Violence and the Oppression of Men

I am staring at my computer screen, not knowing how to organize my thoughts after all the events that have happened in the Boston (Massachusetts, USA) area over the past five days.1 With the younger brother now in custody, people are saying that the “web is celebrating,”2 that all are relieved, that now there is justice. I do feel relieved that our city is no longer on lockdown,3 that people feel safe and can go out and be together again. I do feel grateful that I was not any closer to the bombings than I was and that no one I knew was among the victims. However, I am not celebrating, and in many ways I don’t feel relieved.

What I feel is a deep sadness—a sadness that once again men have decided to act out on others the anger and hurt they are feeling inside. I am sad that Dzhokhar and Tamerlan4 were so hurt and confused as men that they did this. I am sad that the media and many others have turned them into monsters or anomalies. I am sad that we have another example of how the training and immense isolation of boys causes the men they become to hurt others.

The conversation in the media will not be focused on the fact that these were men who did this. I don’t see anyone in the mainstream media asking, “What is it about being male, about male oppression, that leads men to have hurtful, violent, destructive thoughts and then act them out again and again?”

The vast majority of the time it is men who decide to take the life of another. Men commit ninety percent of the murders in the United States. Ninety-two percent of suicide bombers across the globe are men. Something in our training as men makes us feel that it’s okay to act out our anger and hurt at others. Feeling that we have the right to take another person’s life comes from our training to be in control and to believe that we know best and are smarter and better than women and other men.

Attacks like the one in Boston occur in some countries on a daily basis. (This one, because it was in the United States, is getting much more international attention.) Regardless of where they occur and how much media attention they get, all of these attacks are not okay. They all cause immense pain and hurt. All of them should be noted and grieved.

It is true that most boys and men would not carry out an attack like the Boston bombing. However, I, and most men, have violent thoughts all the time. Given the oppressive institutions all men are exposed to since they are one day old (the military, movies, video games, the sex industries, schools, sports, and so on), it is impossible for us not to feel violent and believe that it’s okay to hurt others. Unfortunately, some men are so hurt, angry, isolated, and lost, and have no way to discharge it, that they act out the distress we all carry within us.

A male friend and I are organizing a candlelight vigil for tonight. At some point I plan on asking the people who come to turn to the person next to them and take turns sharing thoughts and feelings about the bombings.

My wife told me she is now seeing on Facebook some sympathy for Dzhokhar, the younger brother—a sign of compassion and caring.

We can stay close as men, and close to the women in our lives, and discharge on the hard things in our society that events like this bring to light. I know I will keep working on how scary all this is—how much racism, imperialism, and violence I am hearing. I will stay close to those dear to me, so they will know my internal struggles and I will know theirs.

Ken Sazama
Boston, Massachusetts, USA


1 The author is referring to the April 2013 bombings at the Boston marathon that killed three people and injured two hundred and sixty-four. The bombings were carried out by two brothers, one of whom was killed and the other critically wounded in a gunfight with police.
2 “The web is celebrating” means people are celebrating on the Internet
3 “On lockdown” means having to stay off the streets.
The two brothers who carried out the bombing


Last modified: 2017-04-06 16:01:36-07