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What is Toxic Femininity? And how can we overcome this problem? Can we tackle this issue by breaking the gender stereotypes?
In a bustling corporate boardroom, a meeting vividly highlighted two contrasting scenarios. As a seasoned finance head, Jeet* was known for his domineering demeanour, often riding rough-shod over colleagues’ opinions to assert his authority. His aggressive behaviour perpetuated a culture of fear and stifled collaboration.
Conversely, Sana*, an accomplished marketing professional, consistently downplayed her accomplishments, deflected praise, and avoided speaking her mind, fearing she might come across as “bossy”. This self-sabotaging behaviour not only hindered her own progress but also sent a disempowering message to her female peers and team members.
The stark juxtaposition between Gagan’s overt dominance and Sara’s self-limiting tendencies highlights the complexities of toxic behaviours in both genders. While Gagan’s toxic masculinity thrives on assertion and aggression, Sarah’s toxic femininity manifests through self-doubt and excessive compliance.
While organisations recognise and try to address the perils of the former, the subtler yet equally detrimental impact of the latter escapes scrutiny and attention.
Toxic femininity refers to behaviours, attitudes, and expectations that adhere to traditional gender roles in ways that are detrimental to individuals and society. These examples perpetuate harmful stereotypes, hinder progress, and reinforce inequality.
Here are some real-world instances of toxic femininity in different contexts and how they contribute to adverse outcomes:
This undermines their credibility, diminishes their authority, positions them as submissive and perpetuates the notion that women should be accommodative, hindering their career advancement.
Men, on the other hand, are not expected to fulfil the same roles. This unequal distribution of responsibilities can lead to emotional burnout and hinder women’s personal growth and autonomy.
This is evident in the beauty and fashion industries, where women are pressured to adhere to specific body types and wear makeup to be considered attractive. This hyper-feminisation objectifies women and reduces their worth to their looks, propagating the harmful idea that a woman’s value is determined by her appearance rather than her skills or intellect.
The journey towards dismantling toxic femininity begins with self-awareness. Recognise moments when you succumb to self-limiting beliefs or societal pressures. Cultivate self-empowerment by silencing your inner critic and embracing your inherent worth.
In challenging toxic femininity, also extend your efforts to those around you. Champion inclusivity, uplift diverse voices, and promote a holistic understanding of femininity.
Here are some common signs of Toxic Femininity within yourself and strategies you can use to overcome them:
Constantly seeking approval and prioritising others’ needs over your own leads to a lack of self-worth and personal fulfilment. You can overcome this by setting boundaries. Practise setting healthy boundaries to prioritise your own needs and well-being.
Feeling the need to suppress emotions like anger or assertiveness in order to conform to traditional gender norms. You can overcome the same by allowing yourself to set healthy boundaries to prioritise your own needs and well-being.
Striving for perfection to meet societal expectations can result in unrealistic standards and high-stress levels. Make self-reflection a regular habit—assess your behaviours, thoughts, and beliefs to identify any patterns of toxic femininity.
Relying heavily on others for decision-making and validation hinders your personal growth and decision-making abilities. Develop an independent mindset; cultivate your decision-making skills and independence to foster personal growth.
How to identify and challenge toxic femininity? Here are 4 strategies that will equip you with awareness to help you fight off this problem.
Engaging in harmful gossip and undermining others to assert dominance reflects low self-esteem. Help others overcome this by engaging in open and respectful conversations about gender roles, stereotypes, and the harmful effects of toxic femininity.
Constantly comparing yourself to others and engaging in unhealthy competition indicates poor self-worth. Promote empowerment by highlighting the benefits of supporting each other’s achievements instead of engaging in unhealthy competition.
People with a victim mindset beat around the bush and use indirect communication to manipulate or control situations. You can change this by modelling healthy behaviour. Lead by example by demonstrating authenticity, assertiveness, and self-empowerment.
Holding rigid beliefs about how women should behave and criticising those who deviate from these norms is the most common form of toxic femininity. You can change this by encouraging self-expression—create an environment encouraging others to express their emotions and thoughts freely.
The task of dismantling entails self-empowerment, assertiveness, and authenticity. Breaking free from toxic femininity involves embracing qualities that empower individuals, regardless of gender.
Education plays a pivotal role in challenging and dismantling toxic femininity. Raising awareness about the negative consequences of adhering to rigid gender norms helps individuals understand the importance of change.
Open dialogues about gender roles, stereotypes, and their impact facilitate a more inclusive and accepting society. Discussions in families, schools, workplaces, and communities will create an environment where people can challenge and overcome toxic femininity together.
Toxic femininity is not an immutable reality; it’s a construct we can reshape. Understanding and acknowledging its existence, advocating for change, and fostering open dialogue will pave the way for a more equitable and inclusive society—a future where gender norms no longer define or confine an individual’s potential.
* Fictional names used for example purposes.
Image source: CanvaPro
Smita Das Jain is a writer by passion who writes every day. Samples of her writing are visible in the surroundings around her — her home office, her sunny terrace garden, her husband’s car and read more...
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Does Ranbir Kapoor expressing his preferences about Alia using lipstick really make him a toxic husband?
Sometime back, a video of Alia Bhatt with Vogue went viral where she shares her go-to make-up routine and her unique way to apply lipstick. It went viral not for the quirkiness but because she said that after applying the lipstick, she “rubs it off” because her then boyfriend and now husband – Ranbir Kapoor likes her natural lip colour and asks her to “wipe it off”, whenever they are out on a date night.
Netizens had gone crazy over this video, calling RK toxic and not respecting AB’s choice to wear makeup. I saw the video a couple of times to understand the reason behind the uproar but I failed to understand it. I read many comments and saw people saying that asking your partner or dictating terms on how they should wear makeup is a major sign to leave the person.
Modesty or humility is viewed as the hallmark of a well-brought-up girl, which makes it hard for us to be open to any real compliments without feeling like an imposter.
Why is accepting that compliment so hard?
Colleagues: Have you lost weight? You look good!
She (who has spent months doing Keto and weights): It’s the dress that’s making me look thinner!
Guests: Your house is so beautiful and neat!
She (who spent the last five hours mopping and polishing): It could be tidier; there is just so much dust.
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