On the Necessity of #MasculinitySoFragile and the Continued Fight Against Toxic Masculinity

By Veronica Agard

While living in this heteropatriarchal society, examples of male ego tripping can run the gamut from asinine comments to full-blown violence. As someone who facilitates free safe spaces for women of color, I’ve witnessed the pushback to this firsthand and have often been asked about male participation – “why can’t men be attend?” “that’s sexist!” or something to that effect. In direct response to this, many sister circles and healing cyphers become very intentional when it comes to who can enter their spaces and with whom they engage in conversations on checking male privilege and patriarchy. There is hope in conversations on healthy masculinities and allyship, but the return of #MasculintySoFragile and the backlash that followed serves as a painful reminder of the work that remains to be done.

#MasculintySoFragile first started trending on Twitter two years ago and sparked emotionally-charged conversations on sexism, violence against women and misogynoir. However, as is always the case with calling folks out, cisgendered male trolls came out of the woodwork to harass and threaten those utilizing the hashtag. Last week, the hashtag was spotted again and quickly spread with almost the exact same results: women sharing a range of experiences, including jokes, musings, and serious testimonies and reflections and cisgendered men crying foul and that feminists were “bashing” them. What troubles me the most about the male response is the common thread in the responses – violence.

trolls harass and threaten us. In real life, standing your ground from an attack can cost you your freedom. There have been countless instances of violence against women as a direct response to not responding to or being receptive to the unwarranted advances of a male stranger, including Mary Spears of Detroit who was shot and killed in front of her family last year. In fact, this particular type of violence is so prevalent that there’s even a website, When Women Refuse, dedicated to raising awareness on the manner.

This brand of toxic masculinity does nothing more but impede progress and further erases the validity of women’s experiences. When we’re forced to have conversations and check cisgendered men on how every statement isn’t about them, we aren’t able to have meaningful conversations on why #YesAllWomen needed to happen. When we’re forced to repeat why all Black lives – women, girls and queer folks – have to be centralized in the movement for Black lives and are told that we are being divisive, we set the movement back. When we call out those claim to practice these revolutionary tenets of the Black Panthers and the Young Lords Party but abuse and harm the women in our lives and/or are homophobic, the oppressed become the oppressor and replicates the same violence that befalls them.

Toxic masculinity has dug its claws into seemingly everything and thus is a direct reflection of the pervasive nature of our heteropatriarchal society. The visceral response to #MasculinitySoFragile has proven this. But what methods can we conjure to remedy this? Artists and activists, including Tatyana Fazlalizadeh of Stop Telling Women to Smile, have brought the conversation to the sites of violence, thus forcing us to have vital conversations on why some men feel the need to imply that women exist for their (viewing) “pleasure.” If we don’t have the energy or practice to remind critics that it’s not always about them as individuals, we can share the videos and articles of those who have the time to break it down.

Photo: Shutterstock

Veronica Agard is a regular contributor at For Harriet. Thriving in Harlem, she is a Program Associate at Humanity in Action, a City College of New York graduate and a Transnational Black Feminist with the Sister Circle Collective. She tweets at @veraicon_.

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