All forced gender roles are toxic—not just men’s
By Jessica Berget, Opinions Editor
Extremes exist on every spectrum, whether it be political ideologies, religion, or gender roles. When gender roles are taken to the extreme they are can be known as toxic, meaning they are harmful or destructive to the individual and society. Toxic masculinity is a popular example of forced gender roles being taken to an extreme, but women are also guilty of engaging in destructive gender roles.
I believe that toxic femininity is as important to break down as toxic masculinity. To acknowledge the existence of one but not the other is ridiculous, because I don’t think you can necessarily have one without the other.
Forced gender roles are destructive to anyone that internalizes them, regardless of gender. Women can internalize notions of toxic masculinity and men can internalize toxic femininity, or both. Therefore, it is important to discuss both concepts. They both serve in perpetuating patriarchal and sexist ideals and are ultimately harmful, so it is vital that both are unpacked to recognize these attitudes and to rectify them.
Just as toxic masculinity refers to the negative socially-constructed attitudes that are commonly attributed to men; violence, emotional suppression, and sexual aggression are just a few examples—toxic femininity also refers to negative socially-constructed attitudes of women, which consist of passiveness, dependency, submissiveness, and the general idea that women are a weaker sex. This is something that I believe many people, including women, unhealthily internalize and express through their actions.
An example of this is women who hit their male partners or friends. Since they have incorporated the idea into themselves that they are the weaker sex, they believe that they can’t hurt men by hitting them. However, abuse is abuse no matter who is hitting who. Using your sex as justification to harm another person is a common yet toxic pattern that occurs in many situations. I’ve seen men “playfully” slapped or punched on public transit many times, but this often goes overlooked because many people also believe women are the weaker sex, so it’s okay.
These toxic notions of gender can be shown in many other ways. When women get angry at their significant others for not texting them every day, or get mad at them for even talking to another woman, can be seen as forms of toxic feminine behaviour. I think constant need for communication and validation from a partner is an aspect of dependency in toxic femininity that I have seen many women engage in, which I have been guilty of myself in my first serious relationship.
I depended on constant communication to feel validated and to feed my feeling of self-worth, which I now realize is unhealthy behaviour. However, many women believe they need this to feel loved in a relationship, which is toxic to the individual, their partner, and to society’s perception of women.
There are plenty of ways in which toxic feminine behaviour is negative. When women become so submissive that they don’t stand up for themselves or voice their opinion. Expecting your male partner to pay for everything you do because “that’s the way it should be” is toxic behaviour. I think everyone should be aware of how forced gender roles affect their behaviours and how society operates, and what they can do to amend them.
The problem with these attitudes is that they can take form in positive ways as well as negative ways, which makes people discount the severity of forced gender roles, saying things like “that’s how each sex is wired.”
But, no matter how you look at it, and no matter what gender you are, toxic behaviour should never be excused.