Women who uphold toxic standards of living are merely misguided products of a sexist and patriarchal social environment or upbringing. To curb the negative effects of feminine toxicity and the harm it causes to families, it is important to instill empowerment-based values in female children.
Toxicity is defined as the quality or state of being toxic. ‘Toxic’ is obviously not a formal psychological term but rather it is descriptive of how people often feel when dealing with certain individuals. Toxic behaviour is malevolent and often exhibited in people with a set of fragile egos, especially men. These attributes are not only unattractive and dangerous, they are very harmful to society in general. Men who exhibit toxic masculinity are prone to violent crimes, aggravated assaults, lack of self-control and they are often very angry. These are men who would rape and/or murder a woman because she had the audacity to say no to their sexual advances.
Having said that, toxic femininity is a subject that has been pushed under the rug for so long. Although women are not raping, killing and violating men in the same way that men rape, kill, and violate women; society needs to understand that there is also toxic femininity, which is as a result of a deeply patriarchal social system and its dictates. Toxic femininity is as real and as dangerous as masculine toxicity, and it is time to talk about it!
Toxic femininity is the result of internalised misogyny and just as toxic masculinity, it has poisonous effects on all people, regardless of gender. Most women receive toxic femininity-based grooming from childhood. A typical example is telling girls that not knowing how to cook, not wanting to marry or have children made them distastefully unfeminine. This is why some women who spent so much time and money acquiring university education would not consider themselves worthy enough to hold certain official positions or run for political offices because those are only meant for men, even when the women are more qualified than their male counterparts, seeking the same office. The same women would do everything possible to pull down fellow women, especially younger ones who dare make a move to contest for political offices.
On the other hand, women who are raised to be assertive do not need to diminish themselves to feel validated by the society. They already know their worth and their strength. They know that apart from biological factors, what makes them women is the combination of their beauty, braveness, and intelligence. Toxic mothers usually invalidate other people’s negative emotions. They criticise their daughters for expressing unhappiness with the way they are being treated and blame them and other women in cases of domestic violence. They advise their daughters that their married friends might be suffering, but are covering this up and smiling. Why can’t they do like their friends? Markedly, parenting is the sole institution which conditions girls to be virtuous, but not the boys.
Toxic femininity encourages the silent acceptance of violence and domination in order to survive. It legitimises the patriarchal perceptions of a woman and what duties it expects her to fulfil. It deems suppression and the submission to male counterparts necessary for a woman to be socially accepted.
Toxic femininity encourages the silent acceptance of violence and domination in order to survive. It legitimises the patriarchal perceptions of a woman and what duties it expects her to fulfil. It deems suppression and the submission to male counterparts necessary for a woman to be socially accepted. Women imbued with toxicity will have solid evidence of their husbands sexually abusing their children, yet would choose to not report the crime, and ignore their children’s mental health in order to retain their “Mrs.” title. Most of these women accept physical abuse as a demonstration of a man’s authority. For this reason, men with toxic masculinity expect the same type of passive reception of their toxicity from every woman they see. But, they mostly lack the mental ability to understand that not all women can be psychologically or institutionally dominated; in reality, some women can match toxic men, force for force, either physically or emotionally. In extreme cases, some women have sent such men to their early graves, either physically or through other subtle means.
The absolute rejection of observable science and acceptance of harmful framing and mistruths about sex differences, most likely, leads to the support of the concept of a superior and an inferior sex, in order to assume a sense of importance. Unfortunately, the ‘pick me females’ will attempt to curry favour with the self-acclaimed superior sex, in order to appear more desirable to men or avoid rejection from them. When these ideologies are so deeply engraved in a society, it becomes the standard for measuring a woman’s good-naturedness or unpleasantness.
One would like to believe that patriarchal societies would be breeding grounds for nice women; but, if anything, the opposite is true. It breeds females who display toxic traits and take advantage of their cultural and religious ascribed fragility to manipulate men. These toxic women join men conditioned by patriarchy to support the tale that women are afterthoughts whose only achievement should be marriage and motherhood. These sets of “Pick Mes” (definition: women who seek male validation by indirectly or directly insinuating that they are not like the other women), shame other women for various unreasonable factors such as: for living their best lives and aligning their priorities, for having only female children, for having caring husbands and many more. They also shame real men who get involved in their childrens’ welfare and care as well.
Women who display toxic feminine traits support the traditional, misogynistic gender roles that always end up punishing women. They believe that men engaging in domestic activities emasculates them. Yet, they are the ones who try to trap men into relationships or marriages with pregnancy. They withhold sex from their husbands until they get money or when other financial demands are met; because they are taught to believe that it is the sole responsibility of men to carry all their financial responsibilities. They constantly engage in emotionally assaulting and accusing the men in their lives of things ‘prone’ to men, like cheating or always wanting sex. They cannot trust them to be around other attractive women by themselves, because they believe that all men are incapable of controlling their impulses.
There is also the woman-to-woman toxic femininity. Typical examples are the toxic madams who employ children as housemaids and expect them to act, think and function like adults. When that doesn’t happen they resort to maltreating and physically abusing them.
When in an altercation with a man, a woman with toxic behaviour insults the man with statements like, “You act like a woman”, thereby admitting that being a woman is something so terrible that one should be ashamed of it. These types of women get away with being horrible partners in a relationship because their toxic behaviour is usually masked as emotional expression, when they are really showing their destructive behaviours and poor communication skills.
There is also the woman-to-woman toxic femininity. Typical examples are the toxic madams who employ children as housemaids and expect them to act, think and function like adults. When that doesn’t happen they resort to maltreating and physically abusing them. The toxic mothers-in-law that bully their daughters-in-law. The insecure mothers who are jealous of their teenage daughters; those ones who speak to their daughters with so much anger. Examples: You think you are grown. When I was your age, I was already married and had these many children. You are growing wings because men have started chasing you. Toxic females are the ones who make humiliating observations about other women’s marital and reproductive statuses. They are always ignorant of the fact that biologically, men carry X/Y chromosomes and are the ones who determine a baby’s gender. This is why their husbands take second wives without their knowledge and they stay there dying in silence.
Women who uphold toxic standards of living are merely misguided products of a sexist and patriarchal social environment or upbringing. To curb the negative effects of feminine toxicity and the harm it causes to families, it is important to instill empowerment-based values in female children. They should be allowed to live their full potential, follow their dreams and be productive citizens. Note: If reading this article is triggering, it may be an indication that there’s something active in your psyche that needs your attention. Seek professional help!
ChiNna Okoroafor, a licensed psychotherapist, writes from Colorado Springs, CO, USA.