I have always been interested in the idea of words, concepts and how they come about. When I first heard the idea of Toxic Masculinity I must admit, I felt some kind of way, I felt attacked, like the thing that makes me who I am was being questioned by those who don’t know what it’s like to be me. See, I wasn’t listening. I thought the person talking about toxic masculinity was saying that masculinity is innately toxic. I got defensive. I have since then realized that toxic masculinity is a set of certain cultural norms that are associated with harm to society and to men themselves. Traditional stereotypes of men as socially dominant, along with related traits such as misogyny and sexism, can be considered “toxic” due in part to their promotion of violence, including sexual assault and domestic violence.
The socialization of boys often normalizes violence, such as in the saying “boys will be boys” with regard to bullying and aggression. This statement is not an indictment on what it means to be masculine, this is a direct knock on the traits of masculinity that are causing harm. I really believe that all men should look at this definition and understand that you aren’t your behavior, or at least you don’t have to be; you can change, you must change. There is a lot we as men need to do and its time.
This however brought another philosophical and social question to my mind. What about toxic femininity? Masculinity Is a set of behavioral traits that are more likely seen in men than women. Femininity would be the exact contrast of that. To me, it seems simple to expect a world that is willing to have a conversation about toxic masculinity to also be willing to understand that there has to be an equivalent in toxic femininity. This However cannot be mistaken for anything more than an exploration of the concept of toxic femininity. I am in no way equating the two. The damage caused by toxic masculinity is going to take generations to overcome. It stands as a driving force for most, if not all, wars, genocides, religious persecution and in places like Saudi Arabia, the systemic drowning out of entire sex.
This, however, is an exploration of another topic altogether and that is of “toxic femininity” a concept I didn’t invent (much to my ego’s disappointment). There is a lot to discuss on the topic but I wanted to talk about one characteristic that I found strange in how it’s applied socially; this article is going to focus on that. We could one day talk about multiple surveys on the differences between domestic abuse data and the male victims who don’t report domestic abuse because of stigmas attached to men reporting their spouses on such charges. We could one day discuss that 75% of all suicides are committed by men (that’s 3 of every 4) and how many of them stated issues in the home as being the reason for the permanent decision of suicide (for example – being called a failure for not successfully carrying all the financial burden in the relationship). We could even talk about something as simple as surveys conducted with restaurant waiters, waitresses, Uber and Taxify (Bolt) drivers on which group they believe to mostly exhibit behavior that undermines them as human beings and puts them on edge in the workplace. We could, but that is for another time. In this article, we only have time to unpack what I think is this topics biggest hurdle.
How does one begin to describe toxic femininity? This poses the first issue I have with what I would call toxically feminine. In your attempt to try to define it, you really risk offending people that have already fundamentally decided that in their minds toxicity is something that can only be achieved by those on the more male or masculine side of the spectrum.
If you look at toxic masculinity, it’s a bunch of male stereotypes. Things like being overly aggressive, threatening, dangerously competitive, misogynistic, etc. are descriptions of toxic masculinity but they are also stereotypical in nature. Can you use the same definitional mechanism to describe toxic femininity? Can you list a bunch of female stereotypes from the perspective of men, (moodiness, overly emotional in reasoning, victimization) as examples of toxic femininity? No, because those would be then interpreted by many today as misogynistic, a characteristic of toxic masculinity. It’s actually kind of genius, if you think about it. By trying to define the things that make femininity dangerous you are technically taking part in toxic masculine behavior. You have no place to go, having a real conversation. This brings me to my first personal characteristic of toxic femininity and that is of the double standard. I am not saying toxic masculinity does not have the same issue, but I am saying toxic femininity has the same issue from the perspective of a victim-like a mentality. Toxic masculinity sets double standards between the sexes using what we have established to be forceful and somewhat violent means. This would be done by creating laws and corporate cultures looking to perpetuate this thinking, (let’s call it the military approach) however toxic femininity does the same thing by making any attempt to call attention to similarity in behavior exhibited from the feminine side an attack on what it fundamentally is to be a woman, (let’s call it the social approach).
The fact that some will even be annoyed at the title of this article speaks to this as the first characteristic of toxic femininity. One’s ability to amplify the actions of others against them as being “worse” than the same action when it is committed by them is problematic and counter-intellectual and also selfishly dishonest; it’s toxic femininity. We do not live in a world where certain people with equal legal objectivity and subjectivity can be found completely innocent of crimes others can be guilty of just because of their sex or gender. Some extremely dangerous feminist movements like SCUM who call for the castration of men, (guilty or not) would like it to be the case but it isn’t. They actually underestimate their own case by doing so. Minimizing the impact of their action to that of a minor to be given the same punishment as that of a minor isn’t a win. It is honestly a weird and condescending way to look at anyone. I don’t know if the benefits of being impervious to a particular list of evil behaviors are worth it. By minimizing a person’s ability to cause destruction, you ultimately deflate their ability to move, shape, change and transform culture. A great hammer that can be used to help build walls can only do so if it also has the structural integrity to tear them down.
In us lies both good and bad, masculine and feminine and, in some, toxic versions of the two. Just because society chooses to have a certain conversation, doesn’t mean it’s the only conversation to be had. Something as simple as using a women’s anatomy and genitalia as an insult in toxic male language e.g. “Be a man, stop acting like a p**sy” seems like an adequate description of the issues with social dynamics in men. Until you realize that saying someone is “acting like a d**k” is meant to also be used as an insulting critique on one’s behavior, which in this case is of the d**kish variety. The idea that exposing those similarities is somehow evidence of malice intent is presumptuous, inaccurate and hypocritical as a church with a VIP section.