In the aftermath of the Santa Barbara mass shooting, some headlines have appeared asserting that misogyny kills. For instance:
Elliot Rodger’s California Shooting Spree: Further Proof that Misogyny Kills
For that matter, I suppose that, putting the shoe on the other foot, it can be said that misandry also kills.
Let’s call the Isla Vista killings what they were: misogynist extremism
Did Elliot Rodger really kill cause he was a misogynist?
Is this responsible – let alone accurate – reporting? Or, responsible (and accurate) claims by those who post these “truisms?”
Certainly, there are misogynists who kill. So, the answer to the question, “Does misogyny kill?, conceivably can be yes.
But, to the naive, untrained eye, these headlines and story lines carry the weight of what might be viewed as establishing a cause-effect relationship: he killed because he is a misogynist, or, misogyny made him kill.
But be careful here!
Is femicide (broadly defined as the killing of women) exclusively a sexist form of killing stemming from misogyny (defined as the hatred of females)?
What sources of data exits as to percentage of men who have been operationally defined as being misogynists who killed women? And of these, how many were due to misogyny per se and not some other factor (of which there are many possibilities)? And how about the percentage of men who have killed women who were not operationally identified as being misogynists?
And let’s complicate matters further:
- Who did the rating?
- What about validity and reliability of ratings and validity and reliability of assessment tools?
- What is the classification error rate?
I searched for misogyny assessment instruments but could not find any although there are many descriptions about what misogyny is and examples.
Food for thought within a forensic context:
- Is misogyny a diagnosis or should it carry the weight of a diagnosis?
- Do misogyny + mental health diagnosis potentiate risk?
- Can you be a misogynist and not carry a mental health diagnosis? Does this have any measurable impact on risk?
- Does misogyny apply exclusively to males?
- Does misandry apply exclusively to females?
- Are misogyny and misandry opposites? Do they lie along a continuum? Can a person be both?
- Are there cultural factors?
- Must there be a diagnosis within a legal context (examine several mental health laws in different jurisdictions).
- Lastly, is or must misogyny/misandry always be maladaptive or deviant?
To be clear, Rodgers committed a horrific act, and had he not been stopped, with all the unused rounds recovered, who knows how much more damage he might have caused?
But as sure as I am that not all misogynists or misandrists kill, I am sure that there are non-misogynists and non-misandrists who kill.
A great amount of responsibility and scientific accuracy are necessary to find cause-effect, let alone arrive at a reasonable degree of professional certainty about a conclusion in a legal setting.
What about research in the area of gender and basis?
Let me bring your attention to an exciting and promising new journal, Violence and Gender. The inaugural issue, Volume 1, Number 1, was published on April 11, 2014.
Editor-in-Chief Mary Ellen O’Toole, PhD wrote:
The mission of Violence and Gender is to identify and critically analyze biological, cultural, psychological, social, spiritual, anthropological, and environmental factors that influence males and even females to act violently. Are males, in fact, more violent than females? Do both sexes act out violently but in different ways? Are there different influencing factors that impact violent behavior for each sex? Violence and Gender will explore these questions and more by confronting controversial, even unsettling issues to determine the complex relationship between gender and violence.
Violence is complicated and too often misunderstood, myth-based, and stereotyped. We are shocked when we see the “nice guy” next door arrested for serial murder, or when the quiet loner goes on a shooting rampage. Many of us even default to using terms like “monster” and “evil” to explain such behavior and the people responsible.
O’Toole Mary Ellen. Violence and Gender. 2014, 1(1): 1-2. doi:10.1089/vio.2013.1501
An interesting article is, Not Hardwired: The Complex Neurobiology of Sex Differences in Violence by Debra Niehoff, PhD:
Behavior is the product of a brain shaped by a dynamic interaction between genetic and environmental factors. This neuroplasticity facilitates adaptation but can also lead to behavioral pathology when individuals with inherent vulnerabilities are exposed to dysfunctional environments, particularly early in life. Differences in the frequency and intensity of violent behavior in men and women may reflect underlying differences in brain structure, function, or connectivity that result from such interactions. This perspective provides a brief overview of research on sex differences in the neural circuitry mediating emotion, stress responses, and a specific gene–environment interaction, all of which may contribute to sex differences in violence.
Niehoff Debra. Violence and Gender. 2014, 1(1): 19-24. doi:10.1089/vio.2013.0001.
And another that addresses misogyny:
Costuming, Misogyny, and Objectification as Risk Factors in Targeted Violence by Brian Van Brunt, EdD, and W. Scott Lewis, JD
This work hypothesizes that the costuming and objectification of targets provide insight into the motivation for a rampage violence attack. These risk factors are then useful for members of behavioral intervention and threat assessment teams to observe as potential leakage prior to an attack. The article presents dozens of incidents of mass casualty shootings and highlights the targeting of women and the process of objectification of the targets. The clothing and accessories used by the attackers are investigated not only for their tactical significance, but also in affiliation with societal archetypes of antiheroes. In addition, the authors present a review of mass shooters who focused on female targets in an attempt to find a catharsis from their past negative experiences, irrational thoughts, and misogynistic philosophies.
Van Brunt Brian and Lewis W. Scott. Violence and Gender. 2014, 1(1): 25-35. doi:10.1089/vio.2014.0003.
Regarding misogyny, the authors note that “[t]here are numerous rampage shooters who focused their attacks on women. These attacks are often motivated by failed romantic advances and frustrations at the killer’s inability to establish an intimate relationship (Van Brunt 2012)…Frustrated, irrational, alone, and hopeless, several male shooters ultimately took out their vengeance on the women who they perceived have wronged them.” P. 30.
The authors conclude:
There is no substitute for a careful, research-based assessment of risk to better identify the risk factors and develop case management plans to reduce the risk of violence and increase the stabilizing factors in the aggressor’s life. P. 33.
I agree. No risk assessment methods are discussed, however, and mention is made that structured professional judgment “provides some useful starting strategies when it comes to assessing threat and leading at-risk individuals away from their potential violence.”Id.
Use of actuarials is not mentioned. No specific tools that assess or tap misogyny were mentioned.
There are many FMHA (Forensic Mental Health Assessment) tools. Some are better than others. AUCs at best tend to be modest. Base rates of violence are characteristically very low, making it difficult to arrive at particularly accurate predictions. And Type I and Type II errors can be high.
For a listing of articles and access to several in Violence and Gender (except the one above that I purchased), see: