#MeToo Will Not Survive Unless We Recognize Toxic Femininity
Women are not monolithic. Pretending they are holds everyone back.
Sometimes I wish I could gather up all the women I’ve ever known, or encountered, and conduct this informal poll:
Raise your hand if you’ve ever behaved badly and blamed it on your period.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever acted helpless in the face of an unpleasant-if-not-physically-demanding task like dealing with a wild animal that’s gotten inside the house.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever coerced a man into sex even though he didn’t seem to really want it.
Raise your hand if you’ve thought you were at liberty to do this coercing because men “always want it” and should feel lucky any time they get it.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever threatened to harm yourself if a man breaks up with you or doesn’t want to see you anymore.
Raise your hand if you’ve been physically abusive with a male partner, knowing you’d be unlikely to face any legal consequences.
Raise your hand if you’ve lied about being on birth control, or faked a pregnancy scare, to see how a man would respond.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever manipulated a divorce or child custody dispute in your favor by falsely insinuating that a man has been abusive toward you or your child.
In this hypothetical gathering of every woman I’ve ever known or encountered (I’m imagining a football stadium at decent capacity), I’m certain there is not a single one of these questions that, if answered honestly, wouldn’t send hands into the air. Including my own. I know I’m guilty on the pest control front. I don’t want to think too hard about some of the others.
We hear all too much about toxic masculinity, that amorphous term that refers to the way traits like aggression and emotional repression are baked into male social norms. It also frequently shows up in online feminism as lazy shorthand for registering disapproval of just about anything men do at all. But when are we going to grant equal rights to women and admit that toxic femininity also exists and can be just as poisonous?