Sex & Gender

toxic masculinity enables violent events like cleveland & san bernardino more often than you know

April 19, 2017

There was little about the homicide committed by Steve Stephens (dumb name) that surprised me. Not the streaming of it and definitely not the alleged reasoning behind it. Stephens, in a series of Facebook posts cited a break-up with a former girlfriend as the event that kicked off his “need” to kill folks. A looney tune excuse that needlessly attempts to scapegoat an innocent, unseen woman for the actions of man. It’s not the man’s failure—naturally, it’s somebody else’s!

This came a week after a San Bernardino man, Cedric Anderson, entered a classroom to murder-suicide the woman divorcing him, wife Karen Smith, and himself, killing a child in the process. This, too, didn’t surprise me. Because in reality, a man being unable to handle his emotions and projecting his angry and frustrations towards women, and in violent ways, kills women and femmes on a regular basis.

At least 90 percent of all murder-suicides are committed by men. And 72 percent of all murder-suicides are done by an intimate partner.

According to a study, three women are killed by an intimate partner every day in the United States. 
There’s a clear link between gender and gun violence. So the question is why?

Men have great difficulty separating manhood from humanity. When it comes to setting expectations for themselves and when it comes to understanding and interacting with women. And the former is demonstrated every time we hear a new instance of a street harassment or about a woman being murdered after turning down a man’s advances. Or when a woman tries to leave an unhappy relationship—as was the case in San Bernardino. In these situations, it seems that these men literally refuse to accept the autonomy of women and the rejection that stems from it.

Like with Anderson, there are countless instances of men turning rejection into homicide. As was the case with 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer who complained about not having a girlfriend and being a virgin before opening fire on a community college campus in Oregon, to Elliott Rogers who wrote a terrifying manifesto that said in part, “All of those beautiful girls I’ve desired so much in my life, but can never have because they despise and loathe me, I will destroy,” who went on a stabbing and shooting spree near University of California, Santa Barbara. Rodgers explained in a previously published YouTube video that his actions were being done to “punish” women for rejecting him. And the 2009 Collier Township shooter and all the women featured on this blog.

And let’s not forget about the black women who, too, where killed for saying “no”, like Tiarah Poyau, Mary Spears, Nokuthula Thashe, and Janese Talton. And the transwomen of color whose lives continue to be targeted and devalued because of their identities, at disgustingly high and disproportionate rates.

When men are told “no” or when they fail to live up to the norms superimposed on masculinity, too many men, frankly, cannot handle the reality that their gender does not entitle them to anything and that their manhood is not dependent on a hyper, toxic masculinity. They are men and everyone else isn’t. This incredibly misogynistic, short-sighted, and illogical thinking, I believe could be somewhat remedied with a switch to putting humanity first. Not in an eagletarianism kind of way—in an existential kind of way that gives room for intrinsic respect of individuality that recognizes personhood before gender. Not only in the way they view others, but the way they view themselves, as well.

*Erin White is an Atlanta-based writer and AFROPUNK’s editorial and social media assistant. You can follow her on Tumblr or friend her on Facebook. Have a pitch or an inquiry? Shoot her an email at

Pictured (l-r, t-b): Tiarah Poyau via Facebook, Cedric Anderson and Karen Smith via Facebook, Janese Talton-Jackson via Facebook, Mary Spears via NY Daily News,