Are women to blame for men’s violence?
Why do Americans kill one another? Having rejected the obvious answer - because they have a lot of guns - the field is open for all manner of intense intellectuals, not entirely funded by the gun lobby, to pontificate at increasingly ludicrous length on the legal, cultural and historical reasons why a lot of Americans are regularly shot by a lot of other Americans.
There have been some odd explanations. Heavy metal music and satanic cults are just two of them. Still, the prize for the stupidest most outrageously offensive explanation to date possibly belongs to that put forward by Republican Senate hopeful, Jim Rubens, arguing this week that mass shootings and other male violence are the fault of... women in the workplace.
Not entirely, of course; we must give him that. Its not ALL women's fault. But according to would-be Senator Jim, quoted in online magazine, TheRawStory: “Bottom line: the collaborative, flexible, amorphously-hierarchical American economy is shutting out ordinary men who were once the nation’s breadwinners in living-wage labor and manufacturing jobs”.
He goes on: “Because status success is more vital to the male psychology, males are falling over the edge in increasing numbers”. And presumably killing people. As one does when one's psychology is under attack.
The above quotes are taken from his blog, written some four years ago, in 2009. So one might be tempted to ask: where's the news in that?
Unfortunately, Mr Rubens appears to be nothing if not persistent in his take on the role played by women in male violence. His blog developed a theory first set out in his book "Over-success" in 2008, when he suggested that current American obsessions had been particularly hard on men. It was a theme to which he returned in an interview with another online magazine Buzzfeed, earlier this week. He's not anti-women, you understand: even describes himself as "socially moderate".
And there is absolutely NOTHING in what he says that could impact negatively on women. Still, “men are more sensitive than women to external indicators of status". Which causes stress. And its the stress that, in the end, is responsible for all this dreadful violence.
It is hard to know where to begin with this mishmash of pop psychology and determinist drivel. Is he one of these glittering idiots, who manages to disguise the thinness of his argument behind a smart facade, thereby simultaneously fooling both his audience and himself?
Or is he playing some deeper, more vicious game, appealing to the worst instincts of his male constituency, while making soothing noises in the direction of women voters?
Either way, his argument is dangerous and irresponsible. Its a classic "bait and switch", in which listeners are supposed to be suckered in by his chivalrous comments about women, before being beaten about the head with the "fact" that recent killings are women's fault.
Its an appeal to backward looking existential theories of gender: men are just "like this", so you can hardly blame them if they resort to violence. Although there is also a neat little tap dance in which Mr Rubens asserts that it is only the most marginalised, stressed-out men who succumb which some might consider invalidates his theory altogether.
Over all, though, lies the bigger question of WHY? Why do politicians whose every word is calculated to the nearest inch should think it appropriate to spout such stuff?
On the one hand, it could be argued, this is simple diversionary tactic. In America, the attachment to gun-owning is deep-rooted: some might argue "pathological". To accept, as the simple evidence suggests, that its the proliferation of guns that is responsible for the high death toll would bring about extreme emotional dissonance. So the hunt for some other cause - any other cause - is on.
And if the usual suspects, such as unnatural music, don't quite fit the bill, then why not try women for a change.
More disturbing is the fact that a serious "moderate" contender for one of the highest offices in the land should see fit to deploy an argument that he knows full well will be read - whatever caveats he puts in - as "women are to blame for male violence".
It means that somewhere in his sophisticated calculations, this experienced politician has joined some dots and he believes, has decided, that putting out an argument, however nuanced, that is steeped in misogyny and woman-blaming, is a positive thing to do.
In the end, that is perhaps the most serious aspect of this affair: that in a relatively progressive state (New Hampshire) in what is still the world's only super-power, excusing male violence as a by-product of women's success is considered to be an electorally sensible thing to do.
That is what is truly scary: that, and the distance, it is clear, women have still to travel before they can take their place in the workforce without constant attempts to shame them back to the home.