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Society must be answerable to the lives of those lost to the ramifications of toxic masculinity, in both the moral and physical sense.

By Olivia Ahn [TW/CW: discussions about gun violence, murder, domestic violence and misogyny.] On Wednesday, at least 17 people were killed when 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire using a semiautomatic rifle at his former high school in Parkland, Florida. 14 other students were wounded, with five suffering from life-threatening injuries according to NBC news. The Boston Globe reported that Cruz had shown violent tendencies, was abusive to his ex-girlfriend, and his expulsions were related to a fight in regards to her new boyfriend. Since the shooting, authorities arrested Cruz in Coral Springs. He has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. [caption id="attachment_49393" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Nikolas Cruz Nikolas Cruz[/caption] Since the beginning of 2018, there have been 1,827 gun-related deaths in the U.S.. In 2017, The Gun Violence Archive reported 15,590 gun-related homicide deaths, domestically and climbing. Approximately 20 of these deaths received widespread national-level media attention. Of the 20 nationally-covered gun-related homicides last year, 100% of the gunmen were male, with 40% of the motives classified as an extension or direct act of domestic violence, intimate partner violence, and/or sexual assault or harassment.   The Violence Policy Center (VPC) reported from 2001-2012 that approximately 11,766 women were killed by their current or ex boyfriends or husbands. Over half of these women were killed using a gun. If we are to critically address the issue of gun violence in the U.S., we must confront toxic masculinity’s foundational role in influencing and perpetuating these outcomes, especially in regards to its explicit impacts on the behavioral and mental health of men that proportionately affect the survival of women. The data above was featured in the 2015 documentary “The Mask You Live In”, which focused on the effects of toxic masculinity on young and adult men in The U.S.. The term toxic masculinity has been attributed to the cumulative work of psychologists and sociologists since the early 1980’s, stemming out of the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement. These men commonly defined toxic masculinity as the harmful, detrimental, and even destructive effects of high, demanding, and narrow cultural expectations of masculinity in society. Examples include socially acceptable male traits, such as dominance, emotional repression, the devaluation and subjugation of women, homophobia, extreme self-reliance, and most importantly, violence.

We are creating very violent conditions in queer spaces if we do not start being more vigilant in holding abusers accountable for the harm they cause in their interpersonal relationships.

Queerness is a refutation of all things ordered, normative, and logical. At a time in our history, it operated as an epithet against gay and lesbian people. But it has now been reclaimed as a revolutionary identity — embodying transgression from the status quo and refusing to assimilate to the conventional societal standards. Queerness is not new, but our willingness to truly represent the identity as a lived experience and navigate an antithetical society under this lens can be quite complicated. And while a lack of order and understanding can be desirable for those seeking to live fully actualized lives, this can become an issue when queer people and bodies interact with one another intimately. Queer intimacy looks like nothing that we’re used to seeing on television or in our day to day lives. To be queer and in love is to build a new foundation for loving another human being without any context or guide. No queer relationship looks the same as another, and most folks in these relationships are making it up as they go – understanding what makes sense to them and how each partner’s lived experience will inform the dynamics of the relationship. And without a clear context for understanding these relationships, when it comes to interpersonal conflict, we tend to ignore or misconstrue signs of violence and harm.

The “ride or die” script is not a positive role to play and we should be wary of this trope. It hurts us in the long run.

By BRITTNEY MADDOX “All I need in this life of sin is me and my girlfriend,” raps a  young Jay-z in the 2003  hit  “03  Bonnie and Clyde.” Beyonce sings the hook and goes on to talk about the things she would do to prove her unwavering loyalty. This was played a lot during my childhood along with countless other songs that I remember with this recurring theme of “the ride or die.” The woman who always had your back. She was fly, loyal, and would never snitch. She was an ideal that many sought out or would strive to become. While at first, it may seem charming to be a woman who fits this archetype, this character often seen in hip hop has its consequences. It fosters a culture that normalizes mistreatment of black women in romantic relationships, where their bodies are in the crossfire of an anti-femme and anti-black climate. Where harming us seems like a punchline. The older I get, I become more concerned about the ways black women are mistreated and how it’s normalized. There are countless media sources that use misogynoir as a vehicle to justify violence against black femmes. It's so commonplace that we have internalized these messages.  The  “ride or die” female archetype commonly seen in hip-hop is constantly sought out due to her loyalty and a high tolerance for abuse. We are unsure who coined the term, but the origins can be traced back through songs. In the “You're all I Need”  by Method Man and Mary J Blige, the two talk about their fatal attraction. The chorus laments this “loyalty ‘til death” mentality.  “You're all, I need to lie together/cry together/I swear to God I hope we fucking die together.” Method Man says his woman is down to carry his weapons and engage in criminal activities. Charlie Baltimore sings "Cause I'm your bitch, the Bonnie to your Clyde/It's mental, mash your enemies," so the woman in question often has to exhibit a level of trust to put her life on the line. 
Related: "Putting Ourselves First As Black Women/Femmes Is Like Returning To Our First Love

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