IN the wake of two more mass shootings in America last weekend – one fuelled by white supremacy, the other by the long-held rage of a young man who once wrote a “rape list” of women he wanted to assault and told a teacher he fantasised about slitting her throat – the United States and the world have again turned their attention to the questions “why?” and “how?”.

Why would a person do this? And how can similar incidents be prevented in future? The old debates have rolled on over access to guns, the classification of some groups – and not others – as terrorists, of whether mental illness should be treated as the root cause of this seemingly inexplicable behaviour.

And yet one factor, shared by all but three public mass shootings in the United States since 1966, is often overlooked: the shooters were men. According to Amnesty International, gun violence globally is perpetrated predominantly by men against men, while women are more likely to be victims of gun violence at the hands of a male partner.

The overwhelming predominance of men among mass shooters was addressed following the El Paso attack by Democratic Governor of California Gavin Newsom, who said this statistic “goes deep to the issue of how we raise our boys to be men, goes deeply to values that we tend to hold dear — power, dominance and aggression, over empathy, care, collaboration”.

That this recognition, long overdue from a public figure in Newsom’s position, is still seen as remarkable or oddly controversial underlines how deeply ingrained the ideology of gender is and how resistant patriarchy is to criticism.

An article on right-wing website The Daily Wire argued that Newsom had turned the issue entirely on its head and that what the world really needs is more masculinity. The fact that men in modern society aren’t masculine enough, the writer suggested, is fuelling this apparent crisis.

This argument, however, simply serves to prove the point it seeks to undermine. Even this right-wing commentator, who believes that traditional gender roles ought to be protected, recognises that challenges to this framework are contributing to mass violence.

In a world which seems intent on moving forward, champions of regressive gender roles and the basest ideal of masculinity are angry. They are angry and they are skilfully inciting the anger of other men – men who may have valid reasons to be dissatisfied with their personal circumstances – to support their cause.

Whether that cause is solely and explicitly linked to gender, or whether it extends into racist ideology, it all finds its root in the need to reassert dominance, which the perpetrators believe has been unfairly displaced.

The fact that popular thinkers on the American right are willing to legitimise this mindset, as though doing so has no connection whatsoever to legitimising violence, is bad enough. More disappointing is the sheer number of people who still seem to struggle with the significance of gender to these attacks or to the hateful ideologies which have, in some cases, motivated them.

It is evident by comparison to places such as the UK that the United States must change its gun laws, because far fewer people would die as a result of gun violence if those guns were harder to access in the first place.

Yet, if we looked only at instances of gun violence carried out by women, the argument that guns really aren’t that dangerous would hold far more weight. And while we are asked whether it’s appropriate to blame mental illness for acts of violence, would it not be useful to consider that women, too, experience mental illness, trauma, isolation, political alienation and oppression – and yet remain dramatically less likely than men to commit violence?

The typical, gender-blind analysis of these incidents serves to illustrate how accustomed we have become to the fact that violence, political or otherwise, is disproportionately perpetrated by men. It’s not even considered worth highlighting, and when it is remarked upon, people (often women) are frequently attacked or shut down as though such comments are inappropriate or deflecting from the “real issue”, whatever that may be.

It is true that most men will also never be “radicalised” in this way and will never commit extreme acts of violence. It is also true that there are a range of specific circumstances which have to come together to result in this kind of violence and that all of these need to be understood if we expect to prevent it.

But unless you believe that men are inherently more predisposed to decide to acquire a gun, go to a public place and shoot a bunch of people, you have to accept there is something in our gendered social conditioning that makes men more susceptible to this behaviour. That pattern, surely, is something worth trying to disrupt – for the sake of all men, as well as women.

Gavin Newsom alluded to the fact that cultural conceptions of “masculinity” are closely linked to aggression. Men are taught from a young age to believe that violence is an appropriate response to confrontation, an outlet for anger, a solution to problems.

Even in our relatively progressive society, we find it easier to tell girls they can do anything boys can do than to tell boys they can do anything girls can do. While masculinity is something to live up to, femininity is a mark of weakness, associated with vulnerability which men and even boys should be embarrassed to exhibit.

The men who reach the point of committing mass violence are just one extreme and very public point on a whole spectrum of harmful consequences which this rigid, toxic view of masculinity can have. An analysis by Mother Jones found that in more than a third (22) of public mass shootings in the US since 2011, the shooters “had a history of domestic violence, specifically targeted women, or had stalked and harassed women” – 175 people were killed in these shootings alone. The designation “public mass shooting” is telling itself, because instances where men murder their female partners and children are more common, with nearly 24 incidents per year. The number of men who kill only their partner is higher still.

It should not be surprising that there is such a frequent overlap between men who are violent and misogynistic towards women, those who are attracted to extremist ideologies and those who enact mass violence. Each of these is based in a belief that power and control are the ultimate goals; a worldview as self-destructive as it is dangerous to others. Perhaps if misogyny and violence against women were taken seriously enough from the outset, these early behaviours on the part of mass shooters might have been treated as warning signs.

As we know in Scotland, the majority of deaths by suicide are among young men. In America, nearly two-thirds of gun deaths per year are suicides, 85% of whom are men. One way or another, as perpetrators, victims or in the form of suicide, men’s lives are being ruined by a distorted view of what it is to be a man.

As New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said after the attacks last week: “It’s not just those who have succumbed to hate that have to change.” We need to look at ourselves and the world we create for boys to grow up in and the messages we send them about how to value themselves and others, how to feel about power and the lack of it, and how to feel comfortable with experiencing emotion in a way that isn’t destructive.

Here in the UK we may find ourselves in politically different circumstances than the United States, not least because guns are not readily available, but on these wider cultural points we, too, have a lot to learn.