Before I even begin going deeper into the topic of toxic femininity, for those of you who never read my other articles, I will explain myself a little bit. I do not consider myself a part of any tradition, religion, movement or group. And I have always been and will always be sovereign. I also consider myself deeply spiritual, and every concept I look at, I look through the prism of spirituality. I cannot even call it a “prism” per se. For me, it is a way of living and it became a part of me, no matter what religious or cultural rituals or ceremonies I may favor. I am not political, I am not a feminist, or anti-feminist really. I am just me.
Now, let’s go back to the main subject. Over the past couple of years it became popular and I felt like giving you my perspective on it, not too deep, would be interesting and hopefully enjoyable, and preferably calming to you. While I realize the real battle is happening out there, I would like to invite you to look at it from another angle, and see how you feel about it.
What is Toxic Femininity?
Straight to the point. What we normally call “toxic femininity” includes a few main points that characterize a woman with this “toxic” behavior that is obviously destructive to the whole society, and especially to men. I would like to make a little remark here: I am on no one’s side because taking sides creates separation. However, I tend to feel and understand why more and more men would bring up this subject. “Toxic masculinity” is another very popular subject lately, and it looks like it reached a boiling point. So the opposite came up – toxic femininity. Just like in everything in Nature, just like in an eternal, complete symbol of Yin and Yang. (But more about it in future).
So, what is usually considered a “toxic femininity”?
You may think that it is maybe about an aggressive or abusive woman who beats up all men, whether with her actions or words. In fact, it is really not about that, because those things are in fact part of “toxic masculinity”, destructive men’s behavior.
A social science term that describes narrow repressive type of ideas about the female gender role, that defines femininity as exaggerated feminine traits like being sensitive, emotional, having a perfect appearance, and so forth. One can be feminine without being toxic. – Urban Dictionary
In reality, toxic femininity consists of some common feminine traits that were taken out of context and were exaggerated, and eventually turned into “toxic”. Let’s look at the most popular ones.
Affectation by definition is “speech or conduct not natural to oneself : an unnatural form of behavior meant especially to impress others” (from Merriam-Webster). In other words – not genuine. In terms of femininity, this affectation manifests as an overly exaggerated form of mannerism through speech and gestures, ways of self-expression in an unnatural way. It often combines with girlishness that does not want to be responsible for literally anything and only wants dresses and candies. Really, if only it was not taken to the extreme, it would have been a cute feminine behavior used in a positive playful way.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. It is a female behavior that is considered to be manipulative, primarily to men, because it uses sex in its different shapes and forms to manipulate. It can be sexual attire, sexual attitude (what we usually call “seduction”), sexual speech. Sexual manipulation is considered to be one of the most irresistible and widely spread and probably because of that one of the most used. Often, this approach is used to turn a man into a boyfriend and then into a husband. Or sometimes it is used to build a career. Or to simply suppress others and distract them with a misleading and improper behavior. Again, when used correctly and moderately, this can be a pretty delicious and needed form of self-expression and creativity. (Because guess what – sex is about creation).
One of the deepest and most subtle one, because sometimes it is hard to pinpoint. This is the most difficult area to examine because it can be either highly subjective, or less prominent, only between the two people and everyone else might not even notice it. It is considered another form of manipulation where generally women use it against men in such ways as: purposeful silence (aka “silent treatment”), acting in opposition and out of protest, lying, hiding, pretending and other very subtle ways of getting their way. And it is very tightly connected to the first one, Female Affectation. It can also be hiding under openly friendly behavior with the underlying opposing motives, aka passive-aggressive attitude. Once again, flirting and playfulness could have been good, if only they were not treated like they are not.
This is a form of behavior where a woman is acting like a mother towards her partner which, if used excessively, can turn into all sorts of dependencies and other types of manipulation. Extreme mothering is based on the idea that a woman, acting as a mother figure, forgets about all sorts of personal space and healthy boundaries, because generally there are no boundaries between a mother and a child. Usually, this form of toxic femininity manifests as over-protection, exaggerated sacrificing, aggressive care, behavior of a powerful female figure who reigns over everything and everyone. And yet again, this behavior can be nurturing and supportive if used timely and wisely.
Lesson to Learn
So, what do we see? We see that this rough draft of “toxic femininity” consists of female traits and behaviors in their radical form, or if you will from their Shadow perspective. These traits are present in different female archetypes I mentioned earlier, taken to the extremes and presented as poisonous behavior that needs to be eradicated. While the intention is positive, unfortunately it can only bring more hatred and more fighting. What we can, and should be doing, is focusing on acknowledging and then healing it from within. We should acknowledge that these traits all exist within every one of us until the moment we face them and learn to see as a potential, and not as a threat.
Here is a quick chart of all those behaviors in three groups. This is taken from a psychological explanation of roles in relationships. The idea is that a “woman” is the healthiest, because relationships are a union of two equal adults with responsible behavior and partnership. It is good but… Well, read it first.
Chart of Female Behavior
Girl gets offended
Woman gets angry
Girl gets lost
Mother is touched
Woman goes nearby
Girl is dependent
Mother causes dependency
Woman is free
Girl gets disappointed
Girl is adorable
Mother takes over
As you can see, a lot of what is called “toxic femininity” is simply other forms of femininity taken to the extreme. Depending on the context, it can be incorrect and manipulative. Or, it can be nourishing, fruitful and positive. While “woman” seems like a fair and wise role, two other roles are also needed and sometimes wanted, depending on the situation. Personally, “woman” in this chart seems to be a little bit too genderless and neutral, reminding me more of a “person” other than an actual woman.
The beauty of a wholesome femininity is that it includes different roles and applies them in different circumstances differently. The ones that are mentioned here under “girl” and “mother” roles are only negative (Shadow) aspects of those two, while they both also have wonderful positive aspects as well.
Examples are endless, but to make it clearer here is one. In a couple a woman inspires when her man needs an inspiration, while she can nurture and support as a mother when her partner needs that, and at the same time she can be playful and girly when the mood is right. Why deprive yourself of one or another state when you can deliciously be all of those?
So What Now?
My conclusion on this subject is this: no one should take just one aspect of anything and call it “bad” or “good” without taking into consideration other aspects of the same matter. While both toxic femininity and toxic masculinity exist, it should not be shamed or be fought against. We should remember it is only a part of something bigger. It should be taken as an opportunity or a lesson to go within, to heal, to grow and to blossom from the other end like a beautiful healthy flower. Just remember – you point out to someone’s Shadow from your own Shadow.
I am incredibly curious about your take on it all and your thoughts about it. Feel free to share, I’d love to read.