• 20 May 2022
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Is Toxic Femininity on the Rise?

Is Toxic Femininity on the Rise?

Sarah was a bright marketing executive in an established MNC. With a steady career path, she was quite successful in her professional life. But despite having a thriving career and a supportive network, Sarah suffered from insomnia and anxiety issues because she was single. All her friends were either married or were committed in a steady relationship, which made her feel she was not good enough to be in a relationship, causing her anxiety attacks. Whenever she would meet her friends, they would talk about her husbands or fiancés, which left her feeling left out in most conversations.  She felt their judgmental eyes around her when they started acting possessive around their husbands or fiancés. She wanted to avoid them but didn’t know how to confront them for the fear of being considered “bad” among her friends.

The above is a real-life example which was narrated by a renowned Indian psychologist of how women treat other women which could be considered a “toxic” trait. With the word “Feminism” thrown around a lot these days, some terminologies could throw you off-guard like “toxic feminism”. It’s a tool used by some women to put others down. It needs to be searched in for the sake of true feminism.

Toxic femininity includes any thoughts, actions, or behavior caused by women that benefits usually the opposite gender (i.e., men) at the expense of women’s happiness, independence, and mental well-being. Both toxic masculinity and femininity are enforced to keep their value in their society. While toxic masculinity has specific personality traits like being strong, showing no emotions, and rejecting their feminine side, toxic femininity pressures women to be shy, overly emotional, submissive and try to be attractive. “Womanhood” in this state is defined in a very flimsy manner that objectifies and harms them.

Toxic femininity is made up of a mixture of culture-specific rules. However, through research and pop culture references, the following core qualities have emerged:

Dutiful: This is the trait that women must be ready to accept any instructions or submit to control. They should have “flexible” thinking and should only live to serve.

Hyper-Femininity: This involves the strict acceptance of typical feminine behavior. It is enforced through verbal punishment, such as being at fault for gender-based violence by being called a “slut”. For example, confident and outspoken women are usually told to change their attitudes to match their hyper-feminine traits.

Pushing their version of femininity: This involves pressuring others to mimic the behavior that is seen as feminine, for example, judging someone over their choice to remain childfree.

Destroying the reputations of women: This refers to the notion that all women compete for attention and recognition from the opposite gender i.e., males. In this case, women may resent other women or act harmfully towards other women, as a means to prove themselves. This could be done to receive recognition from the male gender, perhaps as your boss, romantic interest, client, teacher, or male peers. They often use traits like gossip, spreading rumors to discredit someone and the threat of being forced to become a social pariah.

Toxic femininity, therefore, is dangerous in a society as it forces the subjugation of women as something socially acceptable. For example, toxic femininity inside a work environment can be hostile, which could negatively impact an employee’s mental health. In addition, blocking women from climbing up the corporate ladder, also facilitates a lack of diversity in the leadership positions of the company.

In short, toxic femininity is toxic in the fight for women’s equality as it seeks to maintain the rigid structures and systems placed in our society today.

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