"If a woman were the shooter, you can bet there would be all sorts of commentary about shifting cultural notions of femininity and how they might have contributed to her act," wrote Jackson Katz, a filmmaker and writer, in the Huffington Post. " . . . The key difference is that because men represent the dominant gender, their gender is rendered invisible in the discourse about violence."
In fact, women infrequently commit homicides and only then under specific circumstances. Women tend to kill people they know — boyfriends, spouses, their children; "stranger" killings by women are almost unheard of, says Randolph Roth, a history and sociology professor at Ohio State University. "When women kill, it's personal," he says. "They kill because they hate you."
Men, on the other hand, kill for a variety of reasons and sometimes for no apparent reason. "Men carry this kind of anger," Roth says. "It's there."
Similar violence has been observed in male chimps; after being defeated by a dominant rival, they will sulk for days — and then attack another chimp in a sudden, seemingly random outburst.
Understanding the effects of race and culture on the minds of mass killers is complicated by many factors, not least of which is the fact that many kill themselves before anyone can ask, "Why?"
But both Roth and Fox suggest that many violent episodes are linked by the killers'sense of having been denied something he thought he was rightfully his — a job, a promotion, status of some kind. The profound sense of failure and resentment that accompanies such setbacks may be stronger in white men than others. Accused Aurora, Colo., shooter James Holmes had failed in his doctoral program; Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh had washed out of Ranger school.