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Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Toxic Femininity/Masculinity?

There's a lot of talk on the online sphere about 'toxic masculinity' and now 'toxic femininity.' I would argue that when it comes down to it, toxic behaviour exists regardless of gender. There are some toxic traits more typical of men and some more typical of women (bringing us to that old nature-nurture debate) but in the end, psychological and physical abuse is something we've all been on the receiving end of (and likely guilty of).

As it goes, men are more likely to engage in physical abuse towards one another, whereas women are more likely to engage in psychological abuse. Women are more likely to body-shame, slut-shame, virgin-shame, and sneer at other women (or use indirect aggression rather than direct aggression). Evolution made it so we competed for one another for natural resources. Being the less physically dominant sex, women needed to find the strongest male who would provide the most resources, and this meant having to use our wits to put down other women who may have been competition.
This isn't to say that all men are one way and all women are
another. The point is we all have differences, and we work best
when we use our strengths to compliment one another rather
than tear each other down.
Mean Girls is one of my favourite movies and probably the best visual depiction of 'toxic femininity.' (The Clique is another brilliant movie about young girl-on-girl cruelty and the 'threat' of the new girl). One of my favourite books, Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill, brilliantly depicts girl-on-girl hate and abuse. That book resonated with me so much because it perfectly encapsulates toxic female behaviour. If a girl is naive, vulnerable, sensitive or insecure, other girls will use that as prey and act by pretending to be that girl's friend, and then dropping her once she is no longer useful. In my novella Psycho Girl, the protagonist Evelyn Baxter does this to most of the girls around her.

But does Evelyn do this because she's a woman, or because she's a psychopath? One can say that regardless of what kind of behaviour is used, toxic people are toxic people, just like loving people are loving regardless of how it come across. In regards to gender differences in expressing toxic traits, women are more likely to emit toxic feminine (and positive feminine) traits just like men are more likely to emit masculine traits because - well, common sense should answer that. I can be logical, independent, self-confident and assertive, but also caring, sensitive and empathetic. The traits are labelled as 'feminine' and 'masculine' because they are more typical of those genders, not because that is what society 'forces' men and women to be like.

We all use both negative and positive elements of these traits in our daily lives. The negative elements are the more 'toxic' traits, and the positive elements are the ones that make us win. Physical strength can be an asset for the Jon Snows of the world, but are toxic when used by the Ramsay Boltons. Sensitivity can be a drawback exploited by people walking all over you, but it can be an asset in helping others or being channeled into creativity. (Artists are deeply sensitive creatures, after all).

So two main things here:

1. Everyone has positive and negative qualities.
2. Some are expressed more in men and some in women, but the execution isn't what matters really - a bad person is a bad person regardless of gender.

I found this YouTube video fascinating - don't agree with it all but agree with a lot:

A few studies on gender differences in aggression:

Related posts:

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I'm Zarina Macha, an author, blogger, and musician from London. I write about stuff on the internet 'cos having opinions is fun -- if you want to join the games, please note your thoughts below. All thoughts welcome, even if they're mean (just no spam links please -- can't tell you what a liability those are to remove).
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