Type in ‘toxic masculinity’ on any search engine or social media platform and thousands of posts, articles, rants etc., are bound to surface but with toxic femininity the struggle for answers is rife.
This then begs the question, does toxic femininity exist and if so, why aren’t we hearing more about it and seeing it addressed? In fact, what is toxic femininity?
Bust.com defines toxic femininity as ‘a narrow and repressive description of womanhood, designating womanhood as defined by cooperation, sexual subservience, status and passivity. It’s the cultural ideal of womanliness, where the ability to please is everything while troublesomeness is a weakness; where beauty and ability to make men feel good are yardsticks by which women are measured, while supposedly masculine traits which can range from expressing anger to sexual independence are the means by which your status as a woman can be taken away.’
In truth, the question of the existence of toxic femininity only gains minimal traction as many find, it refers to the equivalent of toxic masculinity whose ripple effect is usually extremities such as abuse and violence at high rates.
However, to substitute toxic femininity, the terms benevolent sexism and or mean girls syndrome are used. They are used in reference to superficial positive beliefs about women and how they reserve the right to harm others, and even get away with bad behaviour.
This ranges from women getting physical with men knowing the unlikeness to face legal implications, body shaming, faking a pregnancy scare, manipulating divorce or child custody battle over false abuse insinuations or even threats to self-harm should a man leave the relationship. It also includes circumstances in which men are made to feel inferior for rejecting a sexual advance.
These antics often harbour and succeed based on women weaponizing their sexuality and vulnerability to create a barrier through which those who fall victim to their harmful deeds find it difficult to defend themselves. And in which case irrational temper tantrums are brushed away and deduced to being hormonal.
This then leaves prey of such women in a hapless situation in which they can’t shield themselves nor can they freely speak up for fear of being labelled weak as the aggressor will more often than not, be sympathised with, based on their perceived fragility.
Toxic femininity is no longer a cliché, rather a lived reality through which many struggle. It still begs for more light to be shed before its victims can regain some peace and feel free to break their silence and in achieving this, both men and women will have to scrutinise their own ‘normal behaviours’, evaluate if they would appreciate the same treatment and choose to change should the answer be on the negative.