As women, we're often faced with people telling us what they believe we should do with our bodies or how we should show up in the world. And while some loved ones might have "good intentions" behind these ideals, some of these expectations or pieces of unsolicited advice put upon women can be known as "toxic femininity."
If you're unfamiliar with what toxic femininity is, it's when women are expected to align with certain "traditional" stereotypes or feminine traits, such as being submissive, being a mother, and so on. It's known to be rooted in internalized misogynistic values that are often held in patriarchal societies. According to Vice, this term was most likely coined in a 2018 Medium post titled "Toxic Femininity Holds All of Us Back" by social psychologist and author Dr. Devon Price.
However, this terminology can be viewed through an anti-feminist lens since it can also be used to discuss harmful stereotypes of femininity.
And according to Psychology Today, if "toxic femininity" does exist, then these "tactics" or "behaviors" were used to survive oppressive misogyny.
But while there is absolutely nothing wrong with being these things in your own life, it's a problem when a person is pressured or suggested to do these "feminine" things when, in fact, it does not align with their values or needs.
1. "My wife could not produce enough milk for our children. When our first was born, she tried and tried. I woke up in the middle of the night to her crying. She felt like she was a horrible mom to even bring up the formula. There is so much pressure on moms, and it is incredibly stupid. Our kids are very well adjusted and were on formula the entire time. I tell anyone who is expecting their first that the only 'right' way is the 'right way for that child.' Damn everyone else’s opinions; do what is best for your family, not the mommy bloggers."
3. "Moms bullying other moms."
4. "Women who throw other women under the bus for a man, or the attention of a man, etc."
"This. This has been a reoccurring theme throughout my life. I even had to go to therapy because it was happening so much that I started to think that I was the problem.
I had a friend who was in love with this one guy, I got to meet him finally, and we were all hanging out, and everyone went to sleep, and he wanted to show me his Pirates of the Caribbean collection in his room. As soon as I turned around, he pulled down his pants and was there just completely naked from the waist down. I told her, and she blamed me for leading him on???"
5. "A teacher who tells you to 'act like a lady' when you show assertiveness. An acquaintance who says you haven’t found love because men find your confidence 'intimidating.' A social media influencer who says 'real women have curves.' A newspaper article criticizing a female celebrity for having hair on their legs and underarms. A manager or colleague who not-so-subtly suggests you wear more makeup to the office."
7. "Mothers shaming C-Section moms saying they didn’t give birth because the child was surgically removed."
8. "'You look like a boy with your short hair.' 'Don't go to the gym. You'll look like a man when your muscles get too big.' 'Act dumb because men don't like smart women.' 'Women don't need an education.' 'Marry a guy with solid income.' 'You have to shave your armpits and legs to be feminine.'"
9. "Mothers telling women without kids that their life is meaningless and they can’t understand true love."
11. "That single women should be sad."
13. "Women putting other women down for their choices in both clothing and lifestyle. To bring up an example here: My mom was a stay-at-home mother, and I had to see her get humiliated by working moms my whole life. There is nothing wrong with leading a life the way you deem it best, and I know my mom worked hard to make sure I never missed out on anything. It's so hurtful to see women with other priorities call her lazy just because they put more 'work' into something else. Or, people assume she is not educated because of her choice of career. The woman has a PhD, and she never bragged about it once."
14. "Plus-size women have to be hyper-feminine to be taken seriously."
"It is so weird that that is a thing. I’m plus size, and every store with plus-size clothes is so feminine. Super low-cut shirts, too. And I am just not like that. Sometimes, it’s fun…but also, where are the T-shirts, comfy hoodies, etc.?"
15. "Making assumptions that other women have the same physical/body insecurities and ideals as they do (e.g. flat stomach, butts and boobs, facial features, etc.). The pressure to be an unattainable, nebulous kind of 'perfect,' or at least the assumption that all women want to strive for that or feel this way."
17. "Mothers bragging about not getting an epidural for delivering a baby. I watched while they all acted like they were so great for not getting one. It totally got to my wife who refused it for too long out of feeling weak or less than, and she had absolutely torturous labor. It made me furious."
18. "Middle-aged women slut shaming, body shaming younger women for showing off their bodies."
"I would say this is an ‘all ages’ thing. I never got picked on more for what I wore/my body than in middle school, and again as a young mom. Both of those times were from peers around my age."
19. "My stepmother insists women make bad leaders because 'they' aren’t as intelligent or rational. She makes every decision in their house, overtly, and if need be, covertly."
Do you have an example of what "toxic femininity" is? If so, tell us below.
This post has been updated.