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