RE 5: Boys killing kids

From: Carlotta Tyler (
Date: Sat May 15 1999 - 11:21:31 EDT

who said:

>This polarity in the debate is pointless. Buffeting between unexamined and
>unsophisticated characterisations of gender roles (boys who are naturally
>aggressive / girls who are always made "nice") is an end game with no
>liklihood of advancing understanding.

I agree with your observation that this is a "yes, and" conversation, not a
"yes, but" one of polarities. AND gender roles have been studied extensively by
behavioral scientists, myself among them. They are not unsophisticated research

It is important, as you say, to set a societal, a cultural context for our
examination AND we must not avoid or miss a central point of orientation:
that young males socialization is at issue AND that the cultural qualifications
and messages about "masculinity" is at the core. I am listening, as I write, to
an advertisement of an upcoming TV special extolling Douglas MacArthur as a "man
who could lead other men to kill" as one of his greatest accomplishments. How
sick is that? What message of leadership does that give to boys listening?

And you said:
 In analysing violence of this nature it is useful to consider the ways we ALL
of us (both men and woman) abet the construction of such horrendous behaviour
through our sins of omission and commission.

As the mother of a son who tried to raise him as a gentle, peace-loving soul and
watched as he was shamed, ridiculed and cajoled by grown men, from his Little
League coach to his current boss, to be tough, consider his own gain vs helping
others, compete vs. cooperate, "be tough" vs "a sissy, pansy",(read: girl,
homosexual), you need to know that many of us mothers have tried; successfully
in my case. My son's wife praises me regularly for raising a loving and gentle
man, who vowed in his teens to emigrate rather than learn to kill in an armed
service....with my help.

You also said:
>It is not helpful to base the analysis on gender constructions
>that have their origin in specious biological is-ness. The interesting
>question is "To what extent are we subject to, and complicit in, a culture
>of violence, competition and the commodification of human life?" Many of us
(men and women)may well reject such a culture - indeed in the case of girls they
DO have it "socialised out of them" - but how many of us are actively engaged in
fighting against such cultural dominance and providing alternive models for
being male?

I do on a daily basis as an organization consultant on issues of men and
women in corporations. Much progress is being made in examining the
beliefs which have been taught to both men and women, as boys and girls.
Beliefs which underly behaviors that get in the way of productive and satisfying
work environments. I am not talking harassment here, I am speaking of the daily
and unexamined assumptions that sideline the other half from having impact,
ideas heard, productivity recognized.

>The problem is not only about our agency as defined by our biological
>identities, but also about what we are prepared to put up with and hence
>tacitly endorse.

We men and women put up with a lot in this culture that deifies violence and
casts it in the cloak of "defense" as in Defense Department....which used to be
realistically called the War Department.
>Each time we acquiesce idealogically and socially to a market-driven >culture
that treats human beings as counters to be shuffled about >according to who is
boss or who is holding a gun, we add to the total sum >of the culture of
violence. And it doesn't help to lock the answer away >from human responsibility
by locating it in chromosome X and chromosome Y.

I agree entirely with the sentiments here. Thank you, Richard.


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