Women and Guns: Hidden and Apparent Subordination in the Gun Debate

A Gendered Examination of the Gun Rights Debate

Reviewed by Maria Laposata
February 21, 2014

“Women and Guns: Hidden and Apparent Subordination in the Gun Debate,” by Tyler Bishop, examines the agency and objectification of women in the current gun control debate. Bishop argues that both sides use women as “rhetorical symbols to appeal for their opposing causes,” and, as such, women no longer function as agents in the debate, but as tools used to argue for one side or the other. Consequently, Bishop says, women’s opinions with regard to gun control are devalued.

Bishop gives further detail with regard to exactly how women are used as rhetorical symbols. He states that gun control proponents point to women who have lost their children in tragic gun accidents, while gun rights activists point to women who say they need guns to protect their families. Bishop even goes so far as to say that these stories would be far less effective were they told by a man. In both cases, the women function as highly emotional, family-centered reasons to be in favor of or against gun control.

Guns, Bishop says, are a masculine topic. By this he means that the advertising is largely targeted towards men, that that same advertising generally focuses on masculinity, and that more men than women currently own guns. This is significant, he says, because women’s opinions are—across the board—devalued when it comes to these masculine topics. Polls have revealed that women’s opinions on topics like national defense as well as gun control are not trusted, likely because women are stripped of their agency in these “masculine” debates.

As the paper concludes, Bishop reminds us that gender is one exclusionary factor at play in this debate. Class and racial issues are also figure in. Most importantly though, Bishop highlights that we are all affected by the gun control debate, that any exclusion of agency is an injustice, and we must work to right it.

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