Friday, February 18, 2011

Women: Why Not Postal? Yet?

My BFFINM Heather and I were chatting the other day and the topic of "people going postal" came up. There's the Giffords shooting, the massacres at Columbine and Virginia Tech, the incident at Fort Hood, numerous instances in which people show up at work or an employment agency or the post office or wherever and let loose with gunfire. And it occurred to us that (so far), it's always men that do this, never women.

Now, a caveat: when I was in grad school at San Francisco State, to be accused of essentialism was to basically be called a hairy shitball. You were a dinosaur if you didn't agree that there is nothing essential about the nature of any human being (usually the discussion was actually gender-based); we are all the result of social constructs. Nothing is essentially male or female (except for genitals or testosterone or biologically based stuff). I'm an intelligent person; I can buy that. Intellectually it makes sense.

But the world is more complicated than intellectual constructs, too. At least, being human is. I'm a lesbian. What attracts me to women and what doesn't attract me about men? (Especially if we're agreeing there's no essential difference?) I can't say it's just breasts (or Globes of Joy, as my tight-knit bunch of FB pals are fond of calling them), because men with hard, well-developed pectoral muscles are every bit as sexy to me. It's not a vagina, nor is it NOT a penis (please explain why so many lesbians are aroused by gay male porn). It's something about certain WOMEN: some unexplainable combination of their energy, their hearts, their person. Most women don't attract me, either. It's only certain ones. Men can probably possess "it." But I've never found one. I've not once, in almost 49 years, fallen in love with a man. So, what am I to think? There is something essential to this particular set of women I have loved that calls out to me.

We could easily say that (thus far) no women have gone postal not because women can't do so, but because society has taught women that training an automatic weapon on a group of innocent people isn't very ladylike. But that seems to me TOO EASY. History has proven over and over that women can be just as violent as men, female suicide bombers have proven women can kill innocent people just as much as any man, and Aileen Wuornos showed us that yes, indeed, a female can even be a serial killer. There is no doubt in my mind that one day some woman will go postal and make national headlines for shooting up a room full of innocent people.

But it hasn't yet happened. Why? Why have women (so far) proven to be less likely to these outbursts of crazy, violent rampages that involve so many innocents?

It has to be more complicated than a social construct that doesn't permit the behavior, yet neither do I think women are essentially less violent by nature.

Heather suggested I blog about this and ask for your thoughts. So, here it is.


Kristin H. said...

My ex husband is a criminologist and could weigh in heavy on this one. Unfortunately, he's not the one reading this. My guess is that he would factor in the male testosterone and aggression factor, but his dissertation centered on Albert Bandura's social learning theory. That might give you some insight.

Joyce said...

Yeah, on Facebook we're yapping about this a bit and we seem to be pretty much agreeing that it's some mix of biology and socialization. Testosterone, frontal lobe development and impulse control (lots of the killers are also YOUNG men) combined with social expectations/norms for women.