At the end of 2018, Oxford Dictionary declared the word ‘toxic’ as the Word of the Year, and rightly so. Originally meant to describe physically poisonous, the word has also started being associated with relationships and masculinity. Toxic masculinity has been a hot topic of conversation recently; it refers to stereotypically male traits endorsed by society and culture taking on forms that ultimately damage society and men themselves. We have talked about toxic masculinity as a concept for a couple of years now, but that got us, at Twisted Tiara, thinking; is there such a thing as toxic femininity? The answer: Yes, there definitely is, and it manages to give women, and feminism a bad name everywhere.
Going by the above description of toxic masculinity, toxic femininity can be described as the yin to its yang; using and manipulating culturally accepted feminine traits, such as compassion and subservience, in a way that furthers the individual’s goals. Are you still a little unsure whether you understand? Take a look at the examples below:
Do you know the girl who constantly behaves like a ‘damsel in distress’ when around male company, but is a total badass otherwise?
Have you heard of a girl or woman who is the emotionally abusive one in their relationship?
Have you ever tried to convince or coerce your man to have sex with you, even though they’ve said they aren’t in the mood?
These are just some examples where toxic femininity comes in play, but we’ve identified broader categories of behaviour to help you understand patterns that you might otherwise ignore.
We once knew a girl, let’s call her Bhivani, whose sole goal was to find a man who could support her financially and drive her around whenever she wanted. Yes, to reiterate, these were the only two qualities she was looking for in a man. Also, he MUST have a car, a bike was too lowly. If, however, her boyfriend would question her spending or her whereabouts, she would go on a rant about how she was a feminist and didn’t need to justify her independence to him (she was meeting with her exes regularly and the poor guy just wanted to make sure everything was good between them). The opposite was not true, he answered any line of questioning he had to just to be with her.
This is just one example of how feminism is weld only when it suits an individual and when it can help the argument. If it only serves you as an individual, instead of all womenkind, it’s not feminism! If you are looking for a sugar daddy, please go ahead, but stop using ‘feminist’ as an excuse to win an argument, when all you really want is someone who will fund your lifestyle. If Bhivani was really a feminist, she would care about her and her boyfriend’s combined earnings rather than sitting at home watching Netflix all day. She would make it a point to drive whenever he was tired or unwell. She would fight the good fight when he asks her to clean the kitchen.
You can’t, and should not, take up ‘feminism’ as your defence only when it suits you; it doesn’t work like that and it gives a bad reputation to all the actual feminists out there. We want equality in the best possible way, not superiority. Flaunting a flag you don’t understand, just to get your way is an example of toxic femininity and it needs to stop.
Women Against Women
Women targeting other women is an unfortunate side effect to how our society is made up, and there are even certain stereotypes in personal settings that this can be associated to. For instance, the malignant mother-in-law, back-biting friends, and distant relatives constantly mentioning your weight and child-bearing status. Women have just started occupying positions of power, which has moved the conversation in a more organizational direction. There are female bosses who boast about feminism but then actively ignore the woman in her team who just had a baby. Feminism also means you must respect another’s choice, even if it is different from yours.
A study recently showed that 70% women feel like they are being bullied by their female colleagues. This could mean anything, such as commenting on someone’s dressing style and weight, to just generally degrading another person’s work for no good reason. The women getting bullied also feel they have no right to complain about the bullies, because they are women and aren’t really “objectifying them with their male gaze”. But here’s the thing, it may not be sexual harassment, but it is harassment all the same. As women, it’s important we stand together rather than apart. Nit-picking on appearances and demeaning someone because of your own insecurities or office politics is just another example of how feminism as a concept can suffer due to lack of understanding.
The ‘damsel in distress’, the girl who always needs someone’s help, they truly exist. You know, the kind of woman who changes her voice to go whinier and cries on cue to manipulate men. The woman who victimises herself even when she clearly isn’t the victim in the situation at hand. The woman who makes others talk to her boyfriend on her behalf, in the middle of a fight, because ‘she just can’t handle it anymore’. Or the woman who won’t be able to lift slightly heavy boxes because she is ‘so weak’, or who can’t run after her own dog because ‘she’s not wearing the right shoes’. Let’s not even talk about the women who falsely accuse men of assault to get their own way.
It could also be the woman who uses her periods to get out of work regularly and acts completely catatonic for 5 days a month. They may often lie about their periods to their male boss, just so he’s too uncomfortable to ask any further questions. Periods can be brutal at times; any woman can verify that. But not all months are bad, and while they can be uncomfortable, we can push through the pain more often than not. Using femininity to get out of work while simultaneously screaming about how you are a feminist, that’s toxic femininity right there. It gives the impression to everyone out there that women are weak, and if not weak, they are constantly unreasonable and hormonal during their periods.
Have you ever had a male friend, co-worker or relative joke about how you’re in a bad mood because of your periods even when it’s not true? THIS is why they do it, because there are women out there who create this perception through their unbelievable behaviour, and it ends up harming all womankind in the long run.
Let’s give you an example of damage that is caused. An Indian media company, which employs close to 75 women, decided to give women the first day of their period off. When thinking about it, it gives 12 extra days of leave to women for their periods. Sometimes, we need to take a day off when the cramps are too bad, but twelve extra days? How can we possibly fight for equal pay when men are obviously working for almost two weeks more every year? We appreciate the sentiment, but maybe give us the option to work from home rather than just take the day off. Let us prove that we are still very much functional despite the fact that we’re bleeding our guts out.
On the Hook
Have you ever heard of friendzoning? Of course you have. The internet is filled with memes about men getting friendzoned, which eventually led to women speaking their mind about how friendzoning isn’t really a thing. It’s just men getting upset at a women’s rejection. Some of that is true, but not all of it. Yes, many a times men complain when a woman just wants to be friends, but sometimes they complain because they have no idea what’s going on. How I Met Your Mother also did an episode on being ‘kept on the hook’, which did an accurate representation of the flip side of friendzoning.
The truth is, there are women who flirt, touch and indicate a future with their so called friend for various reasons. Maybe its to get the guy to do some tasks or chores, maybe it’s because they’re lonely or maybe it’s because they want some attention. Whatever the reasoning, it ain’t right and shouldn’t be condoned. Men should have the right to call out a woman when she’s keeping him on the hook with no foreseeable conclusion. We’re not saying that all women keep men on the hook, but there are a few who just don’t realise how much damage they are doing by playing around with men’s feelings. It gives our whole gender a bad rep and doesn’t really do much for them.
In a time when toxic masculinity is attracting scrutiny and criticism, we cannot forget that every coin has a flip side that needs to be addressed. Female virtues, such as empathy and compassion, have been given the credit they need and have been deemed better for society. But we can’t just put them on a pedestal without exercising any caution; that’s exactly how patriarchy came into pay in the first place. We’ve started pointing out toxic masculinity to our friends and co-workers, maybe it’s time to question toxic femininity too.