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Couldn't the Stanford's "Mass Shootings in America" project have included data on the victims' gender?!

From the "Mass Shootings in America" About page:

The purpose of this project is to provide quantitative and descriptive geographic information about mass shootings in the United States in order to better understand this national problem. The center also provides maps and charts as additional information so that the public may be able to identify patterns and correlations.

This data offers a neutral and unbiased perspective [emphasis in source] on this social phenomenon.

Oh, really? Because there's one really obvious data series that's not present, and may not even have been collected:

The gender of the shooters' victims. [1]

You don't have to buy into clickbait like "White Guy Killer Syndrome" -- it's an election year at Salon, just like every year is an election year, and therefore the identity politics knobs are turned up to 11 -- to see white male privilege as a big part of the mass shootings puzzle; the first mass shooting in my memory was the École Polytechnique massacre, and there the misogyny was absolutely present. I don't think "white male privilege" is a universal monocausal explanation for all mass shootings, because I don't see how that fits into workplace shootings, though I haven't read Mark Ames's book, Going Postal) on this topic. But even if it were, Stanford's supposedly "neutral and unbiased" project would prevent us from seeing it.

That said, let's look at some of project's charts. (These are screen dumps; the charts page itself is interactive, with slider bars and so forth.

The above is victims by time. We see an increase in the number of victims, not necessarily the number of shootings; there seems to be no way to get the number of incidents out of the data. To me, the numbers look steady until around 2008, when they increase and stay higher. One might speculate that's because the economy went in the crapper and stayed there in 2008, and hard times in the economy mean bad times for women.

Next we look at motive:

True, relating motive to shooting incident location is interesting. But I've got to question Stanford's classification system for motive, which I'll do by annotating the above chart as follows:

Is it really so implausible that misogny is a common factor for rejection, domestic dispute, harassment, social dispute, and mental illness? "Mental illness" especially; here's how Eliott Rodger's testament begins:

How would this Stanford project have classified that? I'd have to caveat that the self-diagnosis of a crazy person might not be accurate; introspection tend not to be. Moreover, Rodgers was apparently also bullied and abused by his cohort, so again matters aren't monocausal. That said, shorter Rodgers: "You made me do it!", the nasty rationalization of abusers everywhere, as Alexandra Petri points out. In short, Rodgers is as misogynist as apple pie, yet the Stanford "Mass Shootings in America" project won't let us express that.

Surely classifying data so that very basic questions can be asked and answered is one task a research library should perform?

UPDATE On the Ask a Librarian page, I asked the following question:

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2:42 me Why doesn't the "Mass Shootings in America" study classify victims by gender? Surely, given role misogyny can be shown to have played in some such events, such a classification should have been a first order concern?
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No answer yet. Email might work too, but I thought I'd give chat a chance.

NOTE [1] The metadata that we see does not include victim gender:

School related: whether the shooting is school related, yes or no
Shooter Age: age of shooter
Shooter Name: first and last name of shooter
Shooter Race: race or ethnic background of shooter
Shooter Sex: the sex of the shooter, male or female
Number of Guns: the number of guns involved in the shooting
Total Number of Fatalities: the total number of people killed including the shooter
Number Injured: the number of people injured during the incident

I'll refrain from saying this is remarkable because it isn't.

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quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

Very interesting omission. Especially in light of the Twitter reactions Ophelia Benson at Butterflies and Wheels has been documenting. When killers explicitly say they're committing a hate crime, everyone discusses it as such when it involves any other group: blacks, Jews, gays, Sikhs, Russians, you name it. It's only when the victims are women that it could not possibly be part of any pattern. Definitely not. No. No matter what. Don't even look for it ... as in the Stanford database.

Makes you wonder which of our many fine bigotries is so integral to social structure that we can't even say its name.