Fragile masculinity: social inequalities in the narrative frame and discursive construction of a mass shooter’s autobiography/manifesto

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter


'Fragile masculinity' is an article that was originally published in the Academy of Social Science journal Contemporary Social Science (2016) now reprinted in an edited collection, Crime and Society.

Mass shootings, where four or more people are injured or killed, are widely constructed as a contemporary American social problem. This article uses critical discourse analysis guided by thematic analysis to examine the text written and distributed by a mass shooter in California in 2014. Analysis of the narrative frame and discursive construction shows that the author is motivated by a precarious or ‘fragile’ relationship to masculinity that involves positioning himself against both women and other minority ethnic men in a way that underscores multiple social inequalities. This work contributes to the social science of narrative by building on the connections between positioning theory and framing, which are applied to a text that contributes to debates in feminist linguistics and broader discussions of mass shootings. The findings contribute to feminist linguistics by demonstrating how a mass shooter uses language to rationalise his actions through a frame of hegemonic masculinity based on social inequalities, namely gender, race/ethnicity, sexuality, and social class. Finally, this work contributes to broader discussions of mass shooters by demonstrating how this mass shooter does not construct or position himself in a way that is exceptional or extraordinary but rather hinges on a fragile form of contemporary masculinity that uses violence as a way to prove self-worth, dominance, and superiority.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCrime and society
EditorsDonna Youngs
Place of PublicationAbingdon
ISBN (Print)9780815382881
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2018

Publication series

NameContemporary Issues in Social Science

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in Crime and society on 04/06/2018, available online:


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