Toxic femininity is best defined as a set of harmful and destructive behaviors that are carried out under the pretence of feminism. In most cases, these behaviors are directed towards men who are emotionally vulnerable. However, they can also be directed to women.
Toxic behaviors can be expressed by any gender, across different types of relationships and roles. For example, in employee-boss relationships; parent-child relationships; romantic relationships, between friends of the same and opposite gender, and more.
This behavior is not like a full-fledged personality disorder. Being a toxic person does not mean that you behave in a harmful way every time to everyone regardless of the role they play in your life.
For example, a teacher who projects harmful behavior to his students might also be a faithful husband and a church pastor. Your friend whose behavior is harmful to you might be a gentle and considerate child caregiver.
Examples of general toxic behaviors include:
- Creating unnecessary drama over minor issues.
- Manipulating and controlling other people with guilt or false claims.
- Being extremely critical of other people even when it is completely unnecessary.
- Treating every relationship as a means to an end.
- Blaming everything that goes wrong in one's life on other people or other factors in order to not take responsibility.
- Pretending to care about other people whereas you are only hanging out with them to use them.
What is toxic femininity? Psychology Today defines this term as women expressing stereotypically ‘feminine’ traits, which results in individuals ignoring their mental or physical needs to sustain those around them.
Toxic femininity definition
Femininity is sometimes myopically defined as exaggerated feminine traits like being sensitive, emotional, having a perfect appearance, and so forth.
Toxic femininity meaning is based on social science. It is a term that is used to describe the flawed and repressive type of ideas about the female gender, its roles, and expectations.
It refers to the unrealistic ways that femininity is portrayed in society. This includes the portrayals of females in mass media, as well as certain socio-cultural dictates of who an ideal lady is.
This dangerous expression of feminism also rears its ugly head when gender-conforming behaviors and roles are taken too far to the point where they become harmful to others of the same or opposite gender.
Even though it is not as widely discussed, toxic femininity is as serious as its masculine version.
However, toxic femininity and sexism are not the same. Sexism believes that a lady should not be able to do something or be in charge of certain things, simply because of her gender.
Toxic femininity, on the other hand, says that a lady should not do certain things not because she can not do them but because those things do not fit into the roles and rules that society has laid out for her.
Examples of toxic femininity
Examples of this behavior range from what the media constantly tells us about the ideal woman's demeanor to commercials on television, what kids are taught in schools to what we are told at work, and what religion teaches to socio-cultural expectations.
Examples of this behavior can be seen in homes, schools, workplaces, government establishments, etc.
People who display these harmful traits often use their influence, roles, and positions in a person's life to take advantage of others.
Here are some general examples of harmful traits related to the expression of gender.
- Being overdramatic and blaming it on mood swings or menstrual cycles
- Talking down to other women who do not ascribe to feminism
- Threatening to self-harm to keep a man from breaking up with her
- Perpetrating domestic violence, expecting no consequences because she is of the "weaker" gender
- Shaming male victims of domestic violence or finding excuses for the abuser's behavior
The situations described above are only a few examples of how females can use their femininity to manipulate situations and people to their advantage.
In most cases, the victims of this hurtful behavior are men who are emotional, physically, or financially vulnerable. However, the same manipulation can be directed towards victims of the same gender.
Toxic femininity in the workplace
Spiteful and manipulative gender-based behavior takes place in the workplace too. Some of the most common examples include:
- A manager who verbally abuses teammates and then blames pre-menstrual syndrome and expects them to understand.
- A kind boss who added his name to an awesome report you authored. You can not question it because as a woman, you are expected to be humble. If you complain too much you'll be considered a non-team player.
- A pro-feminism colleague bullies you for ascribing to ideals that many do not consider feminist.
- A female who constantly makes snide comments about your body expecting you not to take offence because she is of the same gender as you.
- Female employees citing "personal problems" in order to not do certain types of tasks, rather than stating their preferences clearly.
- Citing family pressures and children emergencies to avoid working late even if they didn’t have any. This is usually a disservice to female employees who have genuine emergencies that require their attention.
It is not uncommon to see professional environments being plagued by inappropriate behaviors that stem from femininity issues.
In many workplaces, female employees are already disadvantaged because they are deemed unfit to handle certain positions. Therefore, when a few unscrupulous females play the gender card to avoid responsibility and get away with unprofessionalism, it creates a bad reputation for hardworking ladies.
It is the job of feminist discourse to promote balance and equality in society, and that includes intervening when women drag others down.
Toxic femininity refers to the pressure to conform to the social construction of who an ideal woman is. It also refers to using one's gender to gain an unfair advantage. Toxic femininity holds all of us back and this is why everyone should speak against it.