What is toxic femininity?

A while back we defined the term “toxic masculinity” and discussed the ways in which it impacts both men’s health and the wellbeing of others. However, an often-neglected concept is regarding the toxicity of certain hyperfeminine characteristics of women and others who uphold these beliefs. Toxic femininity is a term that has recently gained some momentum. It refers to traits, beliefs, and behaviors of women that include shaming and discourage women and others from expressing their emotions and dismissing aggression. Toxic femininity, like toxic masculinity, upholds rigid and inflexible rules for gender performance and often tends to be exclusionary of people of diverse masculine and feminine experiences.

How does toxic femininity affect me?

Like toxic masculinity, toxic feminism is a radical and exclusionary mindset on gender and gender performance. This has impacts on both the people who hold these beliefs as well as others in society. Toxic femininity has been shown to be associated with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression and internalized misogyny (i.e., the ingrained prejudice of women). Moreover, toxic femininity has also been associated with homophobia, transphobia, and aggression. Further impacts of toxic femininity may include the promotion of making women submissive which may affect their ability and confidence to overcome hurdles such as the glass ceiling, and in turn also reinforces beliefs of toxic masculinity.

How to challenge and overcome toxic masculinity?

We all have different biases about gender (as well as other characteristics). The problem is when we give into our biases and begin believing them and behaving in harmful ways that impact these groups of people. The biggest way to challenge and combat toxic femininity is to challenge the biases we have about women and others of feminine experiences. Take time to unlearn these harmful beliefs. Then, become an advocate for people toxic femininity oppresses, like women of color and transgender women. Seeing a therapist can also be helpful when
challenging these as well other toxic beliefs and behaviors.

This page is part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.


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