I recently commented on an article suggesting what had been described as toxic femininity was actually women playing their role in toxic masculinity. It was met with exuberance from women and disdain by some men.
I want to explain why toxic femininity does not exist while also removing men from sole responsibility for toxic masculinity.
First, I would like to say I am not the ‘masculinity/femininity’ police, but I am using definitions of these words far beyond the silliness of the Webster or Oxford dictionary definitions. I didn’t create these expanded definitions of masculinity and femininity that I will touch on in this article. There have been many great minds over thousands of years who have studied and written about these defining characteristics that are more than apparent in humanity and easily identifiable. I am pulling from many years of reading many books so I will not take credit for creating any concept in this article. I would also like to say that categories piss me off. I find them tiresome, lacking intelligence and creativity, and mostly avoidant of becoming all that you can be. But, alas, our world has embraced categories, and so you have to meet people where they are. With that said, I will not reduce down to the absurd categories of masculine and feminine given by Webster and Oxford, though I think it is important to ponder why those very negligible definitions exist in the first place. That would be another article.
Masculinity and femininity are both inherently useful and necessary. They also have nothing to do with male and female, and absolutely nothing at all to do with genitalia in all its many forms.
The masculine qualities of humanity encompass autonomy, self-direction, goal-orientation, one-minded focus, cause-and-effect linear thinking which has now become synonymously defined as rational thinking. The feminine qualities of humanity encompass collaboration, consequences of outcomes, connection of all things, creativity, and emotional intelligence.
When you see these qualities laid out, it is easy to see why autonomous goal-directed activity can certainly be purposeful and celebrated. However, when it is not led in a direction that is meant to be collaborative and in constant examination of the consequences of that action, then it is no longer purposeful and will likely become destructive in its lack of awareness of its impact.
Self-direction is necessary to be able to be creative, but the tendency of people to lean into cause-and-effect linear thinking only utilizes data already presented. That data is usually just a repetition from what you experienced before, what you were told, or in the case of a new exciting discovery, what nature already does. This masculine quality of linear thinking does not promote creativity, nor does it promote sustainability because its actions eventually succumb to the unclaimed consequences it leaves in its wake.
If you cannot entertain all possible outcomes of an action’s impact, which is a feminine quality, there is no outward expansion in growth, only linear expansion which drops the connection to all other things along the way and results in ultimate failure.
However, and unfortunately so, that failure will have already amassed much praise before the negative consequences emerge because of our love of goal completion. It is that praise that keeps this masculine quality of autonomous linear thinking, with all its shortcomings, in the limelight.
One of the most significant contributions of femininity, and the core of all its other gifts, is its emotional intelligence. You cannot be wise without emotional intelligence which is why almost all ancient scriptures of all religions personify wisdom as female. Without emotional intelligence, you can merely be repetitive of what you have done before, or what you like to deem as logical or rational though it is actually redundant and stagnant. Emotional intelligence comes directly from constantly examining the consequences of outcomes, the willingness to experience the negative emotions of unwanted consequences, and then creatively adapting. In many ways, this one superpower, emotional intelligence, initiates, supports, invigorates, and catapults humanity into a successful growth process.
Okay, if femininity is so fantastic, what happened? Why all the haters?
Well, it turns out another aspect of masculine qualities is the byproduct of established hierarchies. I don’t mean hierarchy as in ancestral lineages, but rankings of what is good and bad. Hierarchies promote measurements. We all know how many numbers are attached to us by the time we reach adulthood. Hierarchical thinking and measurement help to solidify when a goal has been reached. Enter greed and the desire for power. Patriarchal societies naturally produced certain people who, consumed in greed and desire for power, soon figured out if we can thwart feminine qualities, people are predictable and controllable. Many got on board, permeated every area of existence from education to religion to politics, and exclaimed that the masculine qualities within us were the desired qualities to possess and exhibit. They knew that the masculine qualities have no real direction without the guidance of the expansive outlook of our feminine qualities.
The patriarchal society now infiltrated with toxic masculinity (meaning the absence of the balancing feminine not masculinity as toxic) can then setup the goals everyone has to reach, the reward system for those achieved goals, and TA-DA!!
The imaginary hierarchy that now measures you and keeps everything predictable and controllable is created and self-sustaining.
If we were to harness our own creativity and collaborate collectively, we could not be controlled by any one force because we are able to consider all outcomes rather than being directed to only one outcome of some hierarchical step-by-step process.
How did tainted patriarchal systems ever sell us this path?
It started way back when. They made women bad. They made women wrong. They burned women at the stake who exhibited these very strong qualities of emotional intelligence and were intuitively able to see outcomes and consequences of outcomes. They laid these feminine qualities onto the female body and then stated the female body was bad. That simple. That’s how it began. It is certainly much more complex now as we have begun to break down gender, therefore these same qualities begin to get folded under new labels so they can still be downplayed. This hurt everyone. This continues to hurt everyone.
Why can’t we just balance? I mean, what’s the holdup?
The hesitancy is because feminine qualities are some serious work and some serious responsibility that require some serious courage. Masculine qualities are a whole lot simpler. They also feel better because (this example is for the sake of simplicity), if I just complete the goal, I not only feel good, I am good! The catch is, the feminine qualities are much required to tend to the masculine qualities when they do not feel good which is often, literally daily. When under constant measurement, you are going to miss a lot of goals! If you have no emotional intelligence, you have no ability to examine what that missed goal is showing you and how to truly correct it by adjusting, adapting, and thus, growing. You instead look at the hierarchy for orders on what to do. This is what fuels the very despicable but ever-pervasive human behavior of manipulation. Manipulation is the avoidance of an unwanted emotion by dumping onto another or pretending it doesn’t exist; or creating an emotion you prefer in another for your own ends. Had a bad day? A cold beer will fix it! Not only is that not true, it is manipulating by making you feel victimized by a real emotional experience and offering a different, and more susceptible, mindset.
Manipulation is a direct result of toxic masculinity regardless of the physical body that acts it out.
The process for equalizing your own feminine and masculine qualities is the same for all genders, for whatever the word gender is worth in today’s world. Your body does not change this process except that you may have already had more freedom to begin developing your own masculine and feminine qualities than others. Circle back now to why toxic femininity doesn’t exist.
When we see the types of examples often given of women that are being touted as toxic, this is actually women struggling with their own toxic masculinity — their own internal imbalance.
It is women who are trying to be autonomous, ignoring their consequences, and downplaying their emotions or their partner’s emotions in order to avoid consequences or avoid changing course from their autonomous goal. It is their own masculine qualities that are not abiding and seeking guidance from their own feminine qualities.
That is what toxic masculinity is regardless of what your body looks like. Men have been led to believe by infiltrated patriarchal systems that they do not have feminine qualities so that they can be more malleable and controlled. Women have been led to believe they only have feminine qualities which are undesirable so that they can be more malleable and controlled. As gender breaks down, more labels are being subdivided and branded with these human qualities in order to make you more malleable and controlled.
When you have the masculine qualities of autonomy, linear thinking, one minded goals, and reason, all in service to your creative, expansive, collaborative feminine qualities, you are fully empowered, and nothing can overpower you, not internally anyway (yes, that would be another article as well). You especially could not be overpowered by some silly missed goal or some ridiculous measurement attached to you. This empowerment would not fare well for the powers that be. No, no, humans that could sustain their own emotional self and quickly and efficiently adapt to collaboratively and compassionately caring for one another is not controllable because it needs less control in general. It already acts in the interest of all humanity.
We are a very long way away from that existence as a society, but as an individual, you can start that work now.
Globally, we are all struggling with toxic masculinity, or more truthfully, the absence of our superpower in femininity. This is not just on men, but surely it will be harder for men to do the work as this world has stolen your rights to your own fullness of being human through belittling, degradation, and an empty promise of a top level position of an imaginary hierarchy.
For the women who have signed onto toxic masculinity, whether due to the fear of having to deal with your own emotional injuries or the fear of letting go of manipulation that toxic masculinity taught you, Do Your Work. The embracing of our qualities of femininity is the path to ownership of ourselves, and it requires a courage far beyond any courage you have had to have before. Emotions are not for the faint of heart. They are, however, for the Wise. At the end of this article I am inserting a quote by Albert Einstein I pulled from the book “Stop Missing Your Life” by Cory Muscara (a great book to begin this journey into your feminine qualities. No, I don’t know Cory and I’m not being paid to plug his book).
This quote is written to the He’s of the world. I used to be bothered by how so many great minds over the millenias have always written with the pronoun reference of He in all their writings. But now I realize that the great minds were writing from the wisdom of their feminine qualities to the ill-fated, undirected masculine qualities that needed the lessons.
Here’s the quote that, without calling it feminine (because we know what derision that begets), Einstein touches on those feminine qualities of connectedness, collaboration, and compassion which can only be fostered through that most magnificent feminine quality of emotional intelligence. Einstein actually has many quotes I could have used here. He is a great example of a human who lived in the creative expansion of feminine qualities while using his masculine qualities to direct the path toward various goals within that expansion. Guess what I’m saying is….if you won’t believe me, believe Einstein.
“A human being is part of the whole, called by us “Universe;” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”