Saturday, May 21, 2022

Toxic Femininity

Somehow or other I missed this column when it was first published four years ago. Now, the highly estimable Meghan Daum has reposted it on Twitter, so we have a good excuse to discuss it.

It even resonates with a defamation trial currently being played out in Virginia. You know which trial it is. I am barely cognizant of it all, because I do not care about either of the antagonists. If you do, all the best to you.

The strange part of the trial is that, what with the flurry of accusations of assault, abuse and harassment, presumably visited by each side on the other, the world seems largely to have risen up to defend the male litigant and to denounce the female defendant. 

I have no idea why this is so, but I do recall that the average male serial killer has groupies lining up to serve his needs while the average female abuser cannot get a date.

Anyway, Daum has enlightened us on a matter that I would never dare to expose. It is not because I do not know about any of it, but because some topics are best left to the distaff gender. Dare I note that this column might feel slightly dated. It appeared at a time when people seemed to understand the difference between men and women. Oh, those halcyon days!

Anyway, Daum opens with an imaginary poll. Let’s imagine, she says, that we are polling a group of women, and that they are being honest-- of course-- and we ask them to following questions:

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.

Well, I cannot answer for the women who were being polled, but certainly much of this sounds familiar. It gives us the impression that once liberated women became strong and empowered, lo and behold, they chose to punish and abuse men. One might say that they arrogated the right to abuse men, because they needed to make up for centuries of patriarchal misogyny. Obviously, if there was less misogyny than they imagine, they look a lot worse. Thus, denouncing patriarchy might serve to rationalize a lot of bad behavior.

Dare we mention that much of this womanly abuse does not leave marks, so people could easily ignore it. And besides, a man who has been abused by a woman is far less likely to go public.

So, Daum arrives at the point of noting that while we are all viscerally opposed to toxic masculinity, we tend to ignore toxic femininity. Ignore it or not, we have managed to divide the sexes into devils and angels, into one group that can do no right and one that can do no wrong. 

There are minor forms of feminine toxins, like blaming irrational temper tantrums on “being hormonal” or feigning helplessness in order to get what you want. And there are major toxins, many having to do with weaponizing your fragility so that those to whom you cause harm have a difficult time defending themselves, lest they look like the aggressors. Women, of course, can unleash these tactics on other women, be they romantic partners or not. But for the sake of this discussion, let’s say we are talking about women and men and sex. We’ve established that many men are socially conditioned to think that women owe them sex. But what about the women that assume that men should be grateful for any sex they get?

We are all aware, more than we would like, of men who take advantage of women, who force themselves on women, who blackmail women into having sex when they do not really want to do it. But, how aware are we of the contrary, of women who coerce or trick men into having sex-- perhaps even to get pregnant, accidentally, of course:

A remarkable number of men have told me about times when women approached them and, often wordlessly, initiated sexual encounters without the slightest provocation or questions asked. I’ve heard, more than once, about unsolicited hand jobs on school buses when they were boys. Also, more than once, men have told me about past grade school camping trips or overnight parties wherein girls they barely knew slipped into their sleeping bags or beds. In some cases, the men were happy to oblige the women’s desires. In other cases, though, they went through with the encounters because they didn’t want to make an awkward situation even more awkward.

So, Daum recommends that we start treating women as though they were human beings. What a novel notion? One must notice that this division of the sexes into angels and devils seems to have been the direct consequence of feminism:

And that is why #BelieveWomen, with its suggestion that women are some monolithic entity that is inherently more moral, innocent, or trustworthy than men, is not just reductive but insulting. Women are not simple, guileless creatures to whom only the most innocent motives should ever be ascribed. Both sexes contain multitudes. 

Would you like more examples? Daum offers them:

I know men who, amid contentious divorce proceedings, have been accused, preposterously, of spousal and child abuse. I know women who are so skilled in the dark art of gaslighting that the targets of their mind games, be it boyfriends or BFFs, don’t stand a chance. Once, while working with high school students, I overheard some girls joking to one another about how they were going to go out that night and “hit on older guys who don’t know we’re underage and later be like ‘Dude, you’re a pedophile.’”

You’ve come a long way, baby! 

Obviously, these behaviors do not involve brute force. They rarely involve direct physical assault. But, in terms of moral assault and harassment and abuse, they are appalling. If you were wondering why men and women no longer get along, you must conclude that the fault lies on both sides of the gender divide. 


Anonymous said...

Women are more devious and more prone to lie about these things than men. Not because men are so upstanding but that men would rather throw the truth in your face and dare you to make him take it back. Whereas women would rather lie and deceive and not face a conflict straight
on. I always assume the women is lying either completely or to some degree because that is their nature. As for Ms. Heard trial her accusations follow the female lies playbook and is just not believable

autothreads said...

the average female abuser cannot get a date.

I'm not so sure about that.

One could argue that a lot of women who do get dates are in fact abusing men, expecting food and gifts while taking an indifferent, at best, attitude towards reciprocating with attention or affection. Search on "tinder dinner".

When a woman has the looks that Amber Heard has had, even if she is known to be abusive there will never be a shortage of men willing to simp for her. See Elon Musk.