Toxic Femininity, the Flip Side of Toxic Masculinity, and the Love of Scientific- Sounding Jargon to Endorse Sexism – Sexist Beliefs and Practices are Acceptable so Long As There is a Scientific Study That Defends Them
This is somewhat of a follow-up of a post I just published,
I’d say one way Toxic Femininity can be understood or defined would be that it’s Codependency for women.
American culture encourages girls and women to act in a codependent fashion (which encompasses but is not limited to being passive and lacking boundaries). Being a passive, docile, sweet, shy, empathetic, giving doormat are just some of the traits that are considered feminine for women, and are so encouraged in girls and women.
Christian conservatives also have their own version of Toxic Femininity, which is also Codependency for women, which they refer to at this point in time as “Gender Complementarianism,” and sometimes by the terms “Godly Womanhood,” “Biblical Womanhood” or “Biblical Femininity.”
The Christian version of Codependency for Girls and Women is buttressed by arguments, and is supported, by the false rationale and justification that the God of the Bible allegedly designed girls and women to be or act in this passive manner and play followers to male leaders.
Your secular counterparts to this type of outlook tend to base their sexist assumptions and arguments on evolutionary psychology, gender essentialism (or which some refer to as biological essentialism) and biology, usually by way of quoting or citing questionable, open- to- interpretation, or shoddy, studies or scientific- sounding terms.
Conservatives or other types of Anti-Feminists seem to think quoting from scientists and studies automatically lends credence to their position and makes their sexism sound very plausible.
They do so to argue that all women are born passive, born wanting to be mommies, and born disliking careers in STEM. (How convenient that all this so-called science-y stuff that they quote happens to coincide with their view that all women should really only be passive and docile stay at home wives and mothers.)
By quoting from certain types of studies, the conservatives and anti-feminists are able to more easily brush away systemic sexism in culture, marriages, religions, schools, and employment, sexism which is brought about by attitudes (not by innate differences), by saying that, any perceived gender- based inequality is not truly a problem, because most or all women, they say, really, actually prefer to make less money than men at the same job, choose home-making over career, enjoy being timid at jobs, or prefer to be treated like doormats in relationships.
I have seen the phrase “Toxic Masculinity” tossed around, but (and I’ve not looked for it at this time), I’ve not seen anyone use the phrase “Toxic Femininity.”
There are cultural gender expectations of girls and women that are toxic, ones that hold them back from doing well in school, getting out of abusive dating or marital relationships, or pursuing certain career paths, but I’ve never seen anyone refer to these issues under the heading of “Toxic Femininity.”
The conservatives are too busy bitching and moaning that the concept of “Toxic Masculinity” is insulting to all men (never mind that most of them totally misunderstand what that term means, as I explained previously)…
Meanwhile, secular feminists are busy running around critiquing or explaining what Toxic Masculinity is, and I don’t see anyone lumping together the societal expectations for girls and women under the term of “Toxic Femininity.”
But then, I’ve not googled for such a term yet. Maybe it’s already out there.
There is nothing wrong with all women, or necessarily with femininity itself (depending on how “femininity” is understood or taught).
The “toxic” part of the equation comes in when this femininity that is under consideration, and which is defined by culture, and which girls are conditioned to accept and abide by, but is passed off as always biological in every case for every female, and when it’s used to treat women unfairly to men.
The picture of femininity I was taught when I was growing up (by parents, teachers, church, friends, entertainment media, etc), and I still see this in adulthood, is that to be a woman means I am to live and be interested in certain roles, hobbies, and careers.
For example, I was taught from various people and institutions from childhood forward that being a girl and woman means (this is not an exhaustive list):
Being quiet, obedient, neat, clean, tidy, modest (not a braggart), orderly, polite, gentle, emotionally astute, be more of a listener (don’t talk), providing free emotional labor to anyone hurting, angered, or stressed, to like, prefer, and pursue “traditional gender career roles” for women (such as school teacher, secretary, or nurse), lacking boundaries, never being out-spoken, as a child, I was expected to prefer playing with E-Z bake toy ovens, pink toys and Barbie dolls, to playing with toy trucks or guns or reading super hero comics
Some of those qualities listed above associated with the traditionally feminine may not be bad in moderation, or in certain situations for limited times.
However, where this gets toxic is that I was taught in girlhood, and pressured into adulthood, (again, by culture, parents, church, Madison Avenue, etc) to be sweet, quiet, passive, self-effacing and soft spoken all the time, with every person – even abusive people – no matter what, with no exceptions.
That left me wide open to being exploited and mistreated by both male and female users, manipulators, classmates, co-workers, and family members, as I have detailed in other posts on this blog.
No care or concern under these gender stereotypes and gender expectations was shown for MY needs, MY feelings, MY safety, or for MY preferences.
Walking through life as this vision that church, parents, teachers, Hollywood, etc, expected me to be, created all manner of problems for me in my younger years and in adulthood.
These gender expectations also made me feel bad about myself as a girl, because I was simply not interested in playing with pink, plastic toys or playing with Barbie dolls, or sitting around quietly doing “girlie” things like learning how to braid hair.
My innate preferences and interests as a girl were to do things like play with Star Wars action figures, watch Batman on TV, and ride my bike and climb trees. I never fit into the gender role box that the anti-feminists say that I’m supposedly “born” to prefer. My parents were not liberals who forced me to watch Batman or who did not buy me baby dolls to play with.
On the contrary, my mother seemed sort of alarmed or upset that I was not into traditional feminine pursuits so much, so one year at Christmas, she gave me a Barbie doll. Another year, she gave me the sort of baby doll that needed its diaper changed, and it came with a toy bottle.
My mother would also, when I was a kid, dress me in ultra-girly girl, itchy, starchy, pink, frilly dresses that had lace at the collar, alone with Mary Jane shoes, that I was forced to wear to church, and I found it humiliating.
The moment I got home from church services, I’d rip that dress and shoes off in my bedroom and switch out to a pair of cut off jean shorts, my sneakers, and a t-shirt (sometimes with Batman on it, or a sports team logo).
I’d say that “Toxic Femininity” is just as much a problem and just as real a thing as is “Toxic Masculinity.” I’m surprised I’ve not yet seen that term thrown around, though.
I edited the post to add this to the post’s heading:
• Toxic Femininity, the Flip Side of Toxic Masculinity, and the Love of Scientific- Sounding Jargon to Endorse Sexism – Sexist Beliefs and Practices are Acceptable so Long As There is a Scientific Study That Defends Them
That’s what it comes down to.
So long as there is some research paper, scientific study, book, or interview with some guy or woman who hates feminism, who insists that all women are born to like, born to prefer, or born to be good at, X, Y, and Z – and if X, Y, and Z are considered sexist attitudes or practices by most people – then the sexism is considered acceptable.
Science and scientific studies have been used and abused by many people over the years, including to promote things like elective abortion, or why black people are supposedly inferior to whites, or why it was supposedly okay for Hitler to commit genocide.
I’m always a bit wary of anyone who points to some study somewhere to say, “See, thus- and- so a behavior, societal practice, or cultural assumption is really justifiable, because scientist Joe Blow wrote a paper saying that is what his study found!”
For more on that please see (off site links):