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Opinion: The overwhelming maleness of mass homicide
Accused movie theater shooter James Holmes makes his first court appearance on Monday in Centennial, Colorado.
July 24th, 2012
09:39 AM ET

Opinion: The overwhelming maleness of mass homicide

By Erika Christakis, TIME.com

(TIME.com) - There's a predictable cycle of mourning and finger-pointing that follows a massacre like the shootings last week in Aurora, Colorado. First come the calls for unity and flags flown at half-staff. Then the national fissures appear: The gun lobby stiffens its spine as gun control advocates make their case. Psychologists parse the shooter's background, looking for signs of mental illness or family disarray. Politicians point fingers about "society run amok" and "cultures of despair."

We've been down this path so many times, yet we keep missing the elephant in the room: How many of the worst mass murderers in American history were women? None. This is not to suggest that women are never violent, and there are even the rare cases of female serial killers. But why aren't we talking about the glaring reality that acts of mass murder (and, indeed, every single kind of violence) are overwhelmingly perpetrated by men? Pointing out that fact may seem politically incorrect or irrelevant, but our silence about the huge gender disparity of such violence may be costing lives.

Imagine for a moment if a deadly disease disproportionately affected men. Not a disease like prostate cancer that can only affect men, but a condition prevalent in the general population that was vastly more likely to strike men. Violence is such a condition: Men are nine to 10 times more likely to commit homicide and more likely to be its victims.

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Filed under: Gender • History • How we look • What we think • Women
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. In the shadows

    Why has no one mentioned that Holmes' father was set to testify on the Libor scandal?

    July 28, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jorge

    Ms. Christakis, you don't seem like the type of woman who might ever feel genuinely comfortable around men, what a shame. I am certain that many more men than you believe have experienced crushing depression and self-destructive ideation at one time or another in their lives, without ever having brought anyone to harm. Many of us have felt this way on behalf of or worrying over the well-being of our families and our difficulties standing on the wall for them. Consider yourself lucky that there are vastly more of us who's main concerns lie with the provision and care of others than the ones that you describe, or the human species would have already been close to extinction.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. scott

    i would take this article a little more seriously if she was not grinning like an idiot in the corner

    July 25, 2012 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
  4. Really American

    The vast majority of people who kill their children are women. We need to face this fact and we must accept that perhaps all women have this potential. Women should be treated as potential child killers. At least that's what this idiot writing the article seems to believe.

    July 24, 2012 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. gstew2012

    We need to treat guns and gun ownership the same way we do with cars. Insurance companies are very good at screening applicants. Insurance has to be purchased after the initial application but before actual ownership occurs. This way an individual can own as many guns, bullets, canons, whatever but as with high performance cars it may become unsustainable the same as owners of cars must take into account insurance policy cost as well as maintenance ect... This will include all owners even those who are rushing because they believe something will be taken from them. This also will help victim(s) compensation. When an event such as what happens in Colorado who pays currently? Another benefit will be compensation for victim(s) of Stand Your Ground laws as well. As a concerned citizen who does not own or want a gun, this will allow people who have concerns traveling to other states to feel comfortable in doing so.

    July 24, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jackson

    I got it now......

    Only allow women to have guns...

    But he could have done the same thing with $10 worth of gasoline... and maybe killed even more people...

    The phenomenon of this type of madness needs to be evaluated.. Not a knee jerk reaction of more gun laws

    July 24, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |