In the wake of another mass shooting in Toronto, we have to keep talking about male violence

A horrific act of mass violence in Toronto on Sunday night (July 22). It is hard to find the words. The victims include an 18-year-old woman who was celebrating a birthday with friends and heading to university in the fall, and a 10-year-old girl. The cruelty of it is unimaginable.

The motives of the killer are not clear and they may never be fully clear. According to his distraught family -- for whom we should have solidarity as their lives have been destroyed as well -- he suffered from serious, long-term mental illness.

Many commentators have raised the fact that we, as a society, have to do more to truly help those suffering from mental illness and their families and this is, without question, true.

Others have raised the need to deal with the many root causes of mass violence and gun violence, including poverty, marginalization and social isolation, which is also, without question, true. As is the need for much stricter gun control.

But there is another factor that is rarely brought up after these appalling outbreaks of mass violence and that is, regardless of all the other factors, that almost always the perpetrators are men. Nearly 100 per cent of the time.

Women suffer from mental illness as well. They also live in poverty (at higher rates than men) and they suffer from marginalization and social isolation. Should they wish to they have the same access to guns as men.

And yet mass shootings committed by women are so rare as to be virtually unheard of.

In the United States -- where mass shootings have become tragically commonplace and are alarmingly on the rise -- only two of the 158 shooters who killed four or more victims at one time since 1966 were women who acted on their own. 

Men are disproportionately responsible for violent crime generally and for sexual violence especially where 97 per cent of perpetrators (regardless of the gender of the victims) are male.

As we come to grips with this terrible crime it is important to remember that among all of the critical issues that are going to be raised in the wake of these incidents there is this one that must be as well: the pervasive, toxic, violent masculinity that is an exceptionally dangerous outgrowth of societal systemic misogyny.

The next time you hear about someone wounding or killing five or 10 or 15 people in a community in Canada or the United States you won't even have to think about one aspect of it.

And that is that the killer will have been a man.

Why this is the case is a discussion that we as a society have to have.

This article was first published in The Left Chapter blog.

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