Toxic Femininity, 25 July 2021
Kicking off our Women with Words Recap series with our recent meeting on toxic femininity!
As a platform that provides a safe space for women and girls to express themselves and deliver their speeches, this was a particularly hot topic to discuss. And as the term is still relatively new – with varying definitions depending on race, gender, nationality, and religion – we found it to be a complex realm that has many parallels with toxic masculinity.
Here’s a definition we found that most comprehensively sums up toxic femininity:
“Toxic femininity is a narrow and repressive description of womanhood, designating womanhood as defined by cooperation, sexual subservience, status, and passivity. It’s the cultural ideal of womanliness, where the ability to please is everything while troublesomeness is a weakness; where beauty and the ability to make men feel good are yardsticks by which women are measured, while supposedly “masculine” traits—which can range from expressing anger to sexual independence—are the means by which your status as “woman” can be taken away.”
Snekha Rao is the founder of InSilence – a mental health support group and community that speaks on various topics and brings awareness to both subtle and taboo topics. They are the ears, shoulders and voices that will help you get through your rough days and raise the awareness they need to.
- Every woman, whether knowingly or not, has submitted to and/or practiced in toxic femininity at some point in their lives. The most important thing is to be aware of the signs, identify them, and then learn how to “unlearn” them. Trust and understand yourself – including your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT analysis) – don’t self-punish, and DO NOT allow other people’s judgment to negatively affect you.
- We unconsciously “genderise” traits to our own detriment. We associate being “feminine” as caring, empathetic, kind, etc. These associations then become the norm of “what is” or what is “expected” of women. So when we fall short of these expectations, we get punished for it, not just by men but by other women as well. For example, women who are assertive are seen as bossy, women who set boundaries are seen as selfish, and women who are independent are seen as bitter – but men who exhibit these traits are respected for it. This makes it more difficult for women to access more opportunities that benefit them in the long run.
- Our own achievements are not diminished by others’. We all have the ability to succeed without having to bring other women down. The prejudices and biases we hold today are a result of institutionalised and internalised misogyny. But despite the difficulties, we can all be better and do better for our female sisters.
Takeaways contributed by Seak to Speak members: Aissa and Alison
What is Women with Words?
Women with Words is a platform, within the Seek to Speak community, where women and girls can deliver their speeches based on a theme, share their ideas, and obtain feedback. We aim to create a safe and supportive space for women and girls to express themselves. In the process, we also hope to build confident female speakers through speech practice, a supportive community, as well as meaningful group discussions.