Branding men with undesirable character traits has turned into a popular sport. Men are considered by some—a vocal few, at least—to be competitive, aggressive, and violent, while women are thought of as passive and more inclined to collaboration. As an unrepentant male, I take umbrage at the increasing references to “toxic masculinity.” There are two reasons. First, I believe this is pure sexism driven by a small but angry cadre of power-hungry radical feminists. I can see no earthly reason that would require me to defend the values and behavior of my sex. Second, my basic sense of fairness resents the fact that men are often demonized while women get a free pass. If we are going to have a conversation about toxic masculinity, equal time should be devoted to “toxic femininity.”
What is toxic femininity? Does our typical female bear the burden of undesirable character traits? “Sentimental insistence on female innocence,” suggests The New York Times, “does no service to women, who should be treated as human beings with a capacity for aggression and held equally accountable for their actions.” Here are ten characteristics of toxic femininity:
1. Male-directed anger and paranoia: Many contemporary women actively dislike the male of the species. Ask the average man. He will tell you that a lot of women are just plain angry at men. They love to hold men accountable for all women’s problems. If a hurtful motivation can be attributed to men, women will go for it. Some are angry because they have convinced themselves that men perceive women strictly as sex objects. For many, feminism is synonymous with demonization of men.
2. Transference neurosis: This is an unconscious defense mechanism where a woman’s feelings and attitudes originally associated with male authority figures earlier in her life are attributed or redirected to others in the present. A good example is the unreasonable hatred many women have for President Trump. The transference takes place when Trump—the ultimate male authority figure—is substituted for the bad father, husband, boyfriend, etc. “Angry woman syndrome” is another label given to this condition, where a woman’s negative past experiences create obstacles to current relationships.
3. Gender manipulation: Women have become adept at passive-aggressive “bitchy” behavior and hidden agendas used to manipulate men. “Men’s brains are designed to spend their time figuring out how to get objects in the environment to do their bidding,” says angryharry.com. “Women’s brains are designed to spend their time figuring out how to get men to do their bidding.” According to Fox News, female manipulation can manifest itself as “dressing sexy,” withholding sex and affection, and flirting with other men. Without blinking an eye, a woman may compromise her integrity for money and security, the ultimate form of gender manipulation.
4. Emotional detachment: It seems that women are less dependent on relationships than men. Many women are “unwilling or incapable to commit completely to a relationship,” says match.com. “The reasons for this can be quite complex, ranging from emotional trauma to a simple matter of priorities, where a woman is more focused on her career than a relationship.” According to The Telegraph, the number of female sociopaths is rising: “cruel, calculating and calm under pressure.”
5. Female victimization: Many women play the victim as a method of controlling men. The “damsel in distress” persona has created a sense of entitlement. “Poor me.” “I deserve to be taken care of.” “I gave you the best years of my life.” “Women are not paid the same as men.” “There is a war on women.”
6. The “superwoman” delusion: Thanks to the feminist movement, women have been saddled with the idea that “you can do it all.” You can have success at both family and career, with no exceptions. This is a huge burden. Heaven help the woman who is satisfied to be a housewife.
7. Female self-hatred: Most women are depressed by what they see in the mirror. They hate themselves for not living up to impossible standards of physical beauty. This “self-loathing” in women can lead to depression, suicidal feelings, and related eating disorders such as obesity, bulimia, and anorexia.
8. Avoidance of accountability: It has become socially acceptable for women to deny responsibility for their actions. In the movie As Good As It Gets, Jack Nicholson explains his success at writing fictional women characters. “I think of a man,” he says, “and then I take away reason and accountability.”
9. Vicious competition with other women: “Women compete, compare, undermine and undercut one another,” says The New York Times. “Feeling on guard around other ladies is normal for a lot of women.” Evolution has made women wary of their sisters as they compete for male attention or in the workplace. “A host of studies in recent years have shown convincingly that the traditional view of women as passive and uncompetitive is wrong,” says Psychology Today. “Women, it turns out, are engaged in a competition of their own, aggressively jockeying for position in a battle to secure a suitable mate.”
10. Female martyr syndrome: We are witnessing many examples of individual women pretending to speak for all women when they are only expressing their own opinion. Recent examples in the news are Gloria Steinem, Madeleine Albright, Ashley Judd, and Madonna. The irony is that these women typically lead privileged lifestyles and so have difficulty relating to “average” women.
Colleges and universities are giving men a forum to examine their allegedly toxic behavior patterns. Fairness demands that we consider the following:
• Equivalent college courses giving women the opportunity to confront their toxic femininity.
• Hollywood films that describe how both sexes are suffering because of women’s gender-related shortcomings.
• More alternative life choices for women in order to relieve the intolerable pressure arising from the superwoman delusion.
• A provision in healthcare insurance for psychotherapy to help women overcome their transference neurosis.
If we can encourage women to spend more time looking inward, we may enjoy a reprieve from the anger that has characterized the women’s movement from its inception.
Ed Brodow is a negotiation expert, political commentator, and author of In Lies We Trust: How Politicians and the Media Are Deceiving the American Public.