Toxic masculinity isn’t just a term that academics and far leftists unleash on broader populations to condemn everything and everyone for no sound reason, despite the staunch beliefs of status quo adherents.

Instead, when people subscribe to toxic masculinity, and the deep-seated gendered entitlement it bakes, and add weapons to the scenario, victims can lose lives. This cycle kills dreams, destabilizes families and transports women and girls into entrenched positions of fear. It robs women and girls of meaningful choice because if the risk inherent in saying “no” is one’s very existence, then no meaningful exercise in agency can occur.

A real-time reminder comes through the heartbreaking story of 16-year-old Shemel Mercurius. As the NY Daily News reported, a 25-year-old man, who the girl was not romantically interested in, responded to her rejection by fatally shooting her.

During an excruciating 20-minute wait for an ambulance, and while drifting in and out of consciousness, she identified Taariq Stephens as the shooter to officials. Currently, Stephens in on trial and facing 25 years to life for second degree murder and weapons charges.

This story reflects one of the extreme fears many women and girls develop in relation to men and boys.

Stephens, apparently, did not believe it inappropriate to pursue a minor. He also, apparently, believed that this teenager could not adequately make her own decisions about who to be involved with because he deemed himself owed her time and space. If his intentions were sexual, then he clearly thought statutory rape was no issue.

As American culture faces its gendered reckoning with the #MeToo movement, and the routine and systematic sexual oppression of women and girls, each of us is called to unlearn and resist these cycles. Silence is too costly. Further, more men—at interpersonal and institutional levels—need to carry this burden with women and girls until a shift occurs.

In the meantime, may Mercurius rest in power.

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