Living in Society Social Commentary Work Life

Providers Turning to Protectors and Buying Guns

Working the Garden

Financial inequality is impacting society by making men protectors of what limited resources each family has.

I know few people who are increasing their wealth in the post-Reagan era. The rich get richer and the rest of us pay for it as dollars systematically, relentlessly find their way to the richest one percent of the population. Families struggle to get a share of societal wealth and if they do, feel privileged enough to say, “I’ve got mine.”

The struggle to provide for a family is getting harder with the transformation of American business to globalization, government efforts to eliminate regulations, and the current administration’s tampering with healthcare, defense, foreign policy, energy, education, immigration and more.

The impact of financial inequality on the role of men in society has been to make it more difficult for them to provide for their families. That said, I don’t know many families where a male is the sole provider. Women began moving to the paid work force in large numbers decades ago. The idea women wouldn’t seek paid work is a social legacy of male dominance. The male narrative lacks proper consideration for the value of work by women. That seems obvious in workplaces where women earn a fraction of a dollar men do for the same work, and also in homes where a male provides money and resources for the family and women work unpaid.

Men are challenged to be providers so their role shifted to being protectors of what they have. The rise in gun ownership in the United States is directly related to income inequality and the diminished role of men as providers. Let’s talk about that.

Some of my friends and acquaintances are women who carry handguns.

It’s no big deal. The banal and ubiquitous presence of guns is part of living in the United States.

I’m not worried about getting shot over lunch or at an event. I also don’t feel any more secure knowing she has a handgun in her purse. It used to be a bit jarring to see weapons unexpectedly in everyday places. Not any more. I’m confident in studies that show women are not the main problem with gun violence, it’s the men.

In an Oct. 10 article in USA Today, Alia E. Dastagir wrote,

Data shows gun violence is disproportionately a male problem. Of the 91 mass shootings in which four or more victims died since 1982, only three were committed by women, according to a database from the liberal-leaning news outlet Mother Jones. Men also accounted for 86% of gun deaths in the United States, according to an analysis by the non-partisan non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation.

Men are more likely to own a gun — three times more, according to a 2017 survey from the Pew Research Center. This, despite marketing from gun manufacturers and groups such as the National Rifle Association to lure women.

Fast forward to Dastagir’s conclusion that to understand gun violence we must examine the cultural forces that equate being a man with violence. Read her information-packed article here.

What is it to be a man? It’s no secret having a Y chromosome is less important than the culture in which boys are nurtured to adulthood. There remains a significant, lingering perception that procreation is part of being a man even though wombs are more important than sperm. Only primitives continue to believe having a large family is a sign of manhood. At the same time male sexual dominance often trumps a woman’s right to choose. We read news daily about sexual predators, soldiers raping villagers, and widespread sexual harassment. Even so, something more powerful than traditional views about the role of men in procreation is at work.

After my first year in college (1971) I went home for the summer. I met with a number of male friends from high school and we each had been able to apply for work at manufacturing plants in the Quad Cities and find a summer job. Some literally went from business to business until they found a job and everyone who wanted one got one. It was easy. That changed.

The jobs environment has gotten very scrappy in Iowa and well-paid jobs with benefits are difficult to find and secure. Such jobs exist, however, the rise of professional human resources consultants has businesses seeking employees who meet very specific “profiles.” Don’t meet the profile or offer something unique to the position? Applicants will politely be sent on their way. If an applicant is lucky enough to be hired, human resource consultants have structured pay and benefits to meet the company’s minimum needs more than the needs of employees. Under the guise of taking inefficiencies out of business operations well-paid jobs with benefits are hard to get for almost anyone. It is worse with large companies who have the capitalization and scale to hire human resources consulting firms.

The transformation from manufacturing jobs to service jobs has not gone well from the standpoint of men seeking work. Retail, lawn care, janitorial, restaurant, banking, accounting, health care, sales, and other low-skill level employment performs necessary work in the economy. Such jobs are far from adequately compensated. Our education system increasingly fails to prepare students for jobs in a service economy. I’m not talking about adding a STEM curriculum in K-12 classrooms, but simple things like how to make a decision to start a business, work for a service company, or get a government job. Provider males are increasingly on their own when it comes to crafting a career, if that’s even possible in the 21st Century. Most I know get by, just barely.

In a society of income inequality, limited resources, women’s rights, and unsatisfactory job options, men get stymied in traditional roles of procreation and providing. They turn to protecting what they have, and that often includes buying guns. It is a predictable reaction in a society with a legacy of male dominance with no outlet.

A focus on resolving gun violence in the United States without considering the changing role of men in society isn’t going anywhere.