Notes on guns and gangs – Damaged masculinities

This continues my rough notes, my ‘free thoughts’ on the issues of gangs and guns, as the recent double murders have thrust this issue to the forefront once more.

This is not a finished ‘note’.  It is rough musings, open-ended thoughts and reactions/reflections to the issues that the rupture of the everyday have brought to mind.

Damaged masculinites:

The gun.  Phallic symbol.  Same with the knife, the machete, even the fist.

The majority of our prisoners, the majority of the gang members, the majority of the victims of the ‘gang wars’, they are male.

Of course, there are women involved.

There are incidents of females assaulting others, and in many ways the female plays an active, or, at least, important role in these gang wars.  Be they instigators of, or support networks (receptacles for the guns or gang members to hide or transport – even here, this role as receptacle, active and passive at the same time, has important insights), or victims (prostitutes or assaulted, or grieving mothers, sisters, lovers).  And this is an issue which will also need discussed; one cannot really consider masculinity without femininity.

But for the most part the ‘gang’ and the ‘killers/killed’ are male.

How important is this fact?

I think very.  In many ways I think these gangs, these killers/killed may be seen – should be seen – in terms of a damaged masculinity.

What does this mean?  What is a masculinity in the first place, and what would a damaged one be?

Here one must consider the concept of a hegemonic masculinity, issues of patriachy, and an insight into the intersections between class, race, gender and sexuality.

One also has to consider socialisation issues.  Socialisation in the family unit, the neighbourhood, the school, the street and wider culture too, in the sense of media, in all its various forms.

Hegemonic Masculinity:

Hegemonic masculinity.  This is a starting place.  What does it mean?

Hegemony.  An unusual word today, outside of academia or left-wing groups.  From the Greek for leadership/rule.

Masculinity.  English develops this word, as it does so many, from Old French, ultimately from Latin.  In general referring to the gender qualities associated with the male sex (sex and gender often being conflated in common speech, but sex refers solely to the biological, gender to the ‘role’ or the ‘identity’ of the self).

Hegemonic Masculinity.  In this sense I think one could understand this as the social ideal of what it is ‘to be a man’, what is held up as ‘masculine’.  As an ideal it is unlikely that any one man actually possesses the full qualities, that no ‘ideal hegemonic man’ exists.  It is an abstraction, a figment, something to be strived ‘to become.’

It is also doubtful that there is a clear description or representation of this ‘ideal’.  It is instead absorbed by the psyche, through socialisation, through observation, both conscious and unconscious (or subconscious), of ‘maleness’.  Most important during youth, but it is a continuous process.

This process may come from male ‘role-models’ – the father, the uncle, the neighbour, the teacher; from social representations of ‘man’ – such as the policeman, the soldier, the politician, the businessman; and from social media representations – in movies, in songs, in books, even news media.

It also comes, or at least is reinforced, through peer pressure.

Different ‘groups’ may have their own understanding of ‘maleness’, different representations of hegemonic masculinity, although these are often versions based on the overall social concept of hegemonic masculinity – in that each sub-group may draw on this overall ‘ideal man’ – or, at least, the ‘ideal man’ is abstracted as a total of all the ‘masculinities’ in society.

However, the concept of ‘hegemonic’ implies that it is a dominant version, that there are alternative versions, versions that may subvert or challenge.  And this is true.  Only certain masculinities are reflected in the hegemonic version.  Those that maintain patriachy – that is male dominance – in society overall.  This leads to a whole other discussion.

What is the version of hegemonic masculinity in Bermuda?  Or, rather the West, in as much as Bermuda is part of the general Western civilisation, or within its general cultural sphere.  And what is its relevance to the question of guns, gangs and murders in Bermuda?

An embryonic argument:

There is a hegemonic masculinity.

Not everyone is able to achieve at least an adequate approximation of this masculinity.

Race, class, other factors prevent this adequate approximation.

This leads to an attempt, nonetheless, to realise such a masculinity.

For those frustrated in doing this, they develop a vulgar, or deformed, essentially damaged masculinity.

This damaged masculinity, it focuses on respect, on the cult of violence, on the vulgarisation of the female, the female as a conquest, the fixation on money/bling, and the compensation of masculinity through the cult of phallic symbols, the fist, the knife, the gun.

The gangs, and the ‘death-by-bullet’ as the logical consequence of this damaged masculinity.

The underworld as a distilled and vulgar representation of the capitalist ideal?  The uber-capitalist?


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