From gun control to godlessness to video games, the political blame game continues over who and what was at fault in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. According to anti-feminist and backward-thinking author Charlotte Allen, the killing spree in Newtown, Conn., could have been avoided if only another man had been there and the setting hadn’t been so “feminized.”
Allen writes on the National Review Online:
There was not a single adult male on the school premises when the shooting occurred. In this school of 450 students, a sizeable number of whom were undoubtedly 11- and 12-year-old boys (it was a K–6 school), all the personnel—the teachers, the principal, the assistant principal, the school psychologist, the “reading specialist”—were female. There didn’t even seem to be a male janitor to heave his bucket at Adam Lanza’s knees. Women and small children are sitting ducks for mass-murderers. The principal, Dawn Hochsprung, seemed to have performed bravely. According to reports, she activated the school’s public-address system and also lunged at Lanza, before he shot her to death. Some of the teachers managed to save all or some of their charges by rushing them into closets or bathrooms. But in general, a feminized setting is a setting in which helpless passivity is the norm. Male aggression can be a good thing, as in protecting the weak—but it has been forced out of the culture of elementary schools and the education schools that train their personnel. Think of what Sandy Hook might have been like if a couple of male teachers who had played high-school football, or even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys, had converged on Lanza.
Where to begin on this one? First, contrary to what Allen wrote, there was a male custodian on campus. According to NBC News, he acted heroically. And presumably, he did not just “heave his bucket” at the knees of a heavily armed killer.
Second, women can’t throw buckets? Really? And as an aside to that: Does Allen really believe that a bucket is any kind of match for a semiautomatic weapon? The absurdity of her statement is breathtaking.
Third, Allen seems to forget that in numerous other mass shootings—Aurora, Colo., in July, Tucson, Ariz., last year and at Virginia Tech in 2007, to name a few—men were also present. So it’s not just women and small children who are “sitting ducks for mass murderers” as Allen says, it’s everyone.
Moreover, as The Nation’s Jessica Valenti points out, Allen’s article is completely disrespectful to the bravery the female Sandy Hook staffers exhibited to save the lives of their students.
Valenti writes on her Tumblr:
In addition to how forehead-smackingly stupid it is to suggest that 12 year old boys rush a grown man armed with an assault rifle - WOW is this disrespectful to the female teachers and staff at Sandy Hook. Allen mentions their heroism as an anomalous aside rather than exceptional bravery that saved lives.
The bravery of the women in Newtown - principal Dawn Hochsprung and psychologist Mary Sherlach who rushed the shooter before being killed, teacher Victoria Soto who died protecting her students, Kaitlin Roig and Abbey Clements who hid their students and calmed them - is remarkable. Not just because they demonstrated incredible calm and sacrifice in the face of terror, but also because of their gender - our picture of heroism in national tragedies like this is most often male. Not this time.