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Dangerous Discourses

Feminism, Gun Violence, and Civic Life

Edited By Catherine R. Squires

Dangerous Discourses brings together new work by feminist scholars who provide a multifaceted view of the ways contemporary media discourses inscribe particular understandings of gendered social identities, gun violence, and public policy.
The chapters examine multiple media locations where discourses about guns and violence against women proliferate, including social media, mainstream news, National Rifle Association-sponsored magazines, gun research, public policy debates, popular magazines, and television drama. 
Utilizing theory and empirical research, this book helps us see more clearly how gender, sexuality, and other intersecting identities must be included in analysis of media discourses of guns and gendered violence.  The authors discuss the role of patriarchal ideologies, and center feminist thought and concerns in order to get beyond the one-liners, sound bites, and truisms about bad guys, the Second Amendment, mental health, and personal freedom that currently dominate public debates about guns and violence. 
With its unique views on the ways gun violence and gender inflect each other in the United States, this book is designed for courses in media studies, women’s studies, and sociology.
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Chapter 9. Postfeminism at the Shooting Range: Vulnerability and Fire-Empowerment in the Gun Women Network


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Vulnerability and Fire-Empowerment in the Gun Women Network

Mary D. Vavrus & August Leinbach

Figure 9.1

The photograph above was taken by Elvert Barnes1 at a gun control march in Washington, DC, in January, 2013—barely one month after the mass shooting of 26 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. We begin our chapter with this image because it signals the approach to women and guns that we utilize to understand the gendered and raced dis ← 179 | 180 → courses of gun rights groups when they make their appeals to women. Like the woman holding the poster, we believe that making rational arguments is not what has allowed gun rights groups—the National Rifle Association (NRA) most visible among them—to maintain their “stranglehold on public policy”2 after each mass shooting that occurs with sickening regularity in the United States. Instead of rational argumentation, we believe that it is the management of affect around vulnerability—particularly the imagined vulnerability of white, middle-class women—that characterizes the discursive strategy of gun rights groups going back at least 25 years.

Intensifying, channeling, and managing vulnerability occurs across an expanse we call the Gun Women Network (GWN), which is constituted from discourses of pro-gun organizations, publications, web, and social media sites for women, specifically Women & Guns and NRA Women. Also encompassed by the GWN are the commercial discourses of...

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