Letter: Masculinity and the marathon bombing

We all have been deeply affected by the horrible bombings during the marathon and the unbearable damage to many families and friends. I have noticed in all the media coverage and discussions over the past few weeks that much has been said about the ethnic and religious backgrounds of the two bombers, but nothing has been said about the fact that they are men—young men. I know that sounds like stating the obvious, but I think it’s something we should not overlook. Those of us who want to change the conditions that cause these kinds of actions need to look at why so many bombers are men.

It has been said that most violence worldwide is done by men. Why is that? Men can best answer that question but from my perspective, we need to look at how men are conditioned in our society not to show fear or vulnerability. Boys often keep to themselves because of competition and embarrassment about getting close to other boys. Men experience or witness violence towards them from very early ages on the street or as part of military training without anyone saying that it’s wrong or giving them a chance to talk about it. They may feel angry about how they are treated but there is no space for that anger to come out. The isolation and anger become igniting factors for violent actions such as the marathon bombings.

As a society, we can do better. We can’t continue to leave boys and men in situations where they feel the pressure to be tough, are angry about their circumstances, and are left alone to handle them.  The men and boys in our lives need us all to get in close, to listen to them about any pressures or concerns, give them a chance to express their feelings and make sure they know they are not alone. If we can take the time to do that now, we may avert more violence in the future.

Joanie Parker

Jamaica Plain


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