For the north, there is south and there is no darkness without light. The entire universe consists of contrasts creating balance. For a while now there has been quite a lot of online chatter about toxic masculinity.
Toxic masculinity is, however, not the buzzword under discussion, but more so the lack of buzz on the opposite side – toxic femininity.
True, sometimes some men behave in a way that hurts others. Also true that sometimes some women behave in a way that hurts others. Whether the adjective serving as a collective name for the characteristics of an entire gender should be named toxic, is, however, still debatable.
Proceeding with the buzz over toxic masculinity, curiosity calls for the face of toxic femininity in order to find the yin to the yang.
What is toxic femininity?
Toxic femininity has been staring us in the face for a very long time. Hollywood has been hiding it in plain sight for decades. The difference was mainly in the linguistics and women behaving ‘toxic’ are portrayed as being sassy, empowered, strong and independent.
The scenario of one queen bee, manipulating, not only her close groupies (often despising her yet driven by the fear of being ostracised), but also the entire social set-up around her, is a common storyline on the silver screen. Grease with the Pink Ladies and their attacks on Sandy, Clueless, Cruel Intentions, Mean Girls, Pitch Perfect and the list goes one.
Even though these ladies make it quite clear on how women can behave in a toxic manner, we as women still do shy away from identifying and recognizing that we are sometimes behaving in a way that is toxic to those around us.
Toxic femininity is favourably described as an inward process connected with guilt, anxiety, depression, bitterness, jealousy and is seldom called out for what it really is. Using the same parameters as for the definition of masculine behaviour, toxic femininity is the behaviour or actions by women which have a negative impact on individuals around them.
Women have been abusing their sexual power to manipulate men to get what they want for probably as long as mankind has existed. Not saying that women are not allowed to dress-up and make-up and look their best, but when it is done to acquire financial or professional gain, then it is most definitely sexual manipulation.
The historical fact is that men are hunters and will most probably respond to a sexual invitation that she is writing. This invitation is usually aimed at one desirable man, either financially or physically, both serving the woman’s needs.
When success in the corporate world is a competitive and very challenging venture, toxic femininity is no stranger.
Sleeping your way to the top, undermining your feminine competition, spreading gossip with the intent to harm the reputation of a female colleague, or if that seems that is not working, playing the victim of the patriarchy to induce sympathy, are often part of the process.
This vicious competition already starts at a very young age and can often be seen in the kindergarten playgrounds. Gossiping, bitchiness, verbal attacks, criticism, sneering remarks and social exclusion are all part of the feminine life at some stage.
If we don’t mature out of it, then it becomes part of our adulthood. So the question is, how can we possibly fail to define these actions as toxic femininity? In a world where women want to have equality of power they also need to take equality of responsibility. If men have to own up to their toxic behaviour, then women should too.
The pot calling the kettle black
Due to the advantage of physical strength that men have over women, it is easier to accuse men of criminality based on some of the behaviours defined as toxic masculinity, but it doesn’t make it any more toxic than the female behaviour discussed.
Teenage girls committing suicide due to the extreme verbal bullying, social exclusion and gossiping from another female in the same competition of life, is a sad reality and a clear indication of how toxic femininity can be.
How do we dare to accuse men of toxic masculinity while hypocritically avoiding the same buzz over toxic femininity?
Toxic behaviour should be exposed by the name of the action and not the gender, for both genders, so that there can be unison on the fight against it, rather than creating division by blaming only one gender while both are equally innocent and equally guilty.
The outcry against toxic masculinity, with no more than a whisper about toxic femininity is simply a case of the pot calling the kettle black.