Addicting Info – U.S. Maternal Death Rate Now Highest In The Western World, Thanks To GOP War On Women

via Addicting Info – U.S. Maternal Death Rate Now Highest In The Western World, Thanks To GOP War On Women.


Worldwide, fewer and fewer women are dying during pregnancy or from complications related to childbirth. In fact, women living almost anywhere in the developed world are safer today, than they were in the year 2000. Here in the United States, however,women are twice as likely to die during or after pregnancy, than they were 15 years ago. Thanks to the regressive party, otherwise known as the GOP, the United States is moving backwards, not forwards, when it comes to women’s health.

According to the latest State of the World’s Mothers report, released in May, 2015, the U.S. has the highest rate of maternal deathin any western nation. Women in the U.S. are ten times more likely to die from pregnancy as women living in Poland or Norway. Compared to women living in Belarus, the country with the lowest rate of maternal deaths, women in the U.S. are twenty times more likely to die before, during, or immediately after childbirth.

Globally, the rate of maternal deaths has been steadily declining over the past two decades. Around the world, the rate of maternal deaths has been reduced by 45 percent since the mid-1990’s. Meanwhile, a woman’s risk of death from pregnancy in the U.S. today is double what it was a decade and a half ago.

It gets worse, though. The rate of maternal deaths in the United States is calculated according to the number of deaths reported annually. According to a report published by the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, at least 38 percent of pregnancy-related deaths are not reported as such in the United States. Research also estimates that at least half of all maternal deaths are not listed as “maternal deaths” on the death certificate in cases where the fetus was not delivered, when a woman died more than a week after delivery, or in cases where a woman died from a condition that existed before pregnancy, which was worsened because of pregnancy.

Disturbingly, there is no federal law that requires U.S. hospitals to keep records regarding maternal deaths. So while we know that the maternal death is climbing in the U.S., we don’t really know how many women are dying as a result of a pregnancy.

What we do know is that in spite of all the advances in medicine and technology, the risk of pregnancy-related death in the US is going up every year, not down.

The State of the World’s Mothers report, which is published yearly by the nonprofit Save The Children Foundation, ranks 179 nations on ‘the Mother’s Index,’ illustrating where in the world “women and children fare best.” The U.S. has been steadily falling in rank, since the year 2000, when the study first began.

In 2000 the U.S. ranked among the top ten countries in the world for women’s health and well-being. It was listed as the 4th best country on earth for mothers’ health on the Mother’s Index. Only Norway, Canada and Australia ranked higher.

In the 15 years since the first State of the World’s Mothers report was published, the U.S. has dropped to number 33 on theMother’s Index. America now ranks 61 in maternal health, falling behind every other Western nation when it comes to protecting the health of pregnant women. In the year 2000, a US woman’s risk of death from pregnancy-related causes was 1 in 3500. Today that risk has risen to 1 in 1800, according to this year’s annual report.

The republican War on Women is not just a catchphrase used by the left. Every war has casualties, and this one is no different. Government restrictions on reproductive rights have a direct impact on women’s health and well-being. While national statistics can be informational, it’s also important to understand that not all states are equal, when it comes to maternal deaths.

A 2014 report by the Center for Reproductive Rights shows that states that have the highest number of abortion restrictions, score lowest on women’s overall health. On the contrary, states with the least amount of restrictions on abortion are doing a much better job of protecting women’s health.

image credit: screen capture Center For Reproductive Rights & Ibis Reproductive Health, Evaluating Priorities, 2014 report

This chart shows how abortion restrictions impact women’s health in the states:

image credit: screen capture Center For Reproductive Rights & Ibis Reproductive Health, Evaluating Priorities, 2014 report

The state of Vermont, which does not place any restrictions on abortion, has the second lowest maternal mortality rate in the country, with just 2.6 deaths per 100,000 live births. At the other end of the spectrum, the rate of maternal deaths in Oklahoma, a state with 14 laws designed to restrict a woman’s right to control her own reproductive health, ranks 48th in the country. Oklahoma has a maternal death rate that is almost ten times higher than Vermont, at 20.1.

The state of Maine also places very few restrictions on a woman’s right to choose. As of January of 2015, the Guttenmacher Institute reports that the only restrictions in the state are in regards to the use of public funding to pay for abortion services. Maine has the distinction of being the state with the lowest rate of maternal deaths, at 1.2 per 100,000 live births.

In contrast, states that undermine women’s rights, including their right to decide when or if they will have a child, have maternal death rates that are as much as 20 times higher than those in Maine. Mississippi, which has some of the most restrictive laws in the country when it comes to women’s reproductive health, has a maternal death rate of 19.0. Other states with 11 or more restrictions on abortion access also have alarmingly high maternal death rates. Those states include Michigan, which has amaternal death rate of 21.0 per 100,000 live births, the highest among the 50 states. Georgia’s maternal death rate is 20.9. In Louisiana, the maternal death rate is 17.9.  Arkansas and Idaho have maternal death rates of 16.0 and 15.0, respectively, according to the most recent report on maternal deaths by state.

According to the research from the Center for Reproductive Rights, states that have six or fewer laws regarding abortion access rank highest in the country for women’s health, overall. States that have 11 or more laws restricting a woman’s right to control her own body, rank at the bottom of the country, when it comes to women’s health and well-being.

This data tells us that, while the maternal death rate is climbing in the United States, not all states are equally responsible for the increase. As a nation it’s time for us to come together to ensure that the health and well being of all women is protected, no matter where in the United States they choose to live.

The United States also needs to catch up to the rest of the civilized world when it comes to collecting complete and accurate information on maternal deaths. More than a decade ago, the United States set a goal of reducing the maternal death rate to 3.3 per 100,000, by 2010. If this had actually been a priority for state and federal representatives, then accurate data collection would also have been a priority. But that never happened.

The reality is that saving women’s lives is not a priority for too many U.S. representatives. Religious fanatics elected to office view women as baby-makers, nothing more, nothing less. The life a woman matters to the extent that it doesn’t interfere with a man’s right to procreate by using her body. That becomes all too clear when Republican politicians go to great lengths to protect rapistsand child molesters, or when they advocate for laws that would allow men to sue women for not giving birth to their fertilized sperm. In their warped minds, a woman’s body is not her own. A woman’s body only exists to be used by men, in an act of procreation. If the woman does not want to be impregnated, if she doesn’t want to birth a kid, as far as republicans are concerned, she can go ahead and die.

While the rest of the civilized world is working to protect women from the risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth, regressive US republicans are working to ensure that women birth those babies, or die trying. As a nation we cannot accept these horrifying statistics. We can not accept Republican policies that fail to protect the lives of the women we love because of their religious devotion to the idea that someone that was never born is just as important as someone who is obviously born.

*Featured image credit:, creative commons license 3.0


Germany Caused the Crisis, Germany Must Solve It – YouTube

via Germany Caused the Crisis, Germany Must Solve It – YouTube.


Published on 7 Jul 2015

Heiner Flassbeck, former director of UNCTAD, says German economic policy put Greece into crisis and progressive Germans must stop the irrational bleeding of the Greek people


What Really Caused The Puerto Rican Crisis | ThinkProgress

via What Really Caused The Puerto Rican Crisis | ThinkProgress.


After Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro García Padilla (D) announced last week that the territory can no longer pay the $72 billion it owes, many started reaching for explanations for what got the island there in the first place. And given that a country with much lower per capita income than the mainland United States has followed the federal minimum wage since 1987, a large number of pundits pointed to an excessively high minimum wage as a big culprit.



Much of this hubbub stems from a report released last week from Anne O. Kreuger, Ranjit Teja, and Andrew Wolfe for the Padilla administration, which cited, among many other factors, the minimum wage as a reason the country’s economy has lost competitiveness. “Employers are disinclined to hire workers because…the US federal minimum wage is very high relative to the local average,” they write. It amounts to 77 percent of per capita income there, compared to 28 percent in the mainland U.S. It was also mentioned in a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2014.

But according to an economist who studied the impact of increasing the territory’s minimum wage to the mainland U.S. minimum, while it likely isn’t helping, it can’t be blamed as a core cause of the current crisis.



“The timing of their problems does not have to do with the minimum wage,” Richard Freeman, the Herbert Ascherman Chair in Economics at Harvard University, told ThinkProgress. “I don’t believe it’s done much positive but it certainly didn’t cause any of the current problems.” For example, its public debt has risen every year since 2000 and jumped from about 90 percent of GNP in 2010 to more than 100 percent in 2015. Yet the minimum wage hasn’t been increased since 2009.

Freeman and Alida J. Castillo-Freeman looked at the impact of Puerto Rico adopting the U.S. federal minimum wage in a study from 1992. “I thought that was going to be the great cause of massive job loss,” he said. Instead, they found that it reduced total employment on the island by 8 to 10 percent, mainly in low-wage jobs. That wasn’t as much as he had expected, and the losses were also concentrated in some industries that were already on the decline. “It’s dubious it would cause the problems today,” he said. An earlier paper from a different economist had found that the claim that the minimum wage increase had a big negative effect on employment “is surprisingly fragile.”

The biggest issue may be that Puerto Rico never really bounced back from the recession. “The island is one of the few places…that just has never recovered,” Freeman said. Its unemployment rate still stands above 12 percent. Its labor force fell significantly in the aftermath of the recession, while it has rebounded and continued to climb on the mainland. The job losses caused by the minimum wage increase, Freeman pointed out, “are nothing comparable to the job losses that they’ve had in this recession.”



The recession hit the country after it was already economically vulnerable. “The situation with Puerto Rico was the perfect storm,” said Maria Enchautegui, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. “So many things happening at the same time.” One big factor that she pointed to was the termination of section 936 in the tax code, which allowed businesses operating on the island to go tax-free. It not only enticed many to relocate there and open up jobs, but it then became a core part of how the Puerto Rican economy functioned.



When it was finally phased out in 2006, “That had a domino effect that spread through the whole economy,” she said. Manufacturing jobs in particular have disappeared, falling nearly 34 percent since 2006.

The tax treatment gave the island “the pretense of a healthy economy,” Freeman said. “And then the crash came in 2008, but they probably never were healthy.”



The island has also been hemorrhaging population. While it grew steadily for nearly two centuries, it began to decline for the first time in 2006, falling 2.2 percent between 2000 and 2012. Today, more people of Puerto Rican descent live on the mainland than on the island itself.



The report from Kreuger, Teja, and Wolfe points to other factors as well: the doubling of oil prices between 2005 and 2012 that hurt an island that imports oil for nearly all of its power generation, transportation costs that are at least twice as high as for neighboring islands, high electricity costs, a welfare system that provides more generous benefits for some than minimum wage income, and other local laws and regulations.

Given that many feel the minimum wage played a large part, however, there has been an emphasis on the need for Puerto Rico to reduce it as part of its reforms. Enchautegui thinks the best course would be to allow the territory to dictate its own wages, as it did before. “From there maybe we can decide whether it should be the same [as mainland U.S.] or not,” she said.

Freeman doesn’t think lowering the wage will do much good. “If I were looking for solutions for getting the economy out of its trouble, I wouldn’t be pushing the minimum wage,” he said. “This is an economy that does need lots of jobs created. But if you lower the minimum wage…there’s a small number of jobs you might create, but that’s not going to deal with this depression that they have.”

Radical austerity’s brutal lies: How Krugman and Chomsky saw through dehumanizing neoliberal spin –

via Radical austerity’s brutal lies: How Krugman and Chomsky saw through dehumanizing neoliberal spin –


The battle in Greece is identical to the one we need to be waging right here for fairness over markets and banks


Radical austerity's brutal lies: How Krugman and Chomsky saw through dehumanizing neoliberal spin

Paul Krugman, Noam Chomsky (Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid/AP/Nader Daoud)

The referendum in Greece refuting the European Union’s unbending insistence on radical austerity as the medicine Greeks must continue to swallow is simply not to be missed for its multiple layers of significance. To put the core take-home first, we are all Greeks as they stand against the neoliberal orthodoxy. Their battle is perfectly of a piece with one that needs to be called by its name and waged in our great country.

The Greek crisis has given us an altogether exposing moment, to put the point another way. It is universal in all that it lays bare about the world’s political economy as it has come to be over the last, say, four decades.

Three understandings—recognitions, maybe—were immediately plain as the polling results came in Sunday evening. The Tsipras government, left social democratic in its thinking, won a triumphant 61 percent of the electorate’s support in its stand against the E.U.’s utterly irrational desire to impose more human suffering in the name of market principles. And the magnitude of the victory underscored the truths Greece just gave us:

• Greeks voted courage over fear. They insisted that there is a value higher than market value—this value being the commonweal, the well-being of a society and the people who comprise it. They asked, Does the polity serve the market, or does the market serve the polity? This is one of the essential questions of our time, however rarely it gets asked. Posing it is a very large deed in itself, a favor to all others, and the Greeks’ reply is larger still, of course.

• The European Union, with roots in the too-distant idealism of the early postwar years, has just destroyed any claim it had to stand among humanity’s higher aspirations. The E.U. will remain, obviously, but effectively in form only—a collection of powerful but hollow institutions that inspire little loyalty. Its nakedly corrupt use of power against Greek democracy devastates what may have remained of its original ambition. For now at least, there is no reason to do anything other than oppose it in the name of the very thing it was supposed to stand for: human freedom.

• “What’s going on with the austerity is really class war,” Noam Chomsky said in an interview with the estimable Amy Goodman on this site a few days ago. It is time we got used to this term, which requires that we discredit our densely layered mythologies to the effect that class conflict occurs elsewhere but never in our Providential land. Greeks ’r’ Us: In what they have just done we must see what must be done in America if this nation is to avoid letting the neoliberal order subvert it altogether.

Alexis Tsipras’ last speech on the eve of the referendum is a remarkable document. Unless you speak Greek, you have to read it in an English translation of the French translation, but it comes over clearly nonetheless. (And isn’t it interesting that the French would translate it but no one in the Anglo-American world would bother?)

Tsipras addressed “citizens of Athens, people of Greece,” sounding a little like a fifth century B.C. orator. He spoke of “mutual respect,” “solidarity,” “living with dignity in Europe,” “bravery,” “strength,” “democratic tradition.”

He spoke of the E.U.’s “rhetoric of terror,” which I find a perfectly defensible description of its disgraceful campaign to spread fear among Greek voters in the days prior to the vote. “We are giving democracy a chance to return,” Tsipras said. “To return to Europe, because we want Europe to return to its founding principles.”

Tsipras drew his best-known line, repeated on the wires quickly afterward, from a 19th century Greek poet. “Liberty demands virtue and courage,” he said, invoking the phrase several times before he finished. I had to remind myself as I read: This guy is 40 years old and already a master of his head, his heart and his principles.

We should think about this speech. What was Tsipras talking about? OK, he wanted to move his electorate, but what about the way he chose to do it? Why did he evoke the Greek past and the Greek character so fulsomely—“this passion, this anxious desire for life, this anxious desire for hope, this anxious desire for optimism”?

Start to finish, Tsipras had one thing on his mind: values. What are the values by which we should live? From what do we all derive our identities? These were his implicit questions, to which his answers could not have been clearer.

Among E.U. officials, Tsipras and his government have been dismissed since he took office in January as amateurs, irresponsible grandstanders, dreamers, dangers, neophytes, incompetents. The technocrats in Brussels and Frankfurt would never in a millennium take any interest in this kind of thinking, to say nothing of learning from it, and this is entirely natural: They do not respect any such values and do not think Europeans should live by them.

Gradually since the early 1970s, when American corporations and political elites began to consolidate the neoliberal order as we now have it, it has come to determine Europe’s direction, too. The Greek crisis, if we understand it as essentially political rather than financial or economic, was thus 40 years or so in the making. Sooner or later, neoliberalism was going to collide with someone or other’s democratic process.

Yanis Varoufakis, Tsipras’ now departed finance minister, sent out a superbly revealing tweet after the prime minister announced the referendum late last month and the E.U. started in on its campaign to subvert the Syriza government in favor of one more pliant. “Democracy deserves a boost in euro-related matters,” Varoufakis wrote. “We have just delivered it. Let the people decide. (Funny how radical this concept sounds.)”

Depends on what you mean by “funny.” I take the funny part to be a measure of just how far we have let our values slide in the face of neoliberalism’s 40-year advance toward cast-iron orthodoxy. You have to take a page from Elvis Costello at this point and ask, What’s so funny about human dignity, strength, virtue (in the sense of moral character and humane intent)?

Lionel Jospin, the Socialist premier of France on either side of the millennium, used to say, “Market economy, not market society.” Sensible and modest, you may think, but name a European leader who would touch such a thought with a pole these days. Another measure of how far and fast we have come (or gone).

I dwell on this question of values because the Greeks have just shown us something very vital. Neoliberalism, as it operates through corporations, political elites, and corrupted media striking poses of authority, does not degenerate only our towns, traditions, environments, local fabric, culture and so on. At bottom it is well along in destroying the values that give value, in turn, to all such things.

It is thus essential to understand values as the field of decisive battle. This lets us redraw all the lines in the right places—which is a good description of what Tsipras has persuaded Greeks to do. What is the goal, the purpose? What can be compromised and what is beyond compromise? These questions become easier to ask and answer—as we must require ourselves to do. Sacrifice is easier to accept.

When I look at the E.U. now I marvel at the power of neoliberal ideology. I say this because it is in the service of the ideology, plain and simple, that Europe’s technocratic class and many of its leaders have just destroyed the union itself in its most important dimension—as an idea, a source of identity, a form of human organization that could transcend the eternally warring nation-state.

It is gone, decimated in the six-month interim since Greeks voted Syriza into power, which makes this a moment of history, surely. This said, the moment was that 40 years mentioned above in the making.

It pains me to write this, honestly, as I had long bought into the ideal as articulated as early as 1946. A unified Europe was to be a peaceful, democratic, one-for-all entity.

Luisa Passerini, an interesting Italian scholar, traces the idea of Europe back to the 17th century and finds concrete proposals for a federated Europe as early as the 19th. Even more interesting, she finds in “Europe,” the notion, a long thread of emotional bonding: Greeks and Belgians would be Greek and Belgian but Europeans together.

Intellectual construct, political construct, psychological and even emotional construct: What of it is left now? Post-Greece, it is sheer illusion to pretend any longer that membership has anything to do with abstractions such as identity—or even the preservation of the democratic process, given Brussels and Berlin just tried to subvert Greece’s.

Varoufakis now likens the E.U. to a debtors’ prison. Who could have imagined such talk when the euro was launched in 1999? In his recent book, “The Global Minotaur: America, Europe, and the Future of the Global Economy,” he put it this way:

Europe is looking like a case of alchemy-in-reverse: for whereas the alchemist strove to turn lead into gold, Europe’s reverse alchemists began with gold (an integration project that was the pride of its elites) but will soon end up with the institutional equivalent of lead.

How to explain what the E.U. has just done? For months one has had to ask, Why does Europe insist on intensifying the very policies that measurably worsened Greece’s predicament, turning disaster into calamity?

There are a few answers.

One, the E.U. and Germany are ducking responsibility. So long as they insist on more austerity they do not have to acknowledge the strategy’s failure. As Paul Krugman has pointed out repeatedly in his New York Times columns, Greece has done nearly everything demanded in the two previous bailout plans only to find its circumstances worsened. Let Greeks suffer in the cause of our political reputations: This is in essence the position. Disgraceful, of course.

Two, the power of ideological belief and the out-of-hand rejection of all imaginative thinking both derive from the reality Chomsky named: Austerity and the neoliberal orthodoxy it manifests are at bottom forms of class war. When we recognize this, the mystery starts to evaporate.

Failed policies, malnourished Greeks, widespread homelessness, shuttered schools and hospitals—none of it counts as more than collateral damage in the campaign to turn Greece into a low-wage, low-cost, deregulated park wherein global corporations can do more or less what they like.

Third, it is time to put the E.U. in the file with all other supra-national institutions developed in the post-1945 period. The three I have in mind are the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations. Anyone who does not recognize these as instruments deployed in the West’s campaign to roll the neoliberal order across the globe like linoleum needs to look more objectively at events.

Back in the early 1970s, Shirley Hazzard, the Australian-cum-British-cum-American writer, published a scathing account of the U.N. called “Defeat of an Ideal,” and the title tells you the sad tale this book recounts. An institution founded on hope and aspiration ends up a gross betrayal of its own purpose—not least, in the U.N.’s case, because Washington insisted on waging the Cold War in its corridors.

Hazzard concluded that the U.N. should be dissolved so that the community of nations could begin again and retrieve the original principles written into the charter. I am not quite there yet with the E.U. Tsipras is right to try to keep his country in the eurozone, but I doubt he is looking for fraternal harmony.

I doubt he has any illusions, either, as to the long-term prospects of an enduring accommodation between a social democratic populace and a set of neoliberal institutions answerable to no electorate. Tsipras needs a deal to spare 11 million Greeks more suffering and chaos, full stop. I do not think we should look for more to come of this.

In the space of six months I have surrendered a lot of illusions—the illusions of an American, for I long (and naively) looked to Europe to evince some alternative to America’s military-centered assertion of its ambitions. It does, but the distinction is merely one of means, not ends: In the Greek case, Europe wanted regime change in Athens and probably still does. It prefers to do with bond debt what Washington likes to do with bombs.

Parenthetically, think about the Ukraine crisis in this light. The same very modest distinction applies. Washington and the Europeans continue to bicker about method—how to yank Ukraine westward, violently or otherwise—but no more.

The dream is over. What can I say?

Just one final point, actually.

The term “class war” is powerfully provocative in the American context. You do not use it unless you are willing to put up your dukes, for the myth of America as a middle-class nation with no contesting endowed and deprived extremes is a wide plank in the platform of our claim to exceptionalism. How many times have you heard the trusty, “We’re all in this together”—articulated most frequently when it is perilously obvious that we are not?

We Americans would do very well, then, to reflect on the Greeks’ predicaments for what we may learn about our own. In yet one more context, unless we overcome the exceptionalist narrative we stand little chance of understanding who we are, what is being done to us, and what we must do.

Last Sunday, Greeks told the rest of us they are perfectly clear on all three points. Are they not to be envied in this respect, even amid their sufferings and struggles.


Patrick Smith is Salon’s foreign affairs columnist. A longtime correspondent abroad, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune and The New Yorker, he is also an essayist, critic and editor. His most recent books are “Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century” (Yale, 2013) and Somebody Else’s Century: East and West in a Post-Western World (Pantheon, 2010). Follow him @thefloutist. His web site is

How We Got Gay | Discovery Channel HD Documentary 2015 – YouTube

via How We Got Gay | Discovery Channel HD Documentary 2015 – YouTube.

This is a useful survey of an all too easily forgotten and shameful era in our history…

History Channel

Published on 21 Apr 2015

How We Got Gay | Discovery Channel HD Documentary 2015



The plague of angry white men: How racism, gun culture & toxic masculinity are poisoning America –

via The plague of angry white men: How racism, gun culture & toxic masculinity are poisoning America –


Dylann Roof is just the latest in a long line of men clinging to dangerous ideology that spiraled out of control


The plague of angry white men: How racism, gun culture & toxic masculinity are poisoning America

Dylann Roof (Credit: AP/Chuck Burton)

Dylann Roof was not silent before he murdered nine black people in their church, shooting and reloading multiple times, destroying their bodies with his white rage. He did not shout obscure or difficult to translate Latin phrases. Dylann Roof was not a blank slate or deep and nebulous well who left no written justification or explanation for his evil deeds. White racial terrorist Dylann Roof told his African-American victims why he was going to kill them. As though it was a type of forced civic duty and obligation, Roof said to his victims: “I have to do it.” He then shared his grievances: “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country and you have to go.” Then he let off a fusillade of bullets.
A superficial reading would suggest that the “our” is simple to decipher: Roof is channeling his white nationalist understanding of “America” as a country synonymous with and exclusively for “white” people. This is the logic of the phrase that “America is a white man’s country.” The “our” also signifies the control and possession of white women’s bodies and personhood by white men.

The idea of black men raping white women is a centuries-old white American fantasy: It is the justification for the lynching tree, where thousands of innocent black men were made into “strange fruit.” The lynching tree also reinforces a cultural lie, that white women are the most desired among all others, and tries to conceal how many white women from both before the founding of the United States, through to the Age of Obama, willingly have had relationships with black men, a perfectly banal observation that nonetheless enrages white supremacists.

Nationalist and politically chauvinistic ideologies tend toward patriarchy and sexism. White nationalism is no exception. As such, Dylann Roof’s white racial terrorism is an act of violence, and one that is grounded in a particular understanding of gender: “Male” or “female” are designations of human, sexual, biological difference. “Masculine” and “feminine,” however, are social constructs that are not fixed, which change over time, and in response to particular arrangements of social and political power. Here, gender is a type of performance (in its most binary and simple form) as a given person acts “male” or “female.” And toxic masculinity is a performance that emphasizes violence, control over others, sexual aggression and a lack of emotion and vulnerability. Dylann Roof—with the guns, violence, resentment, right-wing politics and racism—is the extreme embodiment of toxic white masculinity.

The color line is not separate from gender: The two are deeply connected to one another in the United States and the West more broadly. Dylann Roof’s performance of gender involved an understanding that he should have power over and was inherently superior to people of color because of his skin color. Moreover, as understood by his racist political ideology, Dylann Roof was granted an additional claim on power and authority because he is a man. Roof’s racism and sexism thus intersect in what philosophers Carol Pateman and Charles Mills have described as“racial patriarchy.” This is a system of racial domination in which people of color are subordinate to whites. It is also a relationship where white men have more power than white women. But all white people have a higher place than any person of color—either male or female. Women of color occupy the basement level of a society organized around a system of racial patriarchy.

This system, in its most unapologetic and honest form, is the dream of white nationalists.

But while tethered to ideals of the past, white nationalism also lives in the present; thus, it must deal with and negotiate questions about feminism, immigration, cosmopolitanism, globalization and other related matters if it is to remain viable as a community and belief system. Consequently, white nationalism has its own type of “gender troubles.” Can one be a feminist and also a white nationalist? Are white men and white women equal because they are both “white”? Should white women be subordinate to white men? These are the types of questions that white nationalists have been debating with one another online and in other spaces. Dylann Roof’s manifesto demonstrates knowledge, however superficial, of these various currents and controversies in contemporary white nationalist “political thought.”

These discussions of racial patriarchy among white supremacists are not new; Nancy Maclean explored the Ku Klux Klan’s struggles with questions of gender in the first part of the early 20th century in her book “Behind the Mask of Chivalry“:

Klan tracts and speakers dwelt far less on men’s behavior than on women’s. This was in part because male roles were changing less than female roles, and in part because Klansmen were more interested in controlling others than in self-scrutiny. Nevertheless, they expounded a particular model of masculinity. Klansmen expected women to marry, to provide for their families, and to exercise control over their wives and children. “God intended,” affirmed one Klan minister, “that every man should possess insofar as possible, his own home and rule his own household.”

Rule over one’s women was mandated by another staple of the Klan’s conception of masculinity: “honor,” or, as it was sometimes called, “chivalry.” Honor dictated a commitment to protect the virtue of “American” women. Historically honor in fact rested on a man’s ability to control the sexuality of his female relations…

Although hostile to sexual emancipation, the Klan was not an outright foe of all women’s equality. The order’s commitment to moral uplift in fact led it to support rights for white Protestant women…Nonetheless, recognition of women by Klansmen was always shot through with ambivalence. Klansmen’s ideal, after all, was the nineteenth-century petty proprietor—whether farmer, artisan, or merchant. His vaunted independence as a citizen presumed his control over the labor and behavior of the dependents in his household. However much Klansmen might try to cooperate with women who shared their social goals, female initiative set them on edge; the undertow of patriarchal prerogative impeded full solidarity.

Dylann Roof was attracted to white nationalism and white supremacy because of a sense of alienation and anger at the world. Although he was born middle class, Roof somehow came to feel that America — because of immigration, changing demographics and pernicious fictions about “black crime” — had abandoned him. In Roof’s mind, he was forced into action, to be “heroic,” “the Last Rhodesian,” launching an attack on unarmed black people.

Roof’s actions were those of the “angry white man” on steroids. While his feelings of toxic white masculinity could have been insulated by the relative privileges of being born into the middle class, he was instead suckered into a sense of white racial victimology, entitlement and identity politics by the right-wing media and online racist propaganda. Never did he think to identify the system he venerated, racial patriarchy, as the source of his own alienation. Instead, like so many other angry young men like him, he bought into it wholeheartedly. Roof’s translating this anger into violent action is (thankfully) a rare event in the United States. But, as sociologist Michael Kimmer detailed in his book “Angry White Men,” this sense of (white) grievance and anger is all too common.

Guns are central to toxic white masculinity, as well as the broader white supremacist and conservative politics that Dylann Roof exemplified. In the United States, guns have a deep historic relationship to the maintenance and enforcement of hierarchies of race, class and gender. They were a tool for committing mass genocide against First Nations peoples, for example. They were given to white indentured servants in the 17th century as a way of cementing their identities as “free” people who could then be used to oppress and control black slaves and other people of color. Guns have been a tool for American plutocrats and the 1 percent to control the working classes and the poor. The gun is also a powerful symbol of masculinity and virility: A recent ad campaign by the manufacturer of the AR-15 rifle featured a picture of the weapon along with the tag line: “Consider your man card reissued.”

As seen with Dylann Roof and other mass shooters (a group in which white males are grossly overrepresented) such as Elliot Rodger, Adam Lanza, the Columbine killers and James Holmes, toxic masculinity (and a sense of aggrieved white male entitlement) is central to their decision to use firearms to commit acts of mass murder.

The corporate news media does not want a sustained discussion of gun violence as a type of public health crisis. The corporate news media is also unwilling to discuss how domestic terrorism by right-wing white men is now the United States’ leading threat to public order. Very troublingly, the corporate news media considers it impolitic to explore how the right-wing echo chamber is radicalizing and weaponizing its followers.

And there most certainly will not be a “national conversation” about toxic white masculinity and mass murder in the mainstream news media.


Chauncey DeVega is editor and founder of the blog We Are Respectable Negroes, whose work has been featured by the NY Times, Alternet, the BBC, the New York Daily News, the Utne Reader, the Week, and The Atlantic Monthly. Chauncey DeVega is also a regular guest on Ring of Fire Radio and TV. He can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.