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What about Toxic Femininity?

Toxic masculinity is a term thrown out a lot in today's society. I see where people are coming from in using the terminology, and I would prefer a different terminology, but that's another post.

I want to talk about why I don't hear society whining about or throwing around the term "toxic femininity." If I was sick of hearing someone attack me, I would certainly try to turn it around and say "HA, oh yeah, what about this?" But that ain't happening with the notion of toxic femininity because in our society there is no such thing to vast swaths of the population.

I started by considering what I would feel the qualities of toxic femininity would be. Here would be my short list: people pleasing and care taking at our own expense, being nice, good and sweet; dependent; deferring and submitting; agreeable to an unhealthy degree; advocating for others at our own expense; keeping quiet; and playing small and helpless. It would include NOT BEING bold, independent/self-reliant, an advocate for self, courageous, strong, confident, assertive, boundaried, leaders or showing strength or conviction. (Also informed by Tova Leigh)

After considering these quick and dirty lists, it became quickly evident to me that we are not there yet in society where the majority thinks that women having or not having the above is problematic. In other words, society is still winning with women acting and showing up in the world in these ways. (In fact, new teaching material in Florida schools instructs women to smile more because it makes the world a better place.) It's not perceived as toxic to society; it's actually expected, welcomed and is the oil that keeps the majority moving along. Judeo Christian values have also reinforced it for thousands of years.

If women weren't nice, if they rose up in unprecedented numbers, if they stopped submitting and keeping quiet, and they jumped out there in the world boldly and confidently en masse, I feel it would threaten the whole basis of how our society is structured. In fact, I see it on social media for the women who do shun the traditional expectations of how women are supposed to behave in the world. They are met with hatred in the very least, death threats in the very worst.

Another interesting difference between supposed toxic masculinity and how I am defining toxic femininity is that those most directly affected by a distortion of masculinity tend to be another person, those outside of the man displaying these traits. With toxic femininity, it is the woman herself who is most directly affected, like an autoimmune disease attacking its very host.

What we need to come to is that a rising tide raises all boats. Yes, all boats. Women's liberation and empowerment need not come at the expense or detriment of others. Their liberation and empowerment also helps men widen their range of self-expression and ditch the expectations for how they are supposed to show up in the world that may not fit them either.

Patsy Mennuti

Hella Cougar

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