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Old 05-12-2019, 03:19 PM
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"Toxic masculinity" and "toxic femininity." Real things or sexist mumbo-jumbo.


Toxic masculinity:
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Originally Posted by from Wikipedia
In psychology, toxic masculinity refers to traditional cultural masculine norms that can be harmful to men, women, and society overall; this concept of toxic masculinity is not intended to demonize men or male attributes, but rather to emphasize the harmful effects of conformity to certain traditional masculine ideal behaviors such as dominance, self-reliance, and competition.[3][4] Toxic masculinity is thus defined by adherence to traditional male gender roles that restrict the kinds of emotions allowable for boys and men to express, including social expectations that men seek to be dominant (the "alpha male") and limit their emotional range primarily to expressions of anger.[5] Some traditionally prescribed masculine behaviors can produce such harmful effects as violence (including sexual assault and domestic violence), promiscuity, risky and/or socially irresponsible behaviors including substance abuse, and dysfunction in relationships.[1][6]

In a gender studies context, Raewyn Connell argues that toxic practices such as physical violence may serve to reinforce men's dominance over women in Western societies. She argues that such practices are a salient feature of what she terms hegemonic masculinity, although not always the defining features.[7] Terry Kupers of The Wright Institute school of psychology defines toxic masculinity as "the constellation of socially regressive male traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia and wanton violence".[8][9] According to Kupers, toxic masculinity serves to outline aspects of hegemonic masculinity that are socially destructive, "such as misogyny, homophobia, greed, and violent domination". These traits are contrasted with more positive aspects of hegemonic masculinity such as "pride in [one's] ability to win at sports, to maintain solidarity with a friend, to succeed at work, or to provide for [one's] family".[8] Feminist author John Stoltenberg, however, has argued that all traditional notions of masculinity are toxic and ultimately reinforce the oppression of women.[10]
I can't find a formal definition of toxic femininity. But I did find this piece that takes a thoughtful stab at defining the term:

Quote:
It is a way for women to exercise violence in sneakier ways that the more overt violent tactics that are used by men, via passive aggression, person to person manipulation and systemic manipulation of victim complexes and protected identities, and funneling of persons to violence by its counterpart- toxic masculinity.
What inspired this thread was this hit piece against Meghan McCain: Meghan McCain is the very definition of toxic femininity.

Questions:

1. Do you agree with either of these concepts? Do you think there are traditional gender norms that are damaging to individuals and society as a whole? Or are people just trying to find a pseudo-intellectual way of describing "asshole"?

2. Do you agree with one but NOT the other? Toxic masculinity is talked about much more frequently than toxic femininity. I can see how someone might see how pushing both concepts into the discourse is a way to just play the lame "both sides" card, thereby diffusing blame. I can also see how someone might see "toxic femininity" as a constellation of behaviors that society has always looked down upon, whereas "toxic masculinity" is tightly wrapped around qualities that are widely esteemed. Like stoicism, self-reliance, and competitiveness. In contrast, "mean girls" might be tolerated, but apart from Scarlett O'Hara they have never been put up on a pedestal or held up as a paragon of virtue. So I can see how while someone might agree that there's "toxicity" on both sides, they may think addressing one requires more of a sea change than the other.

3. Do you agree that Meghan McCain embodies "toxic femininity"? Personally, I don't know. I don't watch the View very often and I don't know a lot about her. However, from the article's description of her flying into tearful rages whenever she's criticized, it certainly sounds like she defends herself through emotional manipulation and victimhood, and I do think those are "toxic" traits. Seems to me a person with that kind of style would not be well-suited for the media limelight, but there she is, on national TV. And I guess by calling the problem "toxic femininity" rather than "histrionic asshole", those who are inclined to feel sympathy for her might step back and examine if they are responding more to a socially engrained cue (female tears) than a dispassionate analysis of facts. I think the article is good for at least being brave enough to pin a face to the "toxic femininity" label, even if I'm unsure whether Meghan McCain is the type specimen of this classification.
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Old 05-12-2019, 03:23 PM
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For 1), absolutely, at least for toxic masculinity. And I don't doubt that there are negative factors to traditional notions of femininity as well -- notions that women are incapable of being handy or mechanical, for example. I'm not sure if I've heard the term "toxic femininity", though.

I don't know enough about McCain to comment on her specifically.
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Old 05-12-2019, 03:28 PM
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1. Do you agree with either of these concepts? Do you think there are traditional gender norms that are damaging to individuals and society as a whole? Or are people just trying to find a pseudo-intellectual way of describing "asshole"?
Absolutely. There are pretty awful ways that folks enforce gender norms on each other and on themselves, and doing so causes a lot of misery in the world.
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2. Do you agree with one but NOT the other? Toxic masculinity is talked about much more frequently than toxic femininity.
Whatever term it's called by, toxic femininity describes a real constellation of behaviors.
Quote:
3. Do you agree that Meghan McCain embodies "toxic femininity"? Personally, I don't know.
I'll read the article, but she's not someone I've ever given much thought to.
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Old 05-12-2019, 04:00 PM
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If we agree that there exist unpleasant traits more peculiar to men than to women, and if we agree there exist unpleasant traits more common to women than to men, and if we agree that one’s “toxicity”, in this context, can be determined by measuring the extent to which one exhibits these traits, then I’d answer “Yes, yes, and I don’t know”.

The complicating factor is that one can’t just say “Behaviour X is objectively good or bad”. That’s a subjective value judgement, and it’s entirely situational. The question is, or should be, “Why is this person engaging in this behaviour?” If it’s for purely selfish reasons (like, say, blaming an innocent person for your mistake to get out of a well-deserved punishment), then I think it’s fair to call that instance of behaviour a “toxic display”. But to say a behaviour is, by definition, toxic is overly simplistic.

In other words, I think “toxic masculinity” and “toxic femininity” are, indeed, just pseudo-intellectual ways of describing people who act like assholes.
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Old 05-12-2019, 04:11 PM
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Do you agree with either of these concepts? Do you think there are traditional gender norms that are damaging to individuals and society as a whole? Or are people just trying to find a pseudo-intellectual way of describing "asshole"?
I think being an asshole is mostly behavior on the individual level. When we start talking about behavior that is not only widely accepted but is actively encouraged then we're talking about established norms of behavior. And, yes, I think we can argue that some of the established norms of masculinity are certainly harmful to individuals and society as a whole. Homosexuals and especially transgender individuals have certainly suffered greatly because they don't adhere to expected gender norms here in the United States. The Antebellum South was a fairly violent place where men were at risk of having an eye gouged out or a testicle ripped off in a fight to preserve their honor.


Quote:
Do you agree with one but NOT the other? Toxic masculinity is talked about much more frequently than toxic femininity. I can see how someone might see how pushing both concepts into the discourse is a way to just play the lame "both sides" card, thereby diffusing blame.
I think there's usually a translation problem when one takes an academic concept and tries to use it when talking to lay people. (I see the same problem with privilege which I am a fan of.) People using toxic masculinity sometimes wield it as a club in arguments and sometimes they use the term incorrectly. People who aren't in academia hear the phrase toxic masculinity and think it refers to any and all behaviors we associate with men.

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I can also see how someone might see "toxic femininity" as a constellation of behaviors that society has always looked down upon, whereas "toxic masculinity" is tightly wrapped around qualities that are widely esteemed.
A lot of people would argue that Meghan McCain's behavior is just an example of her working within a system she didn't create. i.e. Hate the game not the player. But then women are sometimes judged more harshly or in a different light than males who exhibit similar traits. I've certainly met plenty of men who played the victim when you call them on their bullshit but I generally wouldn't ascribe that to a gendered behavior like some people are doing with McCain.

Quote:
Seems to me a person with that kind of style would not be well-suited for the media limelight, but there she is, on national TV. And I guess by calling the problem "toxic femininity" rather than "histrionic asshole", those who are inclined to feel sympathy for her might step back and examine if they are responding more to a socially engrained cue (female tears) than a dispassionate analysis of facts.
I once asked the same question as you. When is someone just being an asshole and when is it endemic to group behavior? I'm not sure I came up with a satisfactory question back then either.
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Old 05-12-2019, 04:25 PM
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Some new pop psychology term becomes trendy on the internet, toxic femininity" are simply the most recent examples. The same way "mansplaining" has been expanded to mean "anything a man says to woman" and "gaslighting" has been expanded to mean "disagreeing with someone on the details of something." The fad will pass and the phrases will fade to the background within a couple of years.
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Old 05-12-2019, 04:36 PM
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Do you think there are traditional gender norms that are damaging to individuals and society as a whole?
Very much yes.

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2. Do you agree with one but NOT the other?
Traditional gender norms are differently damaging to men, women, and others; but are damaging to all groups. So I say it's possible to agree with both without saying that they're the same.

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3. Do you agree that Meghan McCain embodies "toxic femininity"?
Have not been following what Meghan McCain's been doing.

Looking solely at the article posted: I think there's a risk of conflating the claim within it that McCain is a religious bigot, and the claim that her way of expressing this uses the methods of stereotypical female roles to do so. The article reads to me as if it's saying both of those things, and may not be separating them well. (It also reads to me as if I want to continue not to follow what Meghan McCain's been up to; except possibly in order to keep an eye on warning signs.)

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The complicating factor is that one can’t just say “Behaviour X is objectively good or bad”. That’s a subjective value judgement, and it’s entirely situational. .
I wouldn't say entirely situational. Human behavior can include, for instance, murdering one's spouse and kids. Are you saying we can't say that's bad behavior?

And while it may indeed be a value judgement to say 'people shouldn't be prevented from doing work that they're really good at and want to do just because they've got the "wrong" genitals for it': I think a reasonable claim can be made that it's objectively bad for the individual, who may well wind up miserable; and for the society, which loses out on what might have been a considerably useful talent.


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The question is, or should be, “Why is this person engaging in this behaviour?” If it’s for purely selfish reasons (like, say, blaming an innocent person for your mistake to get out of a well-deserved punishment), then I think it’s fair to call that instance of behaviour a “toxic display”. But to say a behaviour is, by definition, toxic is overly simplistic.

In other words, I think “toxic masculinity” and “toxic femininity” are, indeed, just pseudo-intellectual ways of describing people who act like assholes.
But what if the answer to "why is this person engaging in this behavior" is "because they've been taught that this is the way proper members of their gender are supposed to behave"?

--Darren Garrison, IME the people expanding those terms in that fashion are the people objecting to them. The people actually wanting to use them don't agree with the expanded meanings.

Re-defining what somebody else is saying in order to object to the re-definition is a pretty common arguing technique. Doesn't mean that it's a good one.
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Old 05-12-2019, 04:38 PM
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Sexist mumbo jumbo.
A person is a person, not a gender caricature.
Lousy human beings would probably be the same even if their biological sex was changed.
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Old 05-12-2019, 05:20 PM
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I think it’s real. After billion or so years of evolution why wouldn’t there be a diverse set of reproductive strategies that in some cases result in what appears to be sub optimal social behavior in the current era? Humans aren’t actually rational creatures.
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Old 05-12-2019, 05:35 PM
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I think it’s real. After billion or so years of evolution why wouldn’t there be a diverse set of reproductive strategies that in some cases result in what appears to be sub optimal social behavior in the current era? Humans aren’t actually rational creatures.
I see no reason to believe that these toxic behaviors are due to evolution rather than culture. Their presence in various cultures is highly variable, from being frowned upon to the norm.

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Old 05-12-2019, 06:01 PM
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I see no reason to believe that these toxic behaviors are due to evolution rather than culture. Their presence in various cultures is highly variable, from being frowned upon to the norm.
Even if toxic behaviors are coded into our DNA due to evolutionary forcing, that doesn't mean they can't be regulated.

For example, I have no problem accepting the idea that men are more likely to have a genetic predisposition towards aggression than women. But I also believe that aggressive males can learn how to handle their emotions so that their anger doesn't manifest into violence.
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Old 05-12-2019, 06:05 PM
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Even if toxic behaviors are coded into our DNA due to evolutionary forcing, that doesn't mean they can't be regulated.

For example, I have no problem accepting the idea that men are more likely to have a genetic predisposition towards aggression than women. But I also believe that aggressive males can learn how to handle their emotions so that their anger doesn't manifest into violence.
Good point. I don't mean to imply that there is absolutely zero biological difference, in brain chemistry, hormones, etc., between the biological sexes, just that the characteristics we're calling "toxic" are more driven by culture than biology.
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Old 05-12-2019, 07:45 PM
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I see no reason to believe that these toxic behaviors are due to evolution rather than culture. Their presence in various cultures is highly variable, from being frowned upon to the norm.
That’s your genes speaking! How does culture and other human artifacts even come into existence? By efforts of biological organisms governed by an evolved brain.
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Old 05-12-2019, 07:48 PM
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That’s your genes speaking! How does culture and other human artifacts even come into existence? By efforts of biological organisms governed by an evolved brain.
This sounds almost like a philosophical (fatalist) argument.

We can change our cultures, as we already have in many ways. We should continue to change them to minimize these kinds of toxic behaviors.

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Old 05-12-2019, 08:05 PM
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A lot of the toxicity of either expression comes from treating other people in a rigidly gendered way. Maintaining incredibly reductionistic and shitty views of the sex that is considered opposite.

90% of what remains is aimed at the same sex, and seems to take the form "If I've gotta compete in these masculinity (or femininity) sweepstakes, so do you, and yo, you're falling short and I'm gonna win brownie points by pointing out your shortcomings".

Some of what is described as toxic masculinity is a self-immersed race to the most aggressive and triumphant adversarial winner-position and if it ever had to do with how female folk viewed it that got lost in the endeavor. It's nearly all aimed at the same sex, shaming other males about not measuring up to masculinity standards (we forget why it mattered...)

A meaningful percentage of toxic femininity is about policing -- "if you break the rules you may screw things up for the rest of us". It is, after all, a patriarchy. You could perhaps argue that it is moving towards a post-patriarchal system but if so the transition is spanning multiple generations and not finished by any means. And because it has historically been a patriarchy, women's social postion even at best has been more dependent on marketing one's self within an attenuated list of possibilities, and the oppressed do tend to lash out horizontally for lack of being able to lash out otherwise; and any women who didn't play by girl rules of appropriate conduct could indeed mess up things for other women and were at least as often resented for it as admired for what they got away with.

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Old 05-12-2019, 09:41 PM
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I think they're dumb buzzwords and not conducive to constructive discussion of anything. Similar to "white privilege". We've had many years now of issues being debated using this kind of terminology and we are now MORE polarized and MORE divided than before.

The issues are real. The terminology is faulty and counterproductive.
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Old 05-12-2019, 09:48 PM
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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
Questions:

1. Do you agree with either of these concepts? Do you think there are traditional gender norms that are damaging to individuals and society as a whole? Or are people just trying to find a pseudo-intellectual way of describing "asshole"?
I completely disagree and view it all as a load of meaningless crap. I have never seen anyone take the sort of gibberish that's in that Wikipedia snippet, subject it to serious critical scrutiny and logical analysis, and still believe that it's valid intellectual material. To note just a few of the more obvious flaws:
In a gender studies context, Raewyn Connell argues that toxic practices such as physical violence may serve to reinforce men's dominance over women in Western societies.
So why does Raewyn Connell specifically say this about Western societies? Does Raewyn Connell think that there's no physical violence in non-Western societies? If so, I think we can debunk that pretty easily. Or does Raewyn Connell think that is non-Western societies, physical violence exists but does not reinforce men's dominance over women? If so, what's the logic there? Anyone familiar with the life of women in, for example, Afghanistan or Sudan knows that violence against women is common and quite obviously used to keep women down. There's nowhere in western society where it happens on the same scale that I know of. So why focus on "Western societies"?
In psychology, toxic masculinity refers to traditional cultural masculine norms that can be harmful to men, women, and society overall; this concept of toxic masculinity is not intended to demonize men or male attributes, but rather to emphasize the harmful effects of conformity to certain traditional masculine ideal behaviors such as dominance, self-reliance, and competition.
The obvious problem being that dominance, self-reliance, and competition are all good and necessary in some cases. Examples are so obvious that one feels rather strange stating them. To organize a military, a sports team, a government, or almost anything else, there must be some widely accepted dominance or certain individuals over others. Self-reliance? Why wouldn't we think it a good thing for a man to be self-reliant rather than sapping someone else's resources? And competition? Competition is what lead Isaac Newton to publish Principia Mathematica, Michael Jordan to become a great basketball player, and Steve Jobs to produce the iPhone.
...and limit their emotional range primarily to expressions of anger.
I am unaware of any social expectation that boys and men will do this.
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Old 05-12-2019, 09:50 PM
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Bill Burr is a hilarious comedian, the focus of much of his humor comes from his exposure throughout his young life of ‘toxic masculinity’. Of which, he acknowledges had a negative influence on his life. If you watch 20 years of his comedy it’s a path to being less angry and less ‘masculine’ in the way he was taught men should behave. He’s funny, because it comes from a place all men can relate to, but it is sad he and many other men are raised to think the way he thought.

Just a data point.
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Old 05-12-2019, 09:55 PM
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I think they're dumb buzzwords and not conducive to constructive discussion of anything. Similar to "white privilege". We've had many years now of issues being debated using this kind of terminology and we are now MORE polarized and MORE divided than before.

The issues are real. The terminology is faulty and counterproductive.
Wait, what? What is faulty and counterproductive about discussing ‘white privilege’ with that term?

You agree the issue is real, what should we call it?
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Old 05-12-2019, 09:55 PM
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...and limit their emotional range primarily to expressions of anger.
I am unaware of any social expectation that boys and men will do this.
Any male who has played a sport can remember the camaraderie, the mutually shared feelings of happiness when things are going well, and, ideally, expressions of encouragement from teammates when things aren't going well. It's not all anger and rage, even in the most full-contact of sports. The notion that boys are expected to limit their emotions to anger is bullshit.
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Old 05-12-2019, 10:42 PM
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Toxic feminity is definitely a thing. It's well noted, for instance, that bullying of girls by girls tends to be far more insidious and of a plausible-deniability nature, and in a way that prevents the victim from effectively being able to pinpoint or counteract against her bullies. A lot of women in the workplace also bully or suppress other women.
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Old 05-12-2019, 10:44 PM
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Wait, what? What is faulty and counterproductive about discussing ‘white privilege’ with that term?

You agree the issue is real, what should we call it?
Yeah, and same goes for "toxic masculinity" and "toxic femininity". If "the issues are real", then we have to call them something when we talk about them, don't we? I'm rather skeptical of the notion that racial and gender issues would be happily resolved by now if only we'd been using better "terminology" for them.

And besides, although I can see how somebody could misinterpret the term "toxic" as a personal insult, it's hard to think of a more mild and conciliatory expression than "white privilege" to describe the various social and cultural benefits that white people as a group derive from living in a historically and persistently racist society.

I mean, the term isn't "white selfishness" or "white stupidity" or "white arrogance" or even "white ignorance", all of which have at least some relevance to the impacts of societal racism on white people's assumptions and perceptions about racial issues. It's just pointing out, in about the most low-key way possible, that a society that was run for hundreds of years on the principle that white people are superior and must be treated as such is naturally going to perpetuate some residual benefits and advantages for the racial category of whiteness. Anybody who gets upset about an expression as gentle as "white privilege" has got some serious fragility issues.
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Old 05-12-2019, 10:53 PM
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However, from the article's description of her flying into tearful rages whenever she's criticized, it certainly sounds like she defends herself through emotional manipulation and victimhood, and I do think those are "toxic" traits. Seems to me a person with that kind of style would not be well-suited for the media limelight, but there she is, on national TV. And I guess by calling the problem "toxic femininity" rather than "histrionic asshole", those who are inclined to feel sympathy for her might step back and examine if they are responding more to a socially engrained cue (female tears) than a dispassionate analysis of facts. I think the article is good for at least being brave enough to pin a face to the "toxic femininity" label, even if I'm unsure whether Meghan McCain is the type specimen of this classification.
I know nothing about Meghan McCain, but I agree in general that "toxic femininity" covers not only specifically female-coded ways of being mean to other people, but also exploiting gender stereotypes of female "weakness" and "delicacy" and "sensitivity", etc., to evade responsibility or shirk or freeload. The stereotypical behavior not only of "mean girls" but also of "golddiggers", "dumb blondes", "delicate flowers", "helpless females", "clinging vines" and so forth all falls into the category of "toxic femininity".
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Old 05-13-2019, 12:04 AM
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Yeah, and same goes for "toxic masculinity" and "toxic femininity". If "the issues are real", then we have to call them something when we talk about them, don't we? I'm rather skeptical of the notion that racial and gender issues would be happily resolved by now if only we'd been using better "terminology" for them.

And besides, although I can see how somebody could misinterpret the term "toxic" as a personal insult, it's hard to think of a more mild and conciliatory expression than "white privilege" to describe the various social and cultural benefits that white people as a group derive from living in a historically and persistently racist society.

I mean, the term isn't "white selfishness" or "white stupidity" or "white arrogance" or even "white ignorance", all of which have at least some relevance to the impacts of societal racism on white people's assumptions and perceptions about racial issues. It's just pointing out, in about the most low-key way possible, that a society that was run for hundreds of years on the principle that white people are superior and must be treated as such is naturally going to perpetuate some residual benefits and advantages for the racial category of whiteness. Anybody who gets upset about an expression as gentle as "white privilege" has got some serious fragility issues.
‘Black Lives Matter’ was a misstep. What they meant was ‘Black Lives Also Matter’ and took it as a given people would understand. And for the most part they did, but that didn’t stop nonsensical counterchants like ‘blue lives matter’ from people whose intent was and is I suspect odious. Of course police lives matter, but innocent civilians don’t want to be routinely shot in the face on a routine stop. Why is this an argument? Why are we losing ground on this issue!
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Old 05-13-2019, 01:01 AM
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For 1), absolutely, at least for toxic masculinity. And I don't doubt that there are negative factors to traditional notions of femininity as well -- notions that women are incapable of being handy or mechanical, for example. I'm not sure if I've heard the term "toxic femininity", though.
Girls can't read maps. You can't do judo, it's not feminine. You can't play soccer, it's not feminine. She's such a tomboy. Girls don't like math. It is the daughters' job to take care of aging parents. It is the daughters'-in-law job to take care of aging parents-in-law. Girls can't be engineers. Women can't be engineers. Women are bad at science. Women are artsy but who ever heard of a woman artist. Interior decorators are all women or gay; architects are men.

Toxic masculinity and toxic femininity are, each of them, the specific expression of sexism when it is directed at each specific gender. In the end they boil down to the same shit: what's between your legs defines you completely as a person, over and above anything else.


As for Meghan McCain I don't know enough of her to opine.
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Old 05-13-2019, 06:21 AM
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‘Black Lives Matter’ was a misstep. What they meant was ‘Black Lives Also Matter’ and took it as a given people would understand. And for the most part they did, but that didn’t stop nonsensical counterchants like ‘blue lives matter’ from people whose intent was and is I suspect odious. Of course police lives matter, but innocent civilians don’t want to be routinely shot in the face on a routine stop. Why is this an argument? Why are we losing ground on this issue!
It was only a "misstep" in the mind of people who aren't inclined to agree with what BLM stands for to begin with. I think calling it a "misstep" gives these people way too much credit, because it presumes that if only the group had come up with a different name, there would be more support. There is no good reason to believe this. There were a variety of groups during the 1960s civil rights movement that had non-controversial names, but they were as vilified as BLM is.

Just yesterday, I was driving around and passed a Unitarian Universalist church draped in a huge "Black Lives Matter" banner. I've been to that church before. There ain't very black folks in that congregation! And I also see signs like this this all around town, especially in predominately white neighborhoods populated by the college-educated professionals.

So a lot of white people do get it, fortunately.
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Old 05-13-2019, 06:37 AM
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I know nothing about Meghan McCain, but I agree in general that "toxic femininity" covers not only specifically female-coded ways of being mean to other people, but also exploiting gender stereotypes of female "weakness" and "delicacy" and "sensitivity", etc., to evade responsibility or shirk or freeload. The stereotypical behavior not only of "mean girls" but also of "golddiggers", "dumb blondes", "delicate flowers", "helpless females", "clinging vines" and so forth all falls into the category of "toxic femininity".
I agree with this. I think a lot of people who are disinclined to talk about "toxic masculinity" are probably are not so reticent (in their day to day lives) to talk about "toxic femininity". They just don't call it that. Instead, they use the slurs you mentioned.

I know personally I have encountered women who have these traits, but it is difficult to assess what is exactly going on. Is a woman who goes into histronics because she sees a daddy long legs in the bathroom stall acting in accordance to her nature--and her "nature" just happens to coincide with the "helpless delicate female" stereotype? Or is she acting in accordance with her social programming--which encourages female histrionics when an attractive male is within earshot? I have a female coworker who I believe to be intelligent, but she once told me she acts like she is clueless when she is dealing with arrogant male coworkers just to make interactions easier. Is this "toxic"? I think it is since she is contributing to a damaging stereotype (the "dumb" woman). But it's also a survival mechanism that has likely served her well. So it is complicated.
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Old 05-13-2019, 07:03 AM
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Questions:

1. Do you agree with either of these concepts? Do you think there are traditional gender norms that are damaging to individuals and society as a whole? Or are people just trying to find a pseudo-intellectual way of describing "asshole"?
There are absolutely, without a doubt, socialized gender roles.

These roles are multifaceted and interact in many ways. They are built by society, consciously or unconsciously, through our mutual understanding, with a big heaping help of reflection from mass media. Boys are expected to act a certain way, girls are expected to act a certain way, and while these roles are not strict, they absolutely exist and influence us in myriad ways.

And some of these facets are really, really, really harmful. The expectation that men be stoic, for example - it turns out that bottling up your feelings can be really fucking bad for you and your social interactions. There has been extensive study into this, and it turns out that conformity to these sorts of masculine ideas are linked with quite a few mental and physical health risks.

And of course, having these expectations at all means that you often face societal backlash simply for not living up to utterly arbitrary standards of "manliness". That's toxic as well, although I don't know if that's exactly what sociologists mean by "toxic masculinity".

Now, all of this is extremely well-established. If you know the first thing about sociology, you can't really deny that these socialized roles exist, and that some aspects of them are harmful. Once we get there, we're just quibbling over what to call a phenomenon that clearly exists. You can call it Wibbledygiblets if that makes you feel better, but it's absolutely a thing.

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I think they're dumb buzzwords and not conducive to constructive discussion of anything. Similar to "white privilege". We've had many years now of issues being debated using this kind of terminology and we are now MORE polarized and MORE divided than before.

The issues are real. The terminology is faulty and counterproductive.
I mean, what should we call it? What could we call it that won't wound the fragile egos of the men who have wholly bought into these concepts, and would see pointing out how harmful they are as an attack no matter what? Should we just not have a label for it? How does that help us at all?

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Sexist mumbo jumbo.
A person is a person, not a gender caricature.
Lousy human beings would probably be the same even if their biological sex was changed.
And yet, for some reason, we associate certain behaviors more with men than with women (and vice versa). And we internalize some of those behaviors. And this impacts how we think about and interact with the world. "A person is a person", but I guarantee you that, on average, Joe Sixpack heard "boys don't cry" a whole lot more than Jill Meatloaf heard "girls don't cry".

Why yes, #NotAllMen. Obviously. We're talking about broader trends, though, and you really have to blind yourself to the world to not notice that:

A) There are differences on average in how boys and girls are socialized
B) There are differences on average in how boys and girls are portrayed in media
C) These differences have an influence on average in how boys and girls behave and think, and how they're expected to behave and think
D) Some of these specific differences are, overall, on average, very bad for either the person in question or society at large.

I know plenty of men who cry, who talk about their feelings, who don't want to dominate women, who aren't quick to anger or rise to violence, et cetera. But on average, we do far more to socialize men towards these attitudes than women. These are traditionally "masculine" traits. And most of the men who don't share in them have had to intentionally deprogram themselves of these harmful attitudes. Hell, so have I.

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‘Black Lives Matter’ was a misstep. What they meant was ‘Black Lives Also Matter’ and took it as a given people would understand. And for the most part they did, but that didn’t stop nonsensical counterchants like ‘blue lives matter’ from people whose intent was and is I suspect odious. Of course police lives matter, but innocent civilians don’t want to be routinely shot in the face on a routine stop. Why is this an argument? Why are we losing ground on this issue!
"Black Lives Matter" is as innocuous of a phrase as I can imagine. It's such a basic, simple premise that anyone can get behind, to the degree that the fact that it's attached to a protest movement in the first place is jarring - "Of course black lives matter, why in the world do we have to protest about it?" You have to intentionally misunderstand it

The problem is and always has been bad-faith racists. It doesn't matter what you call your protest movement, or how harmless it is (see also: Colin Kaepernick), if you're pushing for the betterment of black people, racists are going to get angry. "All Lives Matter" has never been anything but a blatantly bad-faith exercise by shitty racists to pretend that "Black Lives Matter" implied something it never did.

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  #29  
Old 05-13-2019, 08:53 AM
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1. I think the most toxic thing is the term itself. It takes a stereotypical view and assumes it took be true, then denounces it. As such, those who use the term reinforce the very attitudes the claim to oppose.

2. Both are nonsense.

3. I have no idea who that person is.
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Old 05-13-2019, 08:59 AM
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1. I think the most toxic thing is the term itself. It takes a stereotypical view
No, it doesn't.

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and assumes it took be true
No, it doesn't.

Quote:
those who use the term reinforce the very attitudes the claim to oppose.
No, they don't.

Please, if you're not going to do any background reading on a subject before you wade into a thread about it, at least read basically any post in the thread before throwing out your opinion. And lest anyone think I'm being too harsh:

Quote:
3. I have no idea who that person is.
You couldn't even bother to read the OP before responding, huh?
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Old 05-13-2019, 09:29 AM
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Lets take a simple example, and then if people agree with that we can discuss whether it's a rare exception or part of a larger pattern. (Or we can skip the rest of the debate because we can't even agree on the simplest of principles.)

Boys and men are told all the time that "boys don't cry", even if it is less pronounced now. This a cultural phenomenon, we don't have an instinct to say "Boys don't cry" to each other. It's one contributing factor to boys and men having issues with sharing emotions.

This is a real thing, and it's a problem to at least some degree.
  #32  
Old 05-13-2019, 09:30 AM
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Just to keep the discussion going...

Do people who think "toxic masculinity" is bullshit also believe it is bullshit to talk about "toxic" cultural values in general? For instance, when the convo turns to African American dysfunctionality, there seem to be no shortage of conservatives with opinions about the bad elements in AA culture. Conservatives also don't seem to have a problem bashing the "toxic" subcultures of Muslims, coastal elites, and liberals in general. They may not use the word "toxic", but they clearly find these cultures problematic.

How can we discuss problematic cultural values and norms without offending the sensibilities of those who are emotionally attached to those values and norms? Is this even possible?

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Old 05-13-2019, 10:10 AM
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Count me as one who thinks the term "toxic" poisons the well from the get go. It demonizes whatever "masculinity" is in the minds of those using the term and implicitly accepts that there is some thing of "masculinity" of which there is some non-toxic variety (that of course men want to aspire to be and that women are attracted to). And alternatively something that is "feminine" (that women want to be and that men are attracted to).

A while back there was some public radio discussion on fathers demonstrating masculine role models and thinking about what it means in today's world. The idea is a bit perplexing to me. I am a father. I am male. I try to be a the best person I can be and a caring parent. I am not thinking what is "male" or "masculine" ... I am just trying to do my best as I know how. Being a positive male role model is just being male and doing your best. Of course such was shaped by how I was raised and my culture but I am not consciously trying to fit some norm in any direction. I am not trying to be masculine and I am not trying to be not masculine. I am just trying to not be an asshole, just as I hope women around me are trying to not be.

When the issue is people with various asshole behaviors identify the specific behaviors rather than demonizing their gender identity. When the issues are explicit sexism, or implicit and institutional sexism, then talk about them.

The terms of the op get in the way of meaningful discussions of those issues more than help facilitate them.

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  #34  
Old 05-13-2019, 10:13 AM
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How can we discuss problematic cultural values and norms without offending the sensibilities of those who are emotionally attached to those values and norms? Is this even possible?
I don't really see how.

"Here is this thing I value and am attached to."
"<Literally any statement denouncing said thing>"
"Hmm, you're right, that's fine by me."

What could possibly go in that second line? If I think stoicism and honor culture escalation are good things that are important to my identity, how do you tell me that such a thing is bad, actually, without simultaneously insulting me? I don't see how that works.
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Old 05-13-2019, 10:44 AM
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I don't really see how.



"Here is this thing I value and am attached to."

"<Literally any statement denouncing said thing>"

"Hmm, you're right, that's fine by me."



What could possibly go in that second line? If I think stoicism and honor culture escalation are good things that are important to my identity, how do you tell me that such a thing is bad, actually, without simultaneously insulting me? I don't see how that works.
I don't see how either. Yet the typical conservative response to offence induced by harsh truths is "fuck your feelings". And I suspect a number of posters here have expressed similar sentiments.

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Old 05-13-2019, 10:59 AM
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You don't attack the values. You don't label people or groups as "toxic."

You identify the specific problematic behaviors and identify other behaviors to value as part of being good citizens and good human beings. You discuss systemic factors that are issues preventing fairness.
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Old 05-13-2019, 11:03 AM
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monstro, have you read Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women? It's really interesting, because Wollstoncraft was all about toxic femininity. Much of the book is slagging on (upper-class) women, as society has shaped them and Wollstoncraft has some really interesting observations about what happens when you deny intelligent creatures an education and offer them only indirect and subversive avenues to power. She very much makes the argument that toxic femininity exists and is in fact a logical and predictable response to a social structure that doesn't offer much else:

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Pleasure is the business of a woman's life, according to the present modification of society, and while it continues to be so, little can be expected from such weak beings. Inheriting, in a lineal descent from the first fair defect in nature, the sovereignty of beauty, they have, to maintain their power, resigned their natural rights, which the exercise of reason, might have procured them, and chosen rather to be short-lived queens than labour to attain the sober pleasures that arise from equality. Exalted by their inferiority (this sounds like a contradiction) they
constantly demand homage as women . . .

And, made by this amiable weakness entirely dependent, excepting what they gain by illicit sway, on man, not only for protection, but advice, is it surprising that, neglecting the duties that reason alone points out, and shrinking from trials calculated to strengthen their minds, they only exert themselves to give their defects a graceful covering, which may serve to heighten their charms in the eye of the voluptuary, though it sink them below the scale of moral excellence? . ..

Fragile in every sense of the word, they are obliged to look up to man for every comfort. In the most trifling dangers they cling to their support, with parasitical tenacity, piteously demanding succour; and their NATURAL protector extends his arm, or lifts up his voice, to guard the lovely trembler--from what? Perhaps
the frown of an old cow, or the jump of a mouse; a rat, would be a serious danger. In the name of reason, and even common sense, what can save such beings from contempt; even though they be soft and fair?
Wollstoncraft is not perfect--she's very much the product of her own times--but she's really got some brilliant observations about how social systems and gendered expectations shape people.

We excerpt it in my class and pair it with 19th C American Feminism--which is much more about how women are inherently different than men, and how the "feminine element" needs to be included in government and society. It's one of my favorite readings all year.
  #38  
Old 05-13-2019, 11:04 AM
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I definitely agree that toxic masculinity is a problem - but not all masculinity is toxic. What IS toxic is only allowing such as extremely narrow definition of what is "masculine" and anyone that exists outside of that definition is therefore, "less of a man". Generally, the roots of most gender violence can be traced directly back to this mindset.

This then pushes some men to "prove" their manliness. That is a terrible way to live. It also then in turn can cause men to view women as objects or conquests.

I get a lot of "What about toxic femininity" but my response back is nothing in the definition of "toxic masculinity" means is has to be a man doing it, just that it is often targeting men.

Gender violence is not a "woman's issue" or a "man's issue", it's a human issue.
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Old 05-13-2019, 11:08 AM
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You don't attack the values. You don't label people or groups as "toxic."

You identify the specific problematic behaviors and identify other behaviors to value as part of being good citizens and good human beings. You discuss systemic factors that are issues preventing fairness.
But what if those systemic factors are gendered? For example, the social pressure on a woman to be "nice" and non-confrontational is different than the pressure on a man to be the same--and it starts in pre-school. If you are talking to a person about their passive-aggressiveness, it matters if they are a man or a woman, because it's rooted in different fears and is in response to different pressures. Tell a woman not to be passive-aggressive, she likely hears a command to be passive-passive; tell a man not to be passive-aggressive, he hears a command to gird his loins and stand up for himself. And YES, there are exceptions but we can't talk about why people exhibit these behaviors if we ignore the cultural context that shaped them.
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Old 05-13-2019, 11:16 AM
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You don't attack the values. You don't label people or groups as "toxic."

You identify the specific problematic behaviors and identify other behaviors to value as part of being good citizens and good human beings. You discuss systemic factors that are issues preventing fairness.
If the discussion was about "toxic males" and "toxic females", I could understand your criticism.

But that is not what the discussion is about. It is about problematic behaviors that are disproportionately found in one gender versus another...behaviors that are either encouraged or tolerated by gender-based social norms.

I think someone who takes personal offense at the term "toxic masculinity" because they think they are personally being called toxic is being needlessly defensive. The word "hypersensitivity" comes to mind.

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Old 05-13-2019, 11:34 AM
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Manda JO,

And discussing those gender related specific systems issues is useful. "Toxic" this or that however impedes discussing those in meaningful ways.

Encouraging parents to raise strong non-passive daughters, being aware of what messages our chosen myths (be they Disney or other) send to our children is not served by the phrase "toxic masculinity." In your example we should not be teaching boys to be men less willing to stand up for themselves. We do need to teach them to expect women to stand up for themselves as well as men and to value that.

monstro, you may think so but I'd believe you are mistaken. It is an attack on their basic identity. Substitute another identity to get a better sense ... "toxic Blackness", "toxic whiteness", "toxic immigrant", "toxic Jewishness", "toxic Muslimness" ... all of those would be conversation stoppers and appropriately so. Not because of hypersensitivity.
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Old 05-13-2019, 11:43 AM
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You don't attack the values. You don't label people or groups as "toxic."

You identify the specific problematic behaviors and identify other behaviors to value as part of being good citizens and good human beings. You discuss systemic factors that are issues preventing fairness.
...But the specific problematic behaviors are often either directly valued and encouraged or follow directly from a mindset that is valued and encouraged. Nobody is labeling the people toxic, but it gets perceived as such regardless, because these ideas and behaviors are often core to someone's personality.
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Old 05-13-2019, 11:45 AM
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Manda JO,

And discussing those gender related specific systems issues is useful. "Toxic" this or that however impedes discussing those in meaningful ways.
Okay. So what should we call it? Because it's a thing, and a thing that it's genuinely useful to be able to describe (in order to combat it).
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Old 05-13-2019, 11:49 AM
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I’ve long believed there is toxic femininity, but it may not be truly analogous to toxic masculinity. This makes harder to discuss both them side-by-side.

It's very easy to spot the influence of toxic masculinity in our pop cultural tropes--not in the villains, but in the heroes. The stoic, emotionally detached, rule-breaking, uber-competent killing and thinking machine loner who has self-destructive tendencies (alcoholism, drugs, sex) is a ubiquitous male protagonist. He’s given allowances for his reckless behavior because he’s extra strong and capable in an alpha male kind of way. He is not judged for abandoning his family to advance his cause. He can be a nihilistic and sadistic Tyler Durden-type and yet will register with the viewer as a good guy (Fight Club is one of the most misunderstood movies of our time thanks to this). He registers that way because we are socially programmed to esteem masculinity; the more extreme and stereotypically masculine he is, the more he's able to get away with.

Toxic femininity does not have purchase in our pop culture anywhere to the same extent that TM does. Any female character that embodies extreme and stereotypically feminine traits will usually occupy a villainous role. A female protagonist could get away with leveraging her feminine wiles in moments of desperation to get ahead (see Charlies Angels), but she can't have a stereotypically feminine personality in the same way a male hero can be stereotypically masculine.

Perhaps McCain is a good example of TF. I don't know enough about her to know how she behaves.

Last edited by you with the face; 05-13-2019 at 11:50 AM.
  #45  
Old 05-13-2019, 11:50 AM
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It is an attack on their basic identity. Substitute another identity to get a better sense ... "toxic Blackness", "toxic whiteness", "toxic immigrant", "toxic Jewishness", "toxic Muslimness" ... all of those would be conversation stoppers and appropriately so. Not because of hypersensitivity.
But there is such a thing. "Toxic Islam" could be used to refer to the subset of Muslims that advocates or participates in ISIS, al-Qaeda, beheadings, throwing gays off rooftops, etc. (Yes, most Muslims don't do that sort of thing, but then again few people would say that toxic masculinity is exhibited by all men or even most men.) As Budget Player Cadet asks, what would you call such behavior otherwise?
  #46  
Old 05-13-2019, 11:59 AM
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Manda JO,

And discussing those gender related specific systems issues is useful. "Toxic" this or that however impedes discussing those in meaningful ways.

Encouraging parents to raise strong non-passive daughters, being aware of what messages our chosen myths (be they Disney or other) send to our children is not served by the phrase "toxic masculinity." In your example we should not be teaching boys to be men less willing to stand up for themselves. We do need to teach them to expect women to stand up for themselves as well as men and to value that.
This is how I might use these phrases:

"Society pushes the idea that in order to be "feminine" a woman must be passive and use her wiles to convince a man to take action on her behalf. This is a toxic construction of femininity. This sort of toxic femininity pushes women toward passive aggressive behaviors that are ineffective and damage their interpersonal relationships and happiness"

Society pushes the idea that in order to be "masculine", a boy needs to be aggressive--it's not enough to be assertive, they must be domineering and respected as the one in charge. Some boys really struggle to reconcile this toxic idea of masculinity with their own inherent empathy and so end up adopting passive-aggressive behaviors in an attempt to live up to the toxic standards of masculinity they feel bound to. This behavior is ineffective and damages their interpersonal relationships and happiness".

I don't understand how that's impeding the discussion. Telling people 'Some of the things society tells you about being a man/woman are toxic and untrue" seems liberating, not restrictive.
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Old 05-13-2019, 12:03 PM
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But there is such a thing. "Toxic Islam" could be used to refer to the subset of Muslims that advocates or participates in ISIS, al-Qaeda, beheadings, throwing gays off rooftops, etc. (Yes, most Muslims don't do that sort of thing, but then again few people would say that toxic masculinity is exhibited by all men or even most men.) As Budget Player Cadet asks, what would you call such behavior otherwise?
I don't think think "Toxic Islam" would be a subset of people, it would be a subset of ideas about what it means to be a "real Muslim" that are destructive and pervasive.
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Old 05-13-2019, 12:13 PM
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And discussing those gender related specific systems issues is useful. "Toxic" this or that however impedes discussing those in meaningful ways.
Well (ETA: as many others have now said already), what term should we use to describe traditional gender stereotypes that we think are bad for people?

The point of the term "toxic" is to convey the perspective that certain traditional gender expectations and cultural norms, which are conventionally presented as right and normal and natural, are actually damaging and counterproductive overall. What alternative term to "toxic" are you proposing should be used to convey that perspective?

Quote:
Originally Posted by DSeid
It is an attack on their basic identity. Substitute another identity to get a better sense ... "toxic Blackness", "toxic whiteness", "toxic immigrant", "toxic Jewishness", "toxic Muslimness"
Well, our society certainly does use similar terms to describe socially harmful forms of various minority identities, such as "gangsta culture" for glorification of crime/drugs/misogyny among some African-Americans. Or the previously-mentioned term "white privilege" to reference social reinforcement of white obliviousness or obtuseness about racial issues.

So what socially-approved term do you think we should use to refer to, say, harmful traditional stereotypes of masculinity? Like it or not, "toxic masculinity" seems to be the term for this concept currently gaining widespread popular acceptance in our language. And I think once the term is familiar enough that most people stop misinterpreting it as "masculinity is toxic" or "maleness is toxic", they'll be much less likely to perceive it as "an attack on their basic identity".

Last edited by Kimstu; 05-13-2019 at 12:14 PM.
  #49  
Old 05-13-2019, 12:37 PM
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Okay. So what should we call it? Because it's a thing, and a thing that it's genuinely useful to be able to describe (in order to combat it).
How about ‘Counterproductive hyper-masculine behaviours”?
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Old 05-13-2019, 01:19 PM
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How about ‘Counterproductive hyper-masculine behaviours”?
The people that object to "toxic masculinity" because they refuse to believe it means "the set of masculine behaviors that are toxic" will object to "hypermasculinity" because it suggests that masculinity is a negative quality and that it's bad to be "too manly".
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