from hashtag to product, #MasculinitySoFragile can now be worn.
Whether you’ve heard of it or not, the hashtag #MasculinitySoFragile is a personal case study in bringing public sociology, activism and twitter together.
Twitter user @puppydogexpress, a white and Latina cis woman in her mid-twenties, first tweeted the hashtag in December 2013. In her own words:
@puppydogexpress: I don’t think it was any particular event or situation that inspired the initial tweets, but a general sense of frustration at the fragility of masculinity – the idea that all it takes to revoke a guy’s “man” card is to use a pink razor to shave or something.
Without realizing that @puppydogexpress originally created it, my series of tweets about the violence of misogyny led to a trending hashtag in September 2015. (For the more data inclined, Wellesley College has a tool that tracks the trending process here). Frustrated by stories of violence against women that twitter user @FeministaJones highlighted, I started tweeting furiously about what I termed “violent misogyny.” #MasculinitySoFragile became a way to call out the way that the hegemonic masculinity among men is so often a very toxic masculinity. Before going to bed I published a very short piece about it on my personal blog, encouraging other men to interrogate how our own misogyny and sexism can lead to violence.
Women (cis and trans), femmes of all genders, gender nonconforming individuals, and more all over the world resonated with the hashtag that had gone viral by the morning of September 23, 2015. But this is the Internet, where opinions are often louder and faster than in person or in a classroom. Meninists, or men’s rights activists, claimed that angry feminist women created the hashtag to disparage men. Social worker Dave DuBay astutely pointed out that the construction of “_______ so fragile” is inherently a taunt. Publications ranging from Buzzfeed to Al Jazeera covered #MasculinitySoFragile, but in the process of trending, the hashtag shifted from a conversation around the violence of misogyny to a conversation on gendered products and male egos.
Websites like Mic.com got it right by exploring toxic masculinity, the Los Angeles Times blended gendered products with the original intentions, and many publications spoke in a passive voice about the hashtag “emerging.” But once an Independent editor—not realizing that I was the one that had popularize the hashtag—messaged me to ask my opinion on #MasculinitySoFragile, I realized how quickly authorship gets lost on the Internet. After writing a short piece for them I noticed that the original conversation, @puppydogexpress, and myself were constantly being erased. Outside of ego, as a budding public sociologist I pay close attention to how race, class, and gender hierarchies are reproduced on the Internet. One recent example is Chewbacca Mom’s scholarships and endorsements in comparison to Kayla Newman’s now infamous phrase “on fleek,” for which she still has not been compensated.
Ultimately, however, my #MasculinitySoFragile was never about going viral or making money, it was about gender becoming more than just a trending topic. Academics like Jonathan Wynn, Assistant Professor at UMass Amherst, wrote on Everyday Sociology Blog that “[g]ender policing can be violent at its extreme. Trans*people are abused, discriminated against, and even murdered at alarming rates—transwomen of color even more so.” Folks like Wynn and graduate students writing for The Society Pages highlighted the academic sources that inform my own understandings of masculinities. Drawing from my own lived experiences as Black queer cis man, watching how differently my Black mother was treated, and knowledge from classes I took at UC Berkeley and the University of Cape Town have pushed me to keep the conversation going. Whether it is happening with a hashtag or after current events, the initial goal of the hashtag was one that appears to have been successful: to bring awareness around the literal and figurative violence of gender policing.
Activists discuss gender and some academics discuss gender, but the violence of gender is not considered nearly enough in public discussions. Three recent incidents highlight this clearly. The first is against trans people with the HB2 bill in North Carolina, and the second is the recent bombing of a trans-inclusive Target bathroom. Even more recent is the attack on Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. When we discuss hypocrisy of legislators praying for queer people but not addressing American imperialism, hypermasculinity, and queer antagonism that leads to violent consequences against queer and trans people of color, we are doing ourselves a disservice. In order to combat cisheteropatriarchy, we must first recognize it.
Anthony J. Williams is a writer, Editor-in-Chief of the Afrikan Black Coalition, a recent sociology alumnus of UC Berkeley, and a frequent twitter user (@anthoknees).