The Gender Police (page 5)

The second is a set of masculinity imperatives. Hypermasculinity is the dominant gender norm imposed by the gender police. Boys, but also girls, obtain status by displaying aggression and a willingness to demonstrate power at another’s expense.

The third is normalized bullying. Bullying is the tool by which the most aggressive members of the gender police use coercive and often violent power to acquire and maintain high social status. By participating in gender policing, and targeting students they perceive to be failing in the task of meeting masculinity norms, students elevate their social status.

The rigid status hierarchies found in today’s schools have not developed in a vacuum. They come from a larger, more encompassing set of values, generated by what I call a bully economy. Economic and cultural trends associated with extreme capitalism, including severe income disparities and related values pervasive in popular media, have helped institutionalize masculinity prescriptions (i.e., aggression and dominance) and intensified gender policing in multiple forms.

Children today learn that status is everything, as described in chapter 1, “Social Status Wars.”

Race and class are our most typical indicators of power, and conformity to gender expectations is paramount. This chapter explains how students become gender police recruits, and how their policing fuels battles over status and power in schools.

Chapter 2, “Masculinity and White Supremacy,” examines theories of masculinity and their relevance both to school shootings and to the everyday violence that has become accepted in our schools. Boys are expected to be powerful and dominant and then are often attacked and ridiculed if they appear gay, poor, or nonwhite or have any number of other perceived differences. A recipe for violence ensues when boys are pressured to be hypermasculine and then are marginalized through classism, racism, heterosexism, or other forms of prejudice.

“Violence against Girls,” chapter 3, addresses how boys learn from an early age that they assert manhood not only by being popular with girls but also by wielding power over them, physically, emotionally, and sexually. This chapter examines school shootings where the perpetrators specifically targeted girls who rejected them and where they lashed out indiscriminately as a result of perceived damage to their manhood after being “dumped.”