If you’ve ever spent time on the internet in 2022, you’ve probably heard of the term toxic masculinity. In the average Joe terms, toxic masculinity is the premise that men, both socially and historically, have been taught that they are only valued as men, if they act, well, manly.
Now, what does the word manly even mean in today’s society? Briefly, it means that you, as a man, have to be strong (in every way possible), be a provider, a go-getter, be borderline emotionless to pain, attain this “alpha male” status, and hmm we’re forgetting something. Oh yeah – treat women as some subhuman commodities with no equal rights or capabilities.
There’s nothing wrong with naturally manly men, at all. But the line between what’s natural and instinctive, and what’s been pushed as a social narrative is quite vague. Furthermore, some of the things we’ve been taught about masculinity have been horribly normalized within society, to the point where we’re only now realizing how actually dreadful they are. Catcalling, for example. It’s just creepy – especially if you’re a woman, walking home alone at night.
That’s where the first part of the phase enters – toxic. It’s toxic because it promotes unhealthy behaviors that could only lead to dissatisfaction for all parties involved.
Now, everything has its contradicting counterpart, and so does this. Introducing, toxic femininity.
Yes, you’ve read it right. Toxic femininity, although not as discussed as toxic masculinity, is sometimes just as bad. And I know what you’re thinking: “How can femininity be toxic, when it’s men who have ruled the world for the longest time, leaving little to no space for any feminine figure to land their place in history or art books”.
You could say that and be absolutely correct, but that doesn’t take away from some of the damage that has been done through toxic femininity.
What is toxic femininity?
When you have the word toxic in front of any noun, activity, or occurrence, it’s pretty self-explanatory that the case is either overused or overly amplified. Up to a point where all its natural and healthy features are no longer beneficial.
Toxic femininity is when women try to trick, sabotage, or overpower someone, using their traditionally accepted feminine attributes. It’s when you want to succeed in a male-dominated office by putting down your fellow females.
It’s when women make fun of or ridicule other women for not being feminine enough. It’s when certain feminine gender roles become a standard and not an individual trait. This leaves women who don’t feel like the standard, hanging and longing to change, when they genuinely do not have to. In turn, they too become generally feminine and use their newly added features to do the same harm that has been done to them by other women alike.
It’s a vicious cycle, a cat and mouse game, but all the cats are attacking each other.
What are the consequences of toxic femininity?
Well, other than it being naturally very problematic, it creates a toxic environment for women and young girls. Especially when you are growing up in it. Instead of being taught to celebrate our feminine features and traits, we are being taught to use them to further promote the unhealthy and unfair world created by men.
This translates into the workplace, everyday life, and even love and romance. The further it goes on without being called out, the more normalized and prominent becomes, creating a wave of such behavior wherever you go.
In other words, the consequences would be the utter shit environment we, as women, would create for ourselves, our female children, and so on.
Let’s Talk Natural Femininity
Yes, it is perfectly okay to be feminine. To care about your looks, your reputation, and which sundress is best for brunch. If you’ve ever scrolled down on TikTok, you’ve seen so much content of women being made fun of for being, well, women. For being “girly”, for example.
Toxic femininity can come from that as well. If you’re fed to believe that these so-called female traits are that laughable, you’ll start to laugh too, to save your ass. Which is the worse thing you could do. Gender norms are norms for a reason, and no woman or girl should be ridiculed for being exactly what their gender norm is all about.
What can you do about toxic femininity?
So, do we avoid the women we recognize as a part of this bandwagon, or do we induce a healthier counterculture? We say let’s do both.
First things first, how do we recognize toxic femininity when it occurs?
- Loud passive-aggression – it’s so subtle, yet so loud, it’s inevitable to be noticed.
- Jealousy and irritation towards other women. It could be because of looks, career success, or even over a man.
- A fierce need for competition with other female friends or colleagues.
- Shittalking other women in the company of men. They would gossip and make fun of looks, judge body hair, and even about the things they themselves do in hiding.
If a person rang a bell in your head after reading this, you just might want to keep your distance because the outcome is never good. Women with a strong sense of their sexuality, position, and identity won’t feel the need to put anyone down, especially their female peers.
So, if you want to avoid such toxic behavior from yourself, it’s important to have that security in yourself and the women in your surrounding.
Toxic femininity in the workplace
As a woman, did you ever feel uncanny around certain female colleagues? I have, and apparently, around 70% of women report feeling bullied by their female associates.
It’s super easy to hate on someone more successful than you. Especially if you’re competing in the “same race”. This is most prominent in the workplace, where our needs and goals are more clear the older we get.
This concept that femininity is not the correct gender norm in an office, for example, is absolute garbage. This is why women feel the need to be on top, all the time, 24/7. They know that in some cases they have to work extra hard in comparison to their male colleagues, so what not incorporate toxic femininity while they’re at it as well?
How to counterbalance toxic femininity?
The society we live in has sadly debilitated women from trusting their own sense of self, as well as their instincts. In such a space, a rather hostile one, it’s not surprising women have used the little they have to survive, and even thrive later on.
It’s not a surprise we’ve been taught to compete with other women, instead of uplifting one another. Is it too feminine to be uplifting? Is it too masculine to take upon leadership? No, neither of those things are true, but we treat them as such. There is no genuine equality until we stop assigning gender roles to basic human instincts. Yes, some things are more predominant in a male environment, some in a female one. But that doesn’t have to make it a men’s or women’s only choice!
All in all, toxic femininity comes from women, so change must come from us as well. It’s all about learning that no woman is your competition for male attention or anything else in life. It’s all about uplifting women, feminism or not. I guess that’s pretty self-evident. Every mother, daughter, sister, and friend should know that our female voices can be much stronger as one, not one on one.