Sex, Top Stories

On Toxic Femininity

Male lions can be monsters, murderous and focused. Toxic, if you will.

Given the opportunity, male lions will kill the kittens in a pride over which they have gained control. They commit infanticide, which brings the new mothers, freshly childless, back into estrous. The females are quickly impregnated. This, we can all agree, is disturbing behavior, and may make some people feel rather less pleased with lions.

Given the opportunity, the vast majority of modern human males would do no such thing.

Those who argue that men are inherently toxic are, ironically, making arguments that are biologically essentialist. And they are making them badly, at that. Evolution built humans, as it did lions. But humans have longer childhoods and greater generational overlap, share more ideas with greater complexity, and usually live in more stable social groups than do lions. In humans, evolution has given us the capacity to shape personality during development to a greater degree than in any other species. As such, and because few human cultures would tolerate such behavior, the vast majority of men would not and could not kill babies, nor rape their grieving mothers.

*     *     *

Over 30 years ago, I came of age as a female in LA. Being a young woman in LA means being watched—watched for deviations from the norm, for indications of future fame, for signs of weakness. Watched simply for how one looks. There are, unfortunately, many examples, recent and not, that point to LA’s most famous industry being a place where young women need to be on guard. I never aspired to the industry, but even just living in LA, the culture is omnipresent.

Two anecdotes should suffice. Walking alone in my sun-kissed west LA neighborhood one summer, I was approached by a man looking for extras for a beach scene in a movie. Before I had said a word, he told me where to go, how much I would be paid per day, and what would be expected of me: that I stand around in a bikini, among others similarly clad. I told him I was going to college. He literally looked me up and down, adopted a frown, and assured me that I did not need to go to college. Beach scenes were my future, and from there—who can say? Better beach scenes, presumably.

Second anecdote: One of my many part-time jobs in high school, along with scooping ice cream and renting out VHS tapes, was staffing high end catering events. Dressed in classic, tailored black and white, I carried platters of hors d’ouevres around during cocktail hour, and ferried plated entrees during table service. At indoor events, male attendees would often stop me to engage in small talk, and ask for my number. I wished that they wouldn’t, but I felt no risk. One night, though, I worked an event on the backlot of Universal Studios. A group unaffiliated with Hollywood had booked it for a no-expenses-spared fete, and I was to do the usual, except that I would have to cover more ground. The kitchen was further away, the guests more spread out, with no walls to contain them. Before table service, my co-workers and I made the rounds with our platters of bruschetta and cured meats. On this Hollywood backlot, though, the lack of walls proved dangerous. A young man—older than me but younger than 30—maneuvered me away from the crowd. There were many shadows, and he stood too close. He looked at me with predatory eyes. He backed me into a hedge, rubbed up against me. And I got away from him before it went any further.

That was toxic masculinity, before the phrase existed.

Yes, toxic masculinity exists. But the use of the term has been weaponized. It is being hurled without care at every man. When it emerged, its use seemed merely imprecise—in most groups of people, there’s some guy waiting for an opportunity to fondle a woman’s ass without her consent, put his hand where he shouldn’t, right? That’s who was being outed as toxic. Those men—and far, far worse—do exist. Obviously. But wait—does every human assemblage contain such men? It does not. This term, toxic masculinity, is being wielded indiscriminately, and with force. We are not talking imprecision now, we are talking thoroughgoing inaccuracy.

Most men are not toxic. Their maleness does not make them toxic, any more than one’s ‘whiteness’ makes one racist. Assume for the moment that we could agree on terms: Is maleness more highly correlated with toxic masculinity than is femaleness? Yes. Ipso facto—the term is about maleness, so men will display more of it than will women. The logical leap is then concluding that all men are toxic. The very communities where ‘toxic masculinity’ is being discussed most are the communities where the men are, in my experience, compassionate, egalitarian, and not at all toxic.

Calling good men toxic does everyone a deep disservice. Everyone except those who seek empowerment through victim narratives.

For the record: I am not suggesting that actual victims do not exist, nor that they do not deserve full emotional, physical, legal, medical, and other support. I also do not want to minimize the fact that most women, perhaps even all, have experienced unpleasantness from a subset of men. But not all women are victims. And even among those women who have truly suffered at the hands of men, many—most, I would hazard to guess—do not want their status in the world to be ‘victim.’

All of which leads us directly to a topic not much discussed: toxic femininity.

Sex and gender roles have been formed over hundreds of thousands of years in human evolution, indeed, over hundreds of millions of years in our animal lineage. Aspects of those roles are in rapid flux, but ancient truths still exist. Historical appetites and desires persist. Straight men will look at beautiful women, especially if those women are a) young and hot and b) actively displaying. Display invites attention.

Hotness-amplifying femininity puts on a full display, advertising fertility and urgent sexuality. It invites male attention by, for instance, revealing flesh, or by painting on signals of sexual receptivity. This, I would argue, is inviting trouble. No, I did not just say that she was asking for it. I did, however, just say that she was displaying herself, and of course she was going to get looked at.

The amplification of hotness is not, in and of itself, toxic, although personally, I don’t respect it, and never have. Hotness fades, wisdom grows— wise young women will invest accordingly. Femininity becomes toxic when it cries foul, chastising men for responding to a provocative display.

Where we set our boundaries is a question about which reasonable people might disagree, but two bright-lines are widely agreed upon: Every woman has the right not to be touched if she does not wish to be; and coercive quid pro quo, in which sexual favors are demanded for the possibility of career advancement, is unacceptable. But when women doll themselves up in clothes that highlight sexually-selected anatomy, and put on make-up that hints at impending orgasm, it is toxic—yes, toxic—to demand that men do not look, do not approach, do not query.

Young women have vast sexual power. Everyone who is being honest with themselves knows this: Women in their sexual prime who are anywhere near the beauty-norms for their culture have a kind of power that nobody else has. They are also all but certain to lack the wisdom to manage it. Toxic femininity is an abuse of that power, in which hotness is maximized, and victim status is then claimed when straight men don’t treat them as peers.

Creating hunger in men by actively inviting the male gaze, then demanding that men have no such hunger—that is toxic femininity. Subjugating men, emasculating them when they display strength—physical, intellectual, or other—that is toxic femininity. Insisting that men, simply by virtue of being men, are toxic, and then acting surprised as relationships between men and women become more strained—that is toxic femininity. It is a game, the benefits of which go to a few while the costs are shared by all of us.

*     *     *

I had a student on one of my study abroad trips who had a perennial problem with clothing. She was never wearing enough of it. She was smart, athletic, and beautiful, but also intent on advertising hotness at all moments. At a field station in a jungle in Latin America, she approached me to complain that the local men were looking at her. The rest of us were wearing field gear—a distinctly unrevealing and unsexy garb. She was in a swimsuit. “Put on more clothes,” I told her. She was aghast. She wanted me to change the men, to talk to them about where to point their eyes. Here in their home, where we were visitors, and one of the gringos had shown up nearly naked, she wanted the men to change.

For a spell before that, my job was to trek around tropical forests studying poison frogs. I was interested in their sex lives, in figuring out how they choose their mates and their territories, in how they parent, and in what that meant about the evolution of sociality more generally.

My research revealed, in part, how many different ways there are to be territorial, and to be successful, in male frogs. In Madagascan poison frogs, there are multiple routes to success, both naturally and sexually selected—males can succeed, evolutionarily, by holding high-quality territories, and they can also succeed by having no territories at all (but by being rather more sneaky). Wide variance in strategy, and shifting strategies under different conditions, is well studied in animal behavior and game theory.

Given that we know this to be true in non-human animals, why would we imagine that humans are less, rather than even more, flexible? There are many ways to be female, and many ways to be male, and some of each are bad news for everyone but the individual employing them. As a social species that has become the dominant ecological force on our planet, we can and should aspire to behave in ways that are not merely selfish, not merely competitive, but also collaborative. Toxic masculinity, and toxic femininity, are inherently selfish modes, and those not employing them should be interested in seeing them eradicated.

*     *     *

The movement that has popularized the term ‘toxic masculinity’ shares tools and conclusions with those who see signs of ‘white supremacy’ everywhere they look. Intersectionalists have in common with one another a particular rhetorical trick: Any claim made by a member of an historically oppressed group is unquestionably true. Questioning claims is, itself, an act of oppression.

This opens the door for anyone who is willing to lie to obtain power. If you cannot question claims, any claim can be made.

Thus: Racism is ubiquitous. And all men are toxic. I object—but objection is not allowed. Everyone who understands game theory knows how this game ends: Innocent people being vilified with false claims, and exposed to witch hunts. Sexual assault is real, but that does not mean that all claims of sexual assault are honest.

It is shocking that this bears saying, but there is a world of men who are smart and compassionate and eager to have vibrant, surprising conversations with other people, both men and women. The sex-specific toxicity that I have seen, when it has been obvious, has mostly been in the other court. All men are toxic and all women victims? No. Not in my name.

 

Heather E. Heying is a former professor of evolutionary biology at The Evergreen State College. She has a PhD in Biology from the University of Michigan, and is the author of Antipode, an investigation of life and research in Madagascar. You can follow her on Twitter @HeatherEHeying

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285 Comments

  1. Steve says

    “evolution has given us the capacity”

    Evolution has not “given” us anything whatsoever. Why is it that so many are unable to talk about evolutionary biology without the tacit assumption that it is some sort of intelligent being possessed of goals, will and even aesthetic judgement? Evolution no more gave us the capacity to shape ourselves than the moon gifted you with light last night. Any capacities we have are no different in principle from he capacities of a garden slug — at least as far as natural selection is concerned.

    • Philippe says

      Dude she is a professor of evolutionary biology she knows more than you. This is far from the point of the article and her use of that term is obviously for the sale of the narrative, she’s not writing a paper on biology.

      • peanut gallery says

        This is a poor argument. Just because she’s an authority… I mean, I think Steve is being a bit dense, but a bad argument is still bad.

      • thylacosmilus says

        She doesn’t appear to know that lions have CUBS. Not ‘kittens’.

        Dude.

    • … And dark matter isn’t really matter and global warming doesn’t necessarily mean it will be warmer.

      There are some patterns of language not worth breaking unless it’s necessary. It is not necessary here.

    • Clearly she knows that evolution isn’t some intelligent, or teleological force. It is much simpler, especially when writing an article for non-experts, to write “evolution has given us the capacity for X” than it is to say “we have evolved trait X because individuals with trait X tended to survive longer and leave more offspring than individuals that had traits Y or Z.” It’s shorthand for a lot of jargon.

      It’s like Richard Dawkins’ book The Selfish Gene. Genes aren’t really selfish, and Dawkins knows this. It’s simply a metaphor for the fact that genes are the object of selection, and “compete” with other genes in the gene pool. We also commonly say “trait X evolved for Y reason,” even though we know that natural selection doesn’t have foresight. It’s just the way we talk, and we all know what we mean when we use this kind of language.

      • Tom More says

        She can’t know any such thing.. indeed if that could be known.. she couldn’t know it.. but that is a teleological point. Nobody ever read even materialists like Thomas Nagel.. Mind and Cosmos? Naive materialism is on its way out… and good riddance.

    • S.K.Graham says

      @Steve,

      The result of a physical process can legitimately be said to “give” its result. It is an appropriate use of the word “give”. Burning wood gives us heat, smoke and charred wood. Rain, sunlight, and the earth give us crops to eat.

      The process of evolution gives us the results of evolution: the current forms and behaviors of extant species, including the forms and behaviors of homo sapiens.

      Nobody who has a modicum of knowledge of evolution thinks using a word like “give” implies that evolution is a sentient being with goals. This is, frankly, a stupid criticism.

      Evolution gave us brains and the ability to communicate, so we can learn from each other, particularly younger generations learning from older, and adapt within the course of a single lifetime, rather than relying solely on the knowledge encoded in our genes (and, before you object, yes, there is knowledge encoded in your genome, not all of it necessarily correct, hard won, through pure trial and error).

      • dirk says

        What about giving: There was a time that dairy-cows (they all had a nice human name and not a computerstrip) gave their milk to the milkers and consumers. These times have long since gone. Now, they are forced by hormones and soybean extracts and milking machines to produce milk.

      • Tom More says

        You guys should really read a lot more Aristotle. Or philosopher Ed Feser. In a teleological universe.. the one we are in.. evolution does indeed “give” us gifts. As Aristotle showed.. that which is an end or goal to the highest degree is the reason for the existence of what preceded it. His metaphysics is airtight by the way. Going to the store for smokes is the reason Sally put on her coat and boots, started the car, burned gas and walked into the store… the reason for all that went before., teleology. We’ve just disturbed some passing 17th century dogmatism here.

    • Jacopo Stifani says

      I think you are taking this too literally. She’s personifying evolution to commmnicate an idea.

    • You are being pedantic. She is an accomplished evolutionary biology professor…this OBVIOUSLY was not the intended connotation. In another forum I would mostly agree with you…this is not the place.

    • Why is it that so many are unable to talk about evolutionary biology without the tacit assumption that it is some sort of intelligent being possessed of goals,

      She never made any such claim.

      It’s no wonder you have nobody who cares about you.

      • Toby says

        This is seems unnecessarily harsh? Be better.

        • This pleased me, “Be better”. I’m so tired of pedantic, academic bores. I think we should all just “Be better”.

    • James Tidwell says

      I think it was obvious she was speaking figuratively.

    • Just Me says

      “Evolution has not “given” us anything whatsoever.”

      How silly. Of course not, and she isn’t saying it has, literally, any more than someone saying that “history has given us many examples of X” means “History, personified, has intentionally handed to us…”, or “my experience has given me a good understanding of…” means “my experience has personally handed to me an understanding…”

      It is almost impossible to speak without using some form of metaphor, and that is what the use of the term is here, it would take someone totally focused on avoiding any set expression to do that, and it just distracts from the subject at hand.

      It means “the process of evolution has produced in humans “, or is that still too metaphorical? Maybe ” evolution is a process that has resulted in humans having…”?

      But everyone with half a brain knows that already.

    • Oregoncharles says

      Not incidentally, it makes perfect sense to say that a process, which evolution is, “gives” us its product.

      She’s writing popular science. It’s true that evolution does not have agency, but it proceeds very much as if it does, so it’s engaging to write about it that way. That’s especially true when you’re talking about animals, especially humans, which DO have agency and purposes they pursue. Sexual selection, the subject here, is actually about “esthetics”. Hence the peacock’s tale and men’s and women’s contrasting shapes, formed by the preference of potential mates.

    • As others have stated the language in use was likely employed as a tool for communicative efficiency, evonomy of language.

      It was likely, as are many pieces, written with some audience in mind; as a resualt not all will understand, & or be able to knowledgeably respond.

      Hopefully the replies, elsewhere given, can shed some light on the nuanced peculiarities of language & its usage “in the wild”.

      I for one am willing to assume this oversight on your part is naïveté, & not malicious obtuseness feigning outrage.

      Do consider the Quillete audience. It isn’t one likely to sucuumb to such sophomoric attempts at verbal subterfuge.

    • Tom More says

      Employing the metaphysical principles of Aristotle this “father of western science”, he also arrived at the necessary existence of something he called Pure Act.. the unmoved mover.. necessary to explain the existence of finite being. And we naturally see teleology in evolution as we should .. its there. At the ground of existence and purpose and purpose is a sign of mind… we find Intelligence. This is not to be confused with the irreducible complexity ID theory, but is rather the gift of scholar monks who built the foundations of western science.

    • Mark says

      My parents didn’t “give” me blue eyes either. For the benefit of future readers I’d recommend you incorporate a pedantry check (less is better) into your comment proof-reading.

    • Andrew Smedley says

      Oh my god, Steve, we all know. It’s not a tacit assumption, it’s a linguistic shortcut that evolutionary biologists use all the time when talking with each other because it’s quicker than saying ‘trait A was adaptive for species X in recent evolutionary history, and so offspring which had more…’

      At a certain level of conversation we just have to have faith that there are certain things about the world that everyone involved understands, for sanity’s sake.

    • You really need to understand colloquialism. Of course evolution has ‘given us’ our evolved traits, ‘us’ being a generalized group of humans (or women, or men) having evolved to have those traits. The author assumes people reading understand enough of the basics of evolutionary psychology in order to infer the obviously implied meaning, and the common sense not to be so pedantic.

    • Dan H says

      Arguing over six words is a great way to divert attention from the claim. I find.

    • Alex says

      She is using metaphorical shorthand. Get over yourself.

    • Micha Elyi says

      Speaking of “selection”, let us not forget sexual selection.

      Men, say anthropologists, are a breeding experiment run by women. As a result, any “toxic masculinity” is the result of women selecting men for those qualities.

      But don’t expect feminists to hold women accountable for their choices. The operative feminist motto is “We always side with the woman, no matter what.”

    • ADM64 says

      Would “natural processes have led us to evolve the capacity to…” be easier to understand?

    • Robert Arvanitis says

      Colloquial English, not an invitation to pick nits.
      You see a a product for sale, tell a friend “My company makes that!”
      That is NOT a claim you own the company, just that you work there. “But he said MY company” you whine,
      Exactly the same here. You want periphrasis “The apparent net result of blind natural selection is to endow this creature with that capacity to…” ? You’ve already lost the audience and buried the idea.

      • dirk says

        I don’t think anything can “give” so much response on Quillette as linguistics, the proof that intellectuals dominate the place.

  2. Alex D. says

    If only more could accept and grasp the uncomfortable truths of our reality. Excellent article..We appreciate your work Heather!

  3. Sean says

    This is interesting in its particulars, but given that few feminists argue that men are inherently toxic (but instead that most are made so by culture and the rest collectively responsible), I don’t suspect this argument would hold under rebuttal, but would be rejected as acting a straw position.

    • Aurora Sola (@sighlab) says

      I’m afraid you’re right. Heather makes a lot of good points, and her experience and knowledge in the field of biology are appreciated, but the straw men sprinkled throughout weaken her message.

    • Most of what feminists do isn’t really argument at all – it’s a mix of 1) slogans, 2) innuendo, 3) motte and bailey claims, and (finally) 4) arguments with unacknowledged premises and which respond to rebuttals by starting at 1) again.

      • Peter from Oz says

        In other words, they are behaving like the sterotypical silly women they complain we men are falsely cliaming them to be.
        Real women advance themselves and their families. They don’t care about advancing their sex.

    • John Drake says

      I can name some 50 women off the top of my head who identify as feminist and who argue that men are inherently toxic, hence their arguments that we need to teach them “alternative masculinities.”

      Don’t be disingenuous.

      • Sean says

        It’s not disingenuous: I’m reporting my experience accurately, though I can’t say yours isn’t different. What I will say is even those most “anti-male” I’ve encountered, such as the lady who wrote the “Why Can’t We Hate Men” piece blame culture, not some essential feature of biology, for any inherent toxicity of men.

        • Could I interest you in the president of the NYC chapter of NOW who referred to FIVE year old boys a serial gang rapists in response to Ted Kennedy’s “betrayal” of feminists “forgiveness” of his killing Kopechne by endorsing Obama over Clinton in the 2008 primary?

          She blamed the rape impulses of kindergartners on the political machinations of a man who she felt ‘owed’ feminists a lifetime fealty because they ignored his killing of a woman so long as he was politically convenient to their cause

        • whothehell cares (@DuplicityNo) says

          Doesn’t matter what you blame when the premise is wrong to begin with.

        • Davicus says

          What a lovely use of the no true scotsman fallacy and appeal to authority! Proving you wrong is as simple as having you google search the term toxic masuclinity. The number of articles that promote the concept indicate feminists promote universal toxic masculinity.

      • Mazzakim says

        Okay, I’ll bite. Name 50 women entirely off the top of your head who argue men are inherently toxic. I’m genuinely curious to see such a list.

      • pook says

        I’d like to see links to even one of these supposed feminists who supposedly believe such a thing (contrary to every feminist I’ve ever read or spoken to).

    • S.K.Graham says

      Except a key point in the article is the *most* men are *not* toxic. This is the crux of the disagreement with feminists, not whether the toxicity is derived from biological or cultural causes.

    • Bahuleya Minyakka says

      “Few feminists” really? You must be hanging around feminists who aren’t Feminists™

      • pook says

        More like, feminists who are actual people and not right-wing strawmen.

        • Peter from Oz says

          Surely, you mean ”straw women”?

    • Robin says

      Sean feminists routinely argue that normal male behaviour is toxic. While they may contend that culture creates this behaviour as an evolutionary biologist Dr Heying knows better. Feminists are de facto biological essentialists.

    • I am afraid Sean is right: “given that few feminists argue that men are inherently toxic (but instead that most are made so by culture and the rest collectively responsible), I don’t suspect this argument would hold under rebuttal, but would be rejected as acting a straw position.” Even if I don’t think radical feminists are so few – especially in the academic world – I agree that all the others can call themselves out and play the strawman card.

      • pook says

        If radical feminists so widespread as you say, surely it wouldn’t be hard to find an example of a feminist saying that men in general are toxic.

    • Made toxic by which cultures? Every human culture ever? Except perhaps some prehistoric ones where paucity of data allows people to fill in the details with their imaginations? Unless someone can give lots of examples of well-documented cultures without “toxic masculinity”, then saying that “men are made toxic by culture” is basically the same as “men are inherently toxic”. With the added twist of, “But if you give me and my co-ideologues absolute power to usher in Utopia, maybe men might be OK then.”

    • HEH: Those who argue that men are inherently toxic are, ironically, making arguments that are biologically essentialist.

      I think she understands that, hence the use of ‘ironically’.

    • David Funk says

      I’m glad that you pointed that men are inherently toxic, that just are toxic. I feel so much better informed now.

  4. SO grateful for this. It gave me language for how to think about some of the purity culture bullshit I was raised with, among many other helpful provocations of thought. Thank you. (The Rev. in my handle is a joke.)

  5. Why are so many people clueless about male sexuality? I’ve heard feminists state sexual objectification starts around puberty. No. Baby boys have erections. Toddlers have erections. Fetishes and sexual preferences can be traced to childhood. And now LGBTQ organizations are encouraging children to “pick their gender” and child drag queens like the 10 year old Desmond Napoles to create a drag club websites for kids. Toxic Gender is creating Toxic Sexuality.

  6. Rachel Allen says

    Heather- you and your husband are a new and wonderful light in my intellectual life. Although I wish a different price has been paid, I’m so glad the two of you are now getting exposure in the greater sphere. Please continue to write, give talks, and engage! 😄

  7. Erin says

    What a breath of fresh of air! Thank you!

  8. Sylv says

    I have yet to hear any definition of Toxic Masculinity that couldn’t just as accurately be called “Bad Masculinity,” but for the fact that “toxic” is a vaguely scientific-sounding word that makes the whole affair sound much more medically serious.

    Why did the man do a bad thing? Because toxic masculinity made him do it!
    Which parts of masculinity are the toxic parts? The parts that make men do bad things!
    How do we tell those parts from the other, non-toxic bits? Your question makes me think you are part of the problem!

    • Sean says

      Accusations of toxic masculinity I’ve seen usually fall in the realm of hyper-aggression or tolerance for hyper-aggression (and by extension, insufficient empathy for the vulnerable). Masculinity is typically associated with competitiveness, assertiveness, tenacity, denial of vulnerability, and aggression. Taking those qualities into spaces where the organizing principle is cooperative and empathetic creates a tension between organizing principles. Those with masculine temperaments are supposed to switch out of assertive and competitive modes in those spaces and when they encounter true vulnerability (that is, competition is supposed to be mostly opt-in in our society).

      However, I’ve encountered more and more of a sense that cooperative modes should be the rule, and competition the rare exception. I’ve encountered the implication that tolerance of aggression in any space is complicity in aggression by men everywhere, and that men everywhere are collectively responsible for male aggression anywhere.

      • Emblem14 says

        Gendered tendencies tend to become toxic and extreme when they manifest in a single gender dominant environment homogeneous enough to create feedback loops without any braking or moderating counterforce.

        Ultra competitiveness and winner-take-all conditions can both represent and exacerbate socially dysfunctional behavior among human beings generally (among other things, it rewards sociopathy and psychopathy) – but men will be highly overrepresented in the people who seek out and thrive in that kind of environment. More women than men will feel very uncomfortable, intimidated, or even damaged by a social situation that encourages unbridled masculinity

        Toxic femininity? Perhaps unbounded maternalism (devouring mother stereotype), unhealthy obsession with physical beauty, (eating disorders, self-loathing), overbearing compassion for the weak (imposing dependency and inhibited agency instead of independence/empowerment), ultra-fragility (intense dislike of masculine traits/environments and high sensitivity to emotional distress demands demasculinized “safe spaces” for normal functioning)…

        Interesting exercise.

        • TarsTarkas says

          There are several obvious collections of people where one could test your premise; monasteries, nunneries, remote isolated military bases where the staff is all (or almost all) male, any female-dominated organization like veterinary schools, nursing schools, etc. There are probably papers on all these types of gender-exclusive communities.

      • Paul Ellis says

        Toxic masculinity = active aggression. Toxic femininity = passive aggression. Neither promote co-operation.

        • peanut gallery says

          It’s easier to just say “assholes.” These people are assholes. Don’t be an asshole!

          • pook says

            It’s not really just about assholes, though?

            “Toxic masculinity” isn’t about toxic men. It’s about toxic attitudes that men learn (and are influenced by, and are *also hurt by*).

            Think of men who don’t know how to handle their feelings any way but drinking, because men aren’t supposed to have feelings. Veterans with PTSD who are embarrassed to admit they need psychiatric help. Or men who kill themselves when they’re financially ruined, because it’s so ingrained in them that the man is supposed to provide for his family that they fall apart when they can’t. Think of shy nerdy boys who feel like they’ve failed at “being a man” if they don’t drink beer and love football.

      • X. Citoyen says

        Ah, good-natured Sean. I can tell you’d make the perfect neighbor, though I suspect I’d hear you fret about how one neighbor hasn’t returned your lawnmower, how another built his fence two feet onto your property, and how your brother never pays you back the money you lend him. Because you’re good natured, you don’t see a thief, a squatter, and a mooch. You just wish aloud that they could be more considerate and you hope they come to their senses and do the right thing.

        I conjecture all this because you’ve bought the bill of goods on “organizing principles.” I know, it sounds nice and fair, and it would all work fine with good-natured people like you dealing with minor matters, where little is at stake for anyone involved. In such cases, scientific-sounding abstractions like “hyper-aggression” and “competitive” and “cooperative” spaces seem as obvious as the blue sky. You can easily fill in the definitions and assume that others have exactly the same ideas in mind, no need for Robert’s rules of order.

        But a few weeks after joining a community association based on the “cooperative organizing principle,” you start fretting to me about how you keep getting shut down for your “competitiveness” and your “lack of empathy for other perspectives,” even though all you did was raise a couple of minor objections to proposals by the group’s “Cooperation Coordinator.”

        You made three good-natured mistakes. First, even good-natured people don’t agree when the stakes are high and trade-offs are involved. Second, highfalutin words like “hyper-aggression” are vague and easily manipulated abstractions, especially when the first problem arises. Third, you failed to ask the crucial question of who has the power to judge when the first and second arise. The answer to that is the sugary sweet-voiced saleswoman who sold you the bill of goods about cooperative organizing principles does. She gets to decide when you’ve become competitive, which means she has absolute power inside that apparently cooperative and non-competitive space.

        • david says

          @X. Citoyen

          You’ve lived in a commune, haven’t you? So have I. THAT taught me a few things.

        • Sean says

          X. Citoyen, here’s what you might be missing: it’s possible to be firm but not aggressive, and group-based vengeance is a perfectly feminine organizing principle, as is shame and intolerance for the cheat. In other words, there’s a difference between being individually confrontational and overly “nice”. I’ve watched my wife’s PTO and Girl Scout interactions long enough to know that there’s more than one way to run an organization and get things done. I think I prefer the “masculine” method, though, because it’s simpler and less anxiety-inducing.

          On a more personal note, money lent should be considered gone but my brother did pay me back and my children do listen. I may be charitable enough to be taken advantage of time to time- but not repeatedly

      • Here’s something you hadn’t thought about: how many millions of corpses were piled up in an attempt to create a utopia where cooperation was the rule and competitiveness the exception? Stalinist Russia. Maoist China…

        But this actually makes perfect sense if you are willing to stop and reflect for just one moment. In order to bring about your cooperative paradise on earth and eradicate competitiveness there is no doubt a number of bodies you would be willing yourself to pile up. What is your number? Is it in the hundreds, thousands, millions…or maybe billions? What’s your number?

        • Chris says

          @AA You missed a point.

          Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China (and you might add Pol Pot’s Cambodia here) were exactly those co-operative anti-competitive societies slated to become shining utopias, but as usual when you ‘stir the pot’ of a society with a left wing revolution, what floats to the top is never the cream but the most violent thugs that society has to offer.

          The unstated point is that those 100,000,000 plus deaths were those countries’ own civilians, almost all killed after the revolution was ‘won’.

          ….and before denials flood in citing Hitler’s Germany as a capitalist counter example, I encourage you to reflect on the fact that NAZI was a contraction of the name for the ‘German national SOCIALIST party’.

          All of which has little to do with feminism other than pointing out how pear-shaped things can get when you allow an intolerant, fundamentalist, left wing creed to dominate a country’s educational system.

        • As Stalin said: Soon there will be fewer but better Russians.

        • Sean says

          AA – Straight to communism, huh? I’m absolutely not a socialist. However, squint at any tops-down capitalist organization, and internally it looks fairly socialist. As do most volunteer organizations. Why aren’t they totalitarian nightmares? Scale matters. The fact the organizations involve at-will association rather than coercion matters. Cooperative and competitive dynamics co-exist in most of society without having anything to do governmental socialism. How about using a modicum of nuance and context?

  9. LAW says

    I found the focus on dress to be a bit puritanical/narrow for the discussion at large. But then I realized this is looking at “masculinity” and “femininity” from an evolutionary biology standpoint, where “toxic” gender behavior is behavior that is selfish from the view of a species reproducing.

    That’s interesting, but I think the argument can be made a bit broader. From my viewpoint “toxic masculinity” refers to using physical aggression to get what you want. Its counter, “toxic femininity”, refers to using emotional aggression to get what you want.

    For one example, look at the ways men and women fight – men beat each other up, women socially manipulate and exclude each other. For what it’s worth, the behavior described in this piece is a subset of this definition of toxic femininity – using sex appeal to manipulate and demonize people.

    Definitions aside, the larger point here for me is that both genders have good and bad inherent traits. It would be nice if we could focus on the positive, instead of running around calling each other “toxic”. I appreciate the defense, but I would much prefer if we rewound to a few years ago where there wasn’t constant discussion of “toxic masculinity” whenever any man does something bad. Is that so much to ask?

    • Another difference might be that after men beat each other up, they can have a beer and become friends.

      To men very little is taken personally. To women very little isn’t.

      • Peter from Oz says

        And yet, so many fools on the left would have you believe there is no difference between men and women.

  10. Travis says

    I expected to enjoy this article, but I don’t think I did. It even elicited an audible eye-roll at points (Wisdom is so much nobler a pursuit than beauty? Why, because you get a few more decades of utility out of it? If only Marilyn Monroe had been given this advice, oh, her contribution to our culture would have been so much more ~respectful~!)

    Maybe you’ve captured some of what “toxic femininity” is, here, but I’m not sure I see it. I don’t think there’s anything especially feminine about maximizing your hotness and expecting others not to react to it. To the degree that this expectation is justified (“I expect you not to grope my body just because I’m wearing yoga pants”), this is a human thing. To the degree that it’s not justified (“I expect you to never glance at my chest despite my ample cleavage”), this is a confusion thing. You could make the case that the latter situation is a kind of toxic feminism (apiece with #killallmen and other radfem ideas), but I’m not getting what’s so feminine about it.

    When I think of toxic masculinity, I think of traditionally masculine traits being pushed to their toxic extremes: Competitiveness is a virtue, until it leads to winning-at-all-costs. Self-confidence is a virtue, until it blinds you to criticism. Resilency is a virtue, until it justifies self-harm. I would expect toxic femininity to look a lot like these – for example, a motivation to nurture being pushed into Munchausen-by-proxy, or a self-critical attitude that leads to anorexia – and I’d be very surprised if “toxic femininity” only included behavior that revolves around interaction with men.

  11. Mark says

    Thank you, Heather. We need more reasonable women such as you to speak out against those who weaponise the words “toxic masculinity”.

  12. While I mostly agree with the article, I’d say that toxic femininity mostly wears the garb of compassion to conceal vicious authoritarian inclinations from which women are not immune. If toxic masculinity is the extreme expression of gender traits predominant in men such as aggression and the appetite for sexual conquest, then toxic femininity is the equivalent to the motherhood instinct gone rogue. Seduction surely does play a role in it, but it’s broader and more pernicious than that: it’s authoritarianism in the name of motherly compassion.

  13. Aaron Kindsvatter says

    Thank you Dr. Heying, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts here and listening to you speak at heterodox. -Aaron Kindsvatter

  14. Irene Gribble says

    So many parts of this are problematic. Throughout the article there is a repeated suggestion of a correlation between appearance and intelligence. Why couldn’t she be a bikini model and also go to college? Should women really have to dress and look a certain way in order to be respected? Should girls in school not be allowed to wear shorts in hot weather due to men “not being capable” of viewing them as sex objects rather than human beings? Does beauty mean a lack of wisdom? By saying that makeup and clothing are something that defines a female, and are something she needs to be concerned about, you are putting value into the objectification of women. This is one of the largest oppressive mechanisms used by the patriarchy. No I don’t wear makeup to “display” myself for the male gaze. My appearance is not here for men, and we, as people should be able to wear whatever we want without being judged.

    • Bubblecar says

      The author does display a kind of condescending contempt for heterosexual men. Apparently they are helpless receptors of “female hotness” who are “provoked” into “trouble”, by seeing women in bikinis etc.

      Speaking as a gay man, one doesn’t find that sort of expectation amongst gays. Young gay men can wear sexy and revealing clothes without being told they’re “inviting trouble”. Unsolicited groping or sexual assault in the gay scene is clearly identified as unacceptable behaviour – no-one blames the victim for presenting himself as “hot”.

      • Zeke says

        That’s because gay men, still being men, desire young gay men to wear sexy and revealing clothes. It’s a win-win.

        Just like straight men love when women wear sexy and revealing clothes.

        Straight men aren’t provoked into trouble, but we generally will glance at attractive women, even more-so if they are wearing sexy clothing. Neither the author, nor any decent person is arguing that it’s an excuse to sexually harass anyone.

      • Natalie says

        First off, claiming there aren’t predators or asshats among the gay scene is false and foolish. But more to the point of this article, unsolicited groping or sexual assault is clearly identified as unacceptable behavior in EVERY scene and she clearly stated that she was not saying that victims of actual assault were asking for it. However, I have seen many reports lately of people equating men simply looking at boobs or butt openly on display with sexual assault or even a man asking for a phone number. Equating those behaviors with assault is a problem. And it’s insulting to those of us who have experienced actual actual assault.

    • Paul Ellis says

      “My appearance is not here for men, and we, as people should be able to wear whatever we want without being judged.”

      Yes it is. Your appearance is for *everyone*, because anyone who sees you can’t avoid seeing you, yet you insist that men are not to see you, but if they do, to form no judgement of you whatsoever.

      That’s just passive aggression. Or extreme naïvety.

      Of course people should wear what they want to, but whatever you wear provokes a reaction in others, which used to be called ‘first impressions’. Choosing what you wear gives you some control over those first impressions. You can choose to blend in with most people around you, in which case the first impression will largely be: ‘That person is like us’, or you can choose to look very noticeably different, in which case the first impression will probably be: ‘That person is not like us. Are they a threat?’

      If you want that investment banking job you’d better turn up to the interview in a business suit, whether or not you like wearing it. If, on a dark street, you want to be mistaken for a mugger, lurk around in a hoodie with the hood well over your face. Do you judge young men dressed in this way? I would be most surprised if you didn’t. Few people entirely lack the self-preservation instinct.

      As for people with very brightly coloured hair? If they’re not teenagers, my first impression usually tends to be: ‘Avoid. Don’t interact’.

      • peanut gallery says

        If I dress in a police officer uniform, people will probably treat me like one. If I dress like a hooker (IE sexually available), should I expect a different result?

    • Brian says

      ” My appearance is not here for men..”

      Irene.
      You are preaching exactly the type of hypocrisy that this article talks about. The fact that you refer to ‘beauty’ as a physical attribute speaks volumes about your own value system.
      For many women wearing makeup and revealing clothing is an attempt, conscious or otherwise to increase their attractiveness to potential mates.This is NATURAL, not a cause for shame. For others such as yourself it is, apparently an expression of pure narcissism.
      Physical self-obsession is not an exclusively female trait. Gyms worldwide are full of men who spend most of their spare time staring at themselves in full length mirrors, building body mass instead of knowledge and character, only to discover later in life that, although 20 inch biceps do attract a certain type of mate, they don’t qualify a person as a valuable member of a modern society. I wouldn’t call this delusion toxic though, merely pitiful.
      What is toxic in your argument is your egoistic attempt to exempt yourself from the facts of reproductive biology and your inability to handle the (intellectual/ animal) duality of the human condition. This requires insight, humility and a sense of humour.
      Sincerely,
      Brian ( Patriarch in Chief of the Ancient Order of Misogynists )

      • There’s a difference, though, between “beauty” and “hotness.” Most women naturally want to look beautiful, to attract, to be desired, etc. But dressing for the sake of “hotness” is purely sexual and will elicit sexual responses. A woman in a pretty, modest dress can look perfectly beautiful, and male response to her will be more “whole-bodied” and “whole-brained,” likely involving feelings of protectiveness along with desire. Put that same woman in short shorts, thigh high boots, halter top, and fishnets, and she will have a totally different effect, focused in the genitals. Modern Western culture inculcates hotness rather than beauty.

        • “Modern Western culture inculcates hotness rather than beauty.” Modern Western culture isn’t a monolith. The sluttiness or hotness of modes of dress are linked to class.

          • Rob says

            Good point. Class is rarely brought into these discussions, either by identarians or by skeptics. Probably because most of the people on both sides of this issue are in the same socio-economic class – the educated, professional 20 per cent.

  15. Grant Dewar says

    Heather, Your courage is breathtaking, especially after what you and Bret have been through at Evergreen. Thanks for providing you insight in this highly contended area…. I would just like to add we can take the sting out of “toxic” by acknowledging too much of anything is toxic.. even clean water…

  16. painedumonde says

    I’ve read through comments after the article; besides the thanks and positive mentions, all the critiques seem to sidestep even the possibility that toxic feminity, whatever it is, could even exist. I’m not one to be able to define it, no sir/ma’am. But as a possibility, it must exist surely. And I believe the author has made the point clear that the wellspring of that toxicity, whatever that is, is that damned DNA. Poison frogs and great apes have it in common, it’s just a matter of expression.

    And as a matter of course, Professor, thanks for baring your neck, whether on trek in the jungle or day to day in the one that’s concrete.

  17. I’m not feeling this article. There is such a thing as toxic femininity, but chastising men for gawking is not a great example of it. Your student wasn’t toxic – she was just clueless, raised to believe that there should never be consequences for her actions and that her own desires were sacrosanct.

    I’d suggest the tactic of finding a way to criticize someone regardless of their actions (for eg: feeling infantilized when a man offers help, while also feeling unfairly dismissed and ignored when help is not offered is a decent example) to be a more apt example. Or perhaps the most typical one, courtesy of our outspoken twitter feminist activist friends: First, claim that men never ask why a woman might have perspective X or Y, but when someone does, then insist “It’s not my job to teach you”. That’s just passive-aggressive bullying (most of these twitter shills are grown-up bullies, in my experience. They were just as terrible, with a more local pervue. Now, they can be worldwide!

    • “– she was just clueless, raised to believe that there should never be consequences for her actions and that her own desires were sacrosanct.”

      In social situations, why isn’t that a perfectly good definition of all toxic people?

    • Rachel Welsh says

      If I was to define toxic femininity, I would mention over-nurturing and hypo-agency.

  18. Also, point of clarification:

    I understand toxic masculinity is the negative behaviors by men in order to reinforce their position in the male hierarchy. Like, “gay rage” where a gay man coming on to a straight man doesn’t elict a “thanks, no thanks” response, but potentially a violent one. Most men aren’t affronted that someone is attracted to them, they’re affronted because being gay (and by extension, being friendly towards gay people) might be a sign that they might be gay themselves, and therefore less of a man. All types of things that guys do to ‘Prove Themselves’ as a man is underthe TM umbrella.

    So basically, that dude cornering you and trying to cop a feel wasn’t (by my understanding) exhibiting toxic masculinity, he was exhibiting plain toxicness that even most toxic manbros don’t do.

    • Interesting definition of toxic masculinity. It would follow that toxic femininity would serve the purpose of reinforcing a woman’s position in the female hierarchy. The behavior described in the article appears to serve no purpose at all.

      Women are often accused (by men) of being illogical. Has the author unwittingly given substance to that assessment?

  19. Kate says

    Heartened to hear I wasn’t the only one who thought this article missed the mark. The idea that the term “toxic masculinity” is overused and used imprecisely is not a hard sell for me, but the misunderstanding of the term makes what might have been an interesting opinion piece terribly out of focus.

    • LAW says

      Yeah, that’s my take as well. Hate the term “toxic masculinity”, and think there are very clearly dark sides of femininity that you could call out as well. I just don’t see dressing provocatively as a pressing issue to take on. And in general, I don’t like the idea of “toxic” gender labels. Let’s just all agree that neither masculinity or femininity is toxic!

      • nicky says

        I don’t think the author’s example (let alone her point) was about dressing provocatively. The example was about dressing ‘provocatively’ and then being indignant at the gazes gotten.
        I don’t like the ‘toxic ‘ label either, and I’m convinced, after reading her article, Heather isn’t either.

  20. Victor C. says

    Loved the article Doctor. The only issue I had was with Lions and infanticide. I don’t consider it disrurbing behavior. Nature is a mean place. C’est la vie!

    • nicky says

      IIRC it was first described in langurs. And yes, it maybe the way nature is, but I still find it disturbing.
      Do you seriously do not feel a pang of pity for the cub, rolling on it’s back, realising (well I guess) that the game is over, before it is clinically dispatched?
      We all wish, due to our social instincts inherent in a highly gregarious species (?), nature was not such a callous and indifferent place. C’est la vie, mais la vie est une merde!

  21. Elissa says

    This article lacks an adequate social analysis and has built a straw man of feminism and the concept of toxic masculinity. That’s the problem when an evolutionary biologist ventures into areas where some social science might help understand the phenomenon in question more clearly. Of course, we are animals and we are primates.Our natures have been shaped via evolution, but we are not lobsters and we are not tree frogs. Animals do many things that humans find objectionable and immoral. We are human animals and we are moral animals, having a powerful sense of self-consciousness and social awareness. We have the ability to choose to go against nature red in tooth and claw — in fact, culture, which is malleable, is an adaptation that makes us evolve our behaviours with much greater speed than biological evolution. Culture has been a prime factor in our success as a species. I find the retreat to biological and evolutionary explanations when discussing human behaviour to be impoverished, and fails to appreciate all that makes humans more than mere animals – culture. Our cultures value women for their sexual and reproductive abilities and not their character or intelligence. This has been historically true, and it’s really only in the past half century that women have made strides in realms outside the home, marriage, motherhood or the few acceptable occupations for women, such as teaching, nursing and retail. Young girls learn from a very early age that they are evaluated based on their sexual and physical attractiveness and their self esteem plummets at puberty when they are first aware of this ubiquitous male gaze. Rather than blame individual women for wearing makeup or fashionable clothes that enhances their physical attractiveness, maybe focus on why our culture continues to value women primarily for their appearance and not their character or intelligence. Maybe explore how we can reverse that so that girls and women are seen as people first and female second. If society told young girls that they are supposed to wear green knit caps, oversized orange pumpkin costumes, shave their heads and paint their faces purple in order to be attractive and acceptable, guess what? You’d walk down the street and see young women in various shades of green hats, orange pumpkin costumes and purple faces. For most young girls and women, wearing fashionable clothing and makeup is not done to attract men as much as to feel that the female is “good enough” and conforms to gender identity norms. As to toxic masculinity, feminists see it as a negative for men as well as women and society in general. This doesn’t mean that all aspects of masculinity are toxic; it merely means that there are elements of masculinity that are toxic as there are elements of femininity that are toxic. Most men do not display these toxic behaviours, thankfully. Most women do not display aspects of toxic femininity. It’s time for us to stop labelling the entire group with the sins of the few, even if those sins are egregious.

    • Let’s face it, feminism has long since regressed from a mass movement that effectively spoke for huge numbers of women into a largely academic parlor game in which different cliques adopt different niche positions and pour scorn and damnation on the heads of their opponents.

      Sadly, it now says little or nothing to or about the wider world as most women experience it, instead preferring to become a toxic brand from which many young women shy away.

      Women need feminists like fish need bicycles.

    • Wilson Hill says

      I don’t think she’s blaming women for wearing makeup, nor is Peterson saying we’re all lobsters, surely it’s not that reducible. She’s on board with the legitimate confines of applicability, as far as I can tell.
      As a guy the first distinction I was taught was that girls are comprised of “sugar and spice and everything nice” while boys consist of “rats and snails and puppy dog tails.” The third of which isn’t all that disagreeable, granted, but it hardly rings of a patriarchal narrative (not that that’s your angle). And if we’re talking dress codes, men are clearly more anonymized. So guys would generally appreciate more value in the sexual arena just as women would appreciate more value in the intellectual arena. And I’m with you on your final sentiments as far as the integrity of individual engagement, but again I wouldn’t say she’s defying that here.

    • Colonel Muppet says

      You are an ideologically possessed fool.

      Men’s sexual response together with most male mammals is processed way faster than conscious thought.

      We cannot help looking at attractive women and get stimulated? Understand?

      Women will always be, in those initial moments of looking, sexual objects.

      Your ideas are the typical, pitiful notions of the deluded feminist.

      You think men have it any easier? We have to acquire resources and status to get an attractive mate. And many of us commit suicide when that fails.

      We both have it hard but in different ways. Except men dont whine on the internet about horrible this biological predicament is.

      Grow up and adapt to the world rather than try to change the unchangeable.

      • Bubblecar says

        “We cannot help looking at attractive women and get stimulated?”

        I can.

        “Grow up and adapt to the world rather than try to change the unchangeable.”

        Who says it’s unchangeable? We find out more about the relationship between biology and behaviour all the time, and our ability to modify biology via technology is continually expanding. It may well be possible in the future to modify human nature to get rid of sexuality altogether.

        At that point we’ll need to ask whether such a primitive characteristic is worth hanging onto, and if so, why. Human reproduction is not dependent on sexual behaviour, the prisons are full of sex offenders, and as you say, there’s a common attitude that “We both have it hard but in different ways”…

        • If you can consciously stop being stimulated Bubblecar I seriously doubt you were stimulated in the first place.

        • @bubblecar

          “It may well be possible in the future to modify human nature to get rid of sexuality altogether.”

          You are deluded if you think science can explain the causal connections between biology and behavior to the extent that sexuality can be discarded. Describing the anatomical sexual functions will get you nowhere close to actually understanding the meaning of sexuality on an ontological level.

      • Mazzakim says

        “We both have it hard but in different ways. Except men dont whine on the internet about horrible this biological predicament is.”

        Except you just did:

        “You think men have it any easier? We have to acquire resources and status to get an attractive mate. And many of us commit suicide when that fails.”

    • “Rather than blame individual women for wearing makeup or fashionable clothes that enhances their physical attractiveness, maybe focus on why our culture continues to value women primarily for their appearance and not their character or intelligence.”

      Some women are valued for character and intelligence, with or without looks. Someone like Audrey Hepburn became an icon for more than her (exceptionally) pretty face and no-one voted for Angela Merkel based on her looks.

      However, it isn’t a cultural reason that men value women particularly for looks. That’s a biological urge. That was the point she was making. If you flaunt it they will look. Men are also valued based on appearance, in particular height.

      • Well, the Germans do call Angela “Mutti” (mother). I wouldn’t bet her looks don’t have something to do with the votes cast for her by the CDU in the Bundestag.

        Besides, the Germans use a proportional election scheme and very few Germans actually get to pull the lever for Mutti Merkel, that should be obvious; the woman has made some very bad decisions over the last 5 years.

    • Just Me says

      “Our cultures value women for their sexual and reproductive abilities and not their character or intelligence. This has been historically true”

      That isn’t, in fact, true. It is a drastic oversimplification made by extreme feminists. The great female figures of the Bible, for example, are known for their wisdom and character, and are presented as role models for those, not their looks.

      Of course until recently, reproductive abilities were crucially important to the survival of the family, the tribe, the nation, and so were valued accordingly, and that was women,s unique characteristics, they could give birth to other humans, a valued characteristic.

      Males were valued for their physical strength, courage, cunning, strategic thinking, i.e. their capacity to defend the family, tribe or nation.

      Both were valued for their character and wisdom in juggling the different constraints of their environments, physical and social, and their capacity for hard, productive work.

      It is only recently, in our own societies, that individuals have been valued for their individual uniqueness and originality, rather than for how much they contribute to the wider group’s wellbeing.

      • J.Ryall says

        Why don’t we value women for their character and intelligence? We do, actually. But in the mating game, looks are the source of initial attraction. Whether you like it or not, men will primarily be drawn to you because we find you physically attractive. We are largely visual–hence, why we are the main consumers of porn. What separates a fling from a potential long term partner, though, is intellectual compatibility (for me, anyway).

        As much as women try to deny it, they are also the same. Given two equally intelligent, kind, funny, etc. men, they will pick the one they find “hotter”. That’s what separates friends from lovers.

        • Just Me says

          True, there is a reason the Prince in fairy tales is always handsome.

          There is a reason in the US, anyway, the ideal man is always “tall, dark and handsome”.

          Looks matter to women, too.

    • nicky says

      “Animals do many things that humans find objectionable and immoral”, well I’d say that humans do many things that hummans etc. The torture instruments just designed for that are testimony.
      But the is a minor point.
      I think that social ‘science’ is way more culpable of neglecting biology than evolutionary biology is culpable of neglecting ‘culture’.
      Your example ” If society told young girls that they are supposed to wear green knit caps, oversized orange pumpkin costumes, shave their heads and paint their faces purple in order to be attractive and acceptable, guess what? You’d walk down the street and see young women in various shades of green hats, orange pumpkin costumes and purple faces.” is typical. No, I do not think so, possibly shaved head or purple face, but definitely not orange pumpkin costumes.
      There are traits that males find nearly universally attractive in women and the ‘taille’ (a modicum of hip/waist ratio) is definitely one of them. Culture goes just so far, Sexual jealousy? Lust after a ‘stiff booty’? Attraction to youth? Do you seriously think that can be ‘cultured’ out of males? And vice versa, there are certainly things women look for in males, regardless of culture.

  22. https://youtu.be/Dg6j7tpk7m0?t=2039
    Here’s an amazing breakdown, by a woman, on what Animus possession is, and how it hijacks the minds of women

    Animus Possession is when a woman, who is angry at legitimately bad men, then talks to good men with all the anger she has for the bad men. It’s a false transference of negative emotion to people who don’t deserve it.

  23. @ Elissa

    I hear what you are trying to say. When you say:

    “If society told young girls that they are supposed to wear green knit caps, oversized orange pumpkin costumes…”

    And

    “…fashionable clothing and makeup is not done to attract men as much as to feel that the female is “good enough” and conforms to gender identity norms.”

    But the reason why women try to look attractive is largely to attract a partner and it is a biologically driven. What you describe is how this is manifested. Sure, fashion tastes change but what doesn’t changed is the need to look attractive. And this is true for all human societies on earth. So why is it that there never has been a culture where looking good wasn’t important?

    Again to your second point, these norms are controlled and dictated mostly by women themselves. These gender identity norms across the world in all cultures did not spring out of thin air, rather are biologically driven for the same purpose.

    Males who develop more of a feminine psychology and females with more masculine traits equally behave according to the above.

    • Becky says

      So since I have a mate and am not looking for a mate, what am I allowed to wear? I don’t want to have to give up this closet full of dresses that are each a gorgeous work of art, but I suppose since humans are such a simple minded species, I must.
      But I don’t know what a human female is supposed to wear to indicate “I am not looking for a partner.” Can you show me example photos of acceptable outfits? I also have a job, so they would need to meet “professional standards” as well as being comfortable.

      • @ Becky

        Lol! Nice! But no… it has got nothing to with whether you are consciously looking for a mate or not. Your biological and psychological make is geared towards sex.

        “But I don’t know what a human female is supposed to wear to indicate “I am not looking for a partner.””

        Doesn’t work that way. Have you given up on sex? Or checking out other humans [men, women or both]? A “lurch” somewhere before you get a conscious grip on your self?

        “Can you show me example photos of acceptable outfits?”

        Oh yes!

        http://www.thetinyman.in/2015/12/funny-niqab-and-burka-pictures.html

        Oh be careful though… apparently that is a powerful fetish! Errrrrrr…..

        • Becky says

          So because my spouse and I are not celibate, that means I subconsciously want to have sex with everyone? I can accept that some individuals might be rabid creatures, but not all of us are.

          *Covers drink and walks away to the furthest edge of the room.*

          • @ Becky

            “that means I subconsciously want to have sex with everyone?”

            What? Everyone!? No. Just because you are with someone the old machinery doesn’t pack up. The conscious mind has hell of lot of control over the body – your natural instincts. But not absolute. So you don’t stop scoping the potential to find those who are suitable.

            I don’t know how much of that translates to “actively” wanting to have sex with others irrespective of being in a relationship or not.

            “I can accept that some individuals might be rabid creatures, but not all of us are.”

            It isn’t about that though is it? We are, like other sexual animals, geared towards procreation. It is a powerful meaning of life – genetic survival. Yes, there is part of us that goes well beyond mere “lust” to forming deeper & longer lasting “love” based relationships. But the basic natural instinct is always there. One’s biochemical functions do not just shut down without reason.

            This is why if love ends people can move on. Or if we lose a partner through death. Or one can still love a partner and still be overcome by lust and seek others.

  24. Elissa says

    “But the reason why women try to look attractive is largely to attract a partner and it is a biologically driven.” So, women stop wearing makeup and fashionable clothing once they get married and reproduce?

    You’ve made a sweeping generalization. Women wear fashionable clothes and makeup for a variety of reasons, some due to a desire to be attractive, yes, but some is just to fit in to a cultural norm, some to appear appropriate for their gender, occupation, etc.

    It’s not all about men and biological reproduction, in other words. It’s not all about mating and sexual attractiveness.

    That’s biological reductionism and is a fallacy in addition to being bad logic and reasoning.

    We have this thing called culture. It is, as Brett Weinstein says, the software to biology’s hardware. It’s much more malleable than biology. In fact, it can completely escape its biological origins and take on a meaning completely abstracted from biology. The content and purpose of dress and makeup varies with history, culture and with a woman’s age and situation.

    You can’t tell me you think a 12 year old girl is wearing hi-tops and overalls (or whatever the fashion is) is to attract a mate. Those teens are busy wondering what their best friend thinks of them, or whether they look stupid or some other social peer group issue. When we were young teens, we used to call each other up the night before school to check what the others were going to wear the next day. It was to fit in with other girls, not to attract a mate. We were thinking of other girls and fitting in, not what the boys thought. We didn’t even talk to boys at that point.

    An 80 YO woman is not wearing lipstick to attract a mate so she can reproduce. She’s already done so. She may still have a mate. The 80 YO is just trying to look the way she’s always looked, and that means wearing lipstick because wearing lipstick is what women do to look appropriate to their gender norms, which are cultural and shift with fashion trends.

    Again, this biological reductionism is bad science and bad reasoning.

    • John McCormick says

      @Elissa

      A twelve-year-old girl need know nothing about her body’s reproductive mission to obey it. None of us need to understand much of anything to reproduce. Culture merely provides additional criteria upon which we judge another’s suitability for mating or cooperation and is itself a product of biological adaptation to environment.

      Attempting to contradict facts based the study of many millions of years of evolution with a couple of decades of personal and uninformed experience indicates miseducation and indoctrination.

      Humans are animals. The study of humans requires the study of animals. Statements to the contrary are statements of religious belief.

      • Years ago, in answer to the silly question: “Why is a pilot better than a Tomahawk missile?”

        One of the answers was: Pilots can be easily replaced using only unskilled labor.

    • Colonel Muppet says

      Idiotic tautology going on here – typical of a sad post modern education.

      If old women wear make up then its just habit formed around the culture of mating.

      If young girls dress up then its in preparation for mating later in life.

      If a married woman dresses up then its to continue to appeal to her husband – to attempt to prevent him from straying.

      All biological at source

    • @ Elissa

      ” Those teens are busy wondering what their best friend thinks of them, or whether they look stupid or some other social peer group issue. When we were young teens, we used to call each other up the night before school to check what the others were going to wear the next day. It was to fit in with other girls, not to attract a mate.”

      Yes it is! You have described it perfectly here. You just refuse to see it. I guess ideology.

      “this biological reductionism is bad science and bad reasoning.”

      Says who? I think you will find feminist theorists such as Judith Butler wholly unqualified to make such claims.

      “The 80 YO is just trying to look the way she’s always looked”

      In other words it has become a habit. Yet the desire is still to look attractive. And sexual drive does not automatically die down in such old age!

      ” is what women do to look appropriate to their gender norms”

      Yes! And even being aware of this has not led us to abandon the conformity. In droves men and women stick to it. Why do you think that is?

    • Jen W. says

      @Elissa,

      Your arguments are just blame deflection. While much more subtle, the author was speaking to exactly this. Toxic femininity being a female’s insistence that any negative consequences she faces are the fault of something else. That she need not take any personal responsibility for any negative consequences of her actions at all, but insist that it’s everybody else’s fault, whether that’s society at large or another specific individual. Perhaps choosing to focus on how one dresses was not the greatest way of addressing this issue by the author, but from what I can tell, that is what Dr. Heying was trying to talk about.

    • Just Me says

      Women dress not just to attract a mate, of course culture is involved, but part of the culture is influenced by biological realities.

      Which produces a female hierarchy separate from a male hierarchy.

      And one aspect of the female hierarchy is women evaluating each other as rivals in the mating game, and the women who can best attract quality the sexual attention of quality males are at the top of that hierarchy. They can attract more resources for themselves, and eventually for their children.

      So there is competition on that among women, and even when some women give up early, or figure once married they don,t have to try anymore, or they are too old to care anymore, it is there.

      Some women like some men are more competitive than others, and will want to look good even when it doesn’t matter socially, just for their own self-esteem, i.e. to reassure themselves that they are still high in the hierarchy and could still attract a quality male if they wanted to.

      Of course some women decide consciously to renounce competing in that hierarchy and concentrate on other aspects of life, for religious or ideological reasons (nuns, lesbians, etc.), or they just have plenty of other sources of high self-esteem and don’t need one more.

      • Just Me says

        Let me elaborate on “They can attract more resources for themselves, and eventually for their children.”

        The women who attract the high status males, first, get to do more fun things that are prized in society: go to expensive, glamourous events, drive around in fancy cars, get expensive gifts of jewelry, clothes, get taken on trips.

        When they marry one, they also get a higher standard of living, for themselves and their children.

        That does not go unnoticed. Some women brush that off for various reasons, some get envious and resentful, but it is definitely a factor in how and why women evaluate each other on a hierarchy of looks.

        There are other female hierarchies as well of course, like women judging each other on how good a mother their are…

        • Just Me says

          Another thought about women, attractiveness, and female social hierarchies.

          Although there re downsides to emphasizing women’s sexual attractiveness, let’s not forget that it provides a lot of women with a valuable asset and bargaining chip in relationships with men, and the equivalent of men’s superior physical strnght on the job market.

          Before industrialization and modernity, most men and women didn’t ahave much freedom for “personal expression”. Unless they were part of the noble class, women were tied to the family, and men had a limited number of choices of how to provide for that family. They were peasants, farmers, or artisans doing what their fathers had done, working with their hands and muscles in their village or on the farm.

          With industrialisation, ordinary men and women could get jobs in factories. With modernity and new technologies though, women could get jobs doing clerical work in offices, which was more desirable than working on the farm or in factories, and gave them some independence.

          Then came The Movies – Hollywood, and the glamour industry, and we were off to the races, so to speak. Women could monetize their looks beyond just getting a rich husband or lover.

          They could become movie stars, or models, and become independently wealthy and lead glamourous lives on their own. From that came even more valuing of women,s looks, and an industry promising to make even plain women beautiful and glamourous. More and more women dreamed of that kind of life.

          That has reached an apogee in today’s world where one can become a youtube or Instagram star, influencer, etc. based on one’s looks, beauty tips, etc.

          Which, in suspect, is not unrelated to the whole MTF trans phenomenon. when being a beautiful female carries such social admiration and power, highly status-conscious males become envious of beautiful women’s social and emotional power at a very early age, particularly if they are also getting the message that masculinity is devalued…

        • Becky says

          So then why are there so many lesbians who look fabulous if they have renounced this competition in the hierarchy?
          What about someone like me who was born high status and is overflowing with resources?

          I know a lot of men like to think that we women are just subconsciously obsessed with them, but really, but believe it or not, sometimes our actions aren’t all about them.

    • J.Ryall says

      True, the 12 year old may not be trying to attract a mate (though the 12 year olds I went to school with were very much interested in boys). However, learning to fit in is a key part of adolescence. Think about it: how many of those weird lonerish kids were successful at getting girlfriends/boyfriends?

      Before you get the wrong idea, let me clarify: there is more to life than having a partner, and those weird lonerish kids sometimes go on to do amazing things (which leads to them being viewed as desirable).

      You can try to discredit the biological argument all you want, but it remains true that humans, like all animals, are here to do three things: eat (i.e. self-preservation), pass on our genetics, and then die to make way for future generations. Everything else is either in service to those ends or simply frills.

  25. Rene says

    Fantastic article. Women and men alike, can learn much from Ms. Heying.

  26. JEA says

    Compare:

    “Any claim made by a member of an historically oppressed group is unquestionably true. Questioning claims is, itself, an act of oppression.”

    “[T]he Belief that there are such Beings as Witches is so Essential a Part of the Catholic Faith that Obstinacy to maintain the Opposite Opinion manifestly savours of Heresy.” –Malleus Maleficarum

    Assuming the truth of the first statement, I’m sure I’m not the only one that sees a parallel. The result of allowing a philosophy to morph into dogma. (Apologies for playing Captain Obvious…)

    • TarsTarkas says

      A heretic! A heretic! Burn the witch! Burn the witch!

    • Emblem14 says

      There should be a custom that anyone who proposes an argument that says questioning the argument automatically proves the argument, is simply ignored. It shouldn’t matter what the argument is. It’s just too stupid to spend time on.

    • — except the Malleus Maleficarum was not consistent with the Catholic Faith, and was condemned by the Church. But then, the Church’s condemning it would likely also be seen as rooted in “dogma” and, therefore, a bad thing. The Church never wins.

  27. John McCormick says

    One great thing about articles like this is that comments show how many people cling to an essentially religious idea of the origins of humans. (I have self-professed atheist friends who are more religious than some churchgoers). Although they have learned that expressing belief or acceptance of evolution through natural selection is essential to being taken seriously, everything they say indicates that they neither believe it nor understand it.

    Fifty thousand years of religion is not going to be overcome in a few hundred years of reason, that is for sure.

    Humans are animals, and the foundations of understanding animals and their behavior is in Biology. All else is religion.

    • Elissa says

      Sorry, but no. Biology is one discipline in the sciences. It doesn’t explain – by a long shot – the social and cultural aspects of human civilization. Science is a means of producing knowledge of the physical world. Biology is a way of understanding life. There is a huge difference between humans and our next closest relatives (Bonobos) or other non-human non-primate animals that have some semblance of self-consciousness. Those differences matter and can’t be fully explained through reference to biology or physics or chemistry. Consciousness matters. It is an emergent property of biology but it can’t be fully explained via biology. The physical sciences alone are inadequate. We need the social sciences, such as history and sociology and political science and psychology to understand humans. Not everything can be reduced down to genes and evolution, except in the most reductionist logic.

      • Colonel Muppet says

        Nah, a lot of it comes down to the biology I’m afraid. The hierarchies are blends of environmental resources and biology and the culture builds from that over time. But the baseline is still the same and always will be

      • @ Elissa

        “Those differences matter and can’t be fully explained through reference to biology or physics or chemistry.”

        Can’t they? Well how else are you explaining them? Our more evolved brain is due to biology.

        “It is an emergent property of biology but it can’t be fully explained via biology. ”

        Only because our knowledge so far is inadequate and lacking.

        “We need the social sciences, such as history and sociology and political science and psychology to understand humans.”

        Yes. But you are confusing two things:

        * What humans are

        VS

        * What humans do

        “Not everything can be reduced down to genes and evolution”

        Otherwise broadly known as nature. Yes it can. Where else do we come from. There is no other explanation!

      • John McCormick says

        @Elissa

        The social sciences are not scientific. They are philosophical. They use myth, history, literary themes, and intuition to construct narratives that interpret observations of the human condition into something that sounds convincing to a selected audience. However, some of them have chosen to put their practice on the firm foundation of the fundamental laws of biology.

        Biology, Zoology, and Ethology would be a lot farther in being able to explain human behavior if universities were not dominated by social scientists and humanities “scholars” who threaten scientists who study human behavior and who indoctrinate students to believe that cognition is explainable only by unreformed social scientists.

        Brains and nervous systems are matter. Matter is physical. Please take a qualitative course of some kind concerning quantum mechanics and its implications for cognition.

        BTW, eugenics programs were carried out almost entirely by social scientists and medical doctors. While science is concerned with understanding the universe the way it is, social science is concerned with correction of human behavior in accordance with progressivist values. Progressivism grew from the Great Awakening, yet another “born again” movement among anglophone Protestants. “Toxic masculinity” is merely another way of talking about “males enthusiastically doing the devil’s work.”

        • Becky says

          @John McCormick
          “The social sciences are not scientific. They are philosophical. They use myth, history, literary themes, and intuition to construct narratives that interpret observations of the human condition into something that sounds convincing to a selected audience.”

          What social sciences are you talking about? I feel like a lot of people on here have a very limited understanding of what the social sciences actually do. Sociology, anthropology, archaeology, psychology, etc. all use scientific method. It’s not philosophical just because they may look at the philosophies of different cultures.

      • Razz says

        Why so? Because youbsay it must be so? How about this for a hypothesis…culture is a different method of evolution. Instead of a biological process involving modification through reproductive success it is a method for dealing with environmental realities that can be instantly shared through language and knowledge. The near infinite possibilities are held within a matrix of tradition and cultural expressions. This serves as a well that human beings use to innovate and adapt far more swiftly that wvolution which has something like a 1% success rate. Still used for exactly the same essential success measures as we would ascribe to biological evolution. Which ultimately seems to encompass an escape from that brutal process.

    • dirk says

      If you )John) consider culture and ideology as certain forms of religion (as does Yuval Harari), then you are right, maybe. Peterson bets on the crustaceae, and even uses them as a symbol of humanity.

      • The chorus of “The Song of the Evolutionary Biologist.” (Sung to the tune of “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”)

        It’s a long way from amphioxus
        It’s a long way to us.
        It’s a long way from amphioxus
        To the meanest human cuss.
        So goodbye to fins and gillslits
        Hello lungs and hair,
        It’s a long, long way from amphioxus
        But we all came from there.

        Read more: https://muzikum.eu/en/123-26404-466516/unknown/its-a-long-

  28. Bonos diablos says

    Mark Wahlberg/Chris Hemsworth (or any Hollywood heartthrob) could make a sleazy comment and get away with it, but YOU can’t gaze at my tits or arse. An annoying hypocritical double standard

  29. Colonel Muppet says

    A few extra lessons at school would solve it all. Men’s sexual response is subconscious – it happens at a fraction if the speed of conscious thought, in some of the oldest brain structures – amygdala and hypothalamus.

    Telling kids we are all the same in our libido and in our desires is borderline criminal. More post modern progressive dogshit ruining any understanding between the sexes is disgraceful.

  30. I really wanted to love this piece, but I feel like it missed the mark at the beginning. To be clear, no one reviles the misandrist, deranged version of feminism that has become the norm more than I do. I will consistently point out the fact that toxic masculinity is used as the catchall for problems that harm men, while feminists will *never* use the term toxic femininity to explain women’s disadvantages and instead fight for systemic changes.

    However, for all their faults, I have to say that I don’t see them using the former term to describe something biologically intrinsic in men. Most of them don’t even think there are differences between men and women above the neck to begin with. They do love to berate and demonize men for our behavior, but the narrative is that we’re a product of a culture that makes us think we’re entitled to be violent or some similar nonsense. It’s absolute drivel, but we have to address the argument for what it is.

    That being said, I think your main example of toxic femininity is a very sound one. But I feel that this plays into a larger construct of femininity where women are supposed to be passive victims who cannot control their own fate, and it must always be men who change. Feminists seem to buy into this as well, just like how they pretend to care about the “damsel in distress” trope while milking it for all its worth. There are many additional examples I’d like to have seen such as women being reluctant to negotiate salaries, spend more time at work or assert themselves in general being addressed as forms of toxic femininity so that we can get rid of the “patriarchy” scapegoat.

  31. dirk says

    It’s a pity that only certain layers of society are reacting here. I would have liked to know the comments of muslims (moderate , civilized ones). What they think of women dress norms, codes and morals. I fear the worst, for us unimaginable even.

  32. Tom says

    I’m sure Heather is well respected and knowledgeable in her field, but this article falls at the first hurdle. Masculinity /= men. Masculinity is a social construct, not a biological one. I know it’s more complex than that, but our behaviours are influenced by society as well as our genetic makeup. Likely more the former.

    • dirk says

      Male= biological
      Masculine= cultural/human
      See also in Sapiens, Yuval Harari, pg 167:
      female; ovaries, can produce milk etc
      Woman (historic,ancient Athens): can’t decide for herself who to marry
      Woman (now, in Athens, the West): can decide for herself who .

    • Paul Ellis says

      @Tom

      “Masculinity is a social construct, not a biological one.”

      Try telling that to your hormones. I tried telling mine, but they wouldn’t listen.

      If I see an attractive person I can choose not to act on my instinctual reaction to them: that’s voluntary suppression. If I convince myself I didn’t have an instinctual reaction in the first place, that’s repression. If I’m told never to act under any circumstances, that’s oppression. If I’m instructed that my instinctual reaction itself, unacted upon, is intolerable, that’s totalitarianism.

    • Rob says

      Nobody has argued we’re influenced only by biology. Ever. We do, however, see lots of people people deny that biology plays any role in our behaviour.

      The fact is that biology and culture both play a role. And pretending we aren’t animals, like any other, with powerful innate dispositions and impulses, is to be as defiantly ignorant of science as creationists are.

      For example, we crave salt and sugar. Are those innate cravings exploited in unhealthy ways? Yes. Would it be an effective health strategy to pretend cravings for salt and sugar are simply a social construct that we can choose to dispel? Nope.

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  35. I find this article’s frame much too limiting, because she sees toxic femininity purely as something that women do to men using their sexual power, and only if they’re hot. There is a much larger “Mean Girls” routine, which women use on each other too:

    1) Women excel at using social warfare on each other, and they don’t need men to do so. Controlling information, damaging people’s reputations, setting people against each other, calling each other sluts and bitches, using victimhood as leverage, running to the nearest authority, etc. Women are far more likely to pursue their grudges this way than men, who just prefer to fight it out openly.

    2) Women excel at violence-by-proxy, by recruiting men (and authority figures in general) to defend themselves against other men. Usually this is done by calling a man a pussy if he _doesn’t_ fight. So it’s not about denying men strength, it’s denying men the ability to use their strength for their own interests rather than that of women.

    3) Women can use womanhood as a collective shield, generalizing their own interests and preferences as being universal. It’s a sort of weaponized in-group bias, and this is what a lot of contemporary feminism has turned into. Intersectionality has generalize this to other categories, where the experience of a black person, or an LGBT, or an immigrant, is transformed from anecdote into data.

    This leads to some pretty pervasive blind spots. One example is the moral panic about online harassment. It never seems to occur that maybe anonymous trolls could be women, they’re always implicitly male… But, if you look at e.g. what kinds of discussion happen in male-oriented spaces, it’s predominantly thing- or activity-oriented (such as video games, woodworking, cars, etc.). When women gather, it’s people oriented. If you look at e.g. “lolcow forums” like Kiwifarms, they strike me as very female-dominated. Not only do they enjoy slagging people off for fun, but they do this persistently, with months or even years long threads dedicated to specific individuals. This is not stereotypically male behavior: men will generally fight it out openly, and then let it go, while women will avoid direct conflict, but let it drag on indefinitely.

    • OleK says

      “I find this article’s frame much too limiting, because she sees toxic femininity purely as something that women do to men using their sexual power, and only if they’re hot.”

      I don’t think Heather thinks this or would deny any of your additional points. I think she just chose to focus on the points she did for the sake of brevity for the article.

      • Just Me says

        Olek-

        “I don’t think Heather thinks this or would deny any of your additional points. I think she just chose to focus on the points she did for the sake of brevity for the article.”

        Exactly, and because she is reacting to the whole #MeToo movement and Peterson bein under attack for his comments about makeup in the workplace.

        I look forward to additional articles dealing with other aspects of “toxic femininity”.

    • marms. says

      Samuel: What you describe is “ghetto” behaviour. Think about it.

      And: Re Heather’s solution to it all, “wear more clothes” and other arguments of that ilk, is blaming the women for men’s bad behaviour. If that were true, we wouldn’t have seen Lesbians and old women being beaten and dragged around at various gatherings. Lesbians nor elderly women not exactly known for decollatage and six inch fuck me shoes. We’d also not have men trolling for five-year old children to rape, or elderly nursing home residents being raped by male caregivers. Men beat, assault, and rape at will. No class of female left safe.

      • Just Me says

        Here we have one of those feminists who aren’t supposed to exist, folks – “Men beat, assault, and rape at will. No class of female left safe.”

        And no one is saying it’s *all* about the clothes, marms.

      • david says

        “Men beat, assault, and rape at will. No class of female left safe.”

        Oh dear. SOME men do. Particularly on the Subcontinent, it seems, and also notably in an organised way in some British cities. That said, some of the Subcontinental rapists have recently been executed for what they did, so perhaps ‘at will’ has its limits.

        SOME women also do similar things, as, no doubt, do SOME people of indeterminate gender. I’ve read that lesbian relationships feature the most domestic violence. I wonder whether a culture of habitual paranoiac projection might have anything to do with this?

        Given the size of the human population, statistically there will always be SOME people who behave abominably, and as a result, absolute safety for all is impossible.

        As another poster has written: ‘The very communities where ‘toxic masculinity’ is being discussed most are the communities where the men are, in my experience, compassionate, egalitarian, and not at all toxic.’

        The acute problems lie elsewhere, in other cultures. Care to address them?

        • marms says

          Saying men includes saying some, Black, Indigenous, disabled, gingers, etc. Some is an adjective. he operative word is men. I’m not used to being redundant. I’ll try harder.

          • david says

            @marms

            If I understand your statement – I’m not sure that I do – then it looks like another motte and bailey to me. Explaining yourself clearly without sweeping generalisations is not ‘redundancy’, if that’s what you meant.

          • ga gamba says

            Oh, OK. Why don’t you test that out by commenting in a forum? Try any of these.

            Blacks are violent.
            Jews are stingy.
            Asians are sly.
            Women are irrational.

            And when the howls of protest and outrage start then add another comment, “Saying ______ includes saying some,” and see how it’s received. Do so quickly before your account is banned and your comment deleted.

            I’m old enough to recall when “not all” was about black people. It was a justified objection then as are the “not all” ones are today.

            If you’re too lazy or dogmatic to write and say some then the problem is you or the ideology you’re beholden to. The objections and criticisms you receive are earned and well deserved.

          • david says

            @marms

            ‘Men rape.

            https://archiveofthebitingbeaver.wordpress.com/2008/05/31/the-rapist-checklist-repost/

            Apparently, so do women:

            There. Now, where does this get us? To ‘humans rape’, it seems. *All* humans are theoretically capable of *any* behaviour, but it seems *most* humans don’t do the really bad stuff, such as rape.

            That’s why qualifiers are necessary: they makes your statements more reasonable and plausible. If they undermine your ideology, then I think your ideology is probably one of organised, habitual paranoiac projection. Taking responsibility for your own ‘dark side’ impulses rather than constantly projecting them on others requires maturity.

    • Susan says

      Based on the title, I thought the piece was going to be about “mean girls”-snarkiness, shunning, reputation damage. That has been my personal experience of toxic femininity as both a perpetrator and a victim starting about the age of 12. Of course, feminists are as good or better at it as anyone if one should stray from the conventional wisdom of the feminist line.

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  37. I noticed so much tension in my body as I began to read this. But as I was able to breath through that, what I found here was a lot of relief in your words. I absolutely love the way this balances the larger #metoo conversation that’s been taking place for the last year. A friend sent me this after conversing about how masculine and feminine both have shadow aspects of their power. We were discussing how there is the potential for a beautiful dance to take place where pursuit can dance with enticement. There can be something natural and beautiful about the place where the masculine dignity and power can meet the complexity and subtlety of feminine humility and submission. And just because I use the words masculine and feminine doesn’t mean I’m boxing men or women as having to be either, the gender of sex is fluid, and the roles of the dance can take place on either side. With each power there is in turn a shadow way in which these powers can be used. This article so perfectly captures this truth.

    I loved this article and it feels like an extremely brave addition to the conversation. I love that it brings equanimity and composure to a conversation that has been, in many ways overdue and unquestionably righteous, but also at times tearing us apart. If everyone could take in what’s been said here, I believe it actually has the power to bring us closer. And wouldn’t that be one of the brightest possible outcomes of any movement?

    Thank you so much for this.

  38. David says

    Since the people who most loudly decry toxic masculinity also would have us accept infinite genders, does that mean we can now identify “toxic non-binaries” and “toxic queer”?

  39. Kels says

    COMPLETE strawman argument. Either that, or the author is clueless. Hint: No one is saying all men are toxic. “Toxic masculinity” refers to when traits like aggression (male trait that the author concedes) get out of hand.
    Your desperate dogma is showing, Heather.

    • Rob says

      The term toxic masculinity is used to malign entire communities, or society in general, not just the men who it applies to. More men than women enter STEM fields? Toxic masculinity at work. More men than women read science fiction? Toxic masculinity must be the culprit. A roleplaying game group is made up entirely of men? Toxic masculinity strikes again.

    • Paul Ellis says

      @Kels

      This would appear to be a fine example of motte and bailey, as described here by other commenters.

    • Michael Fiorillo says

      Yes, in addition to her failure to mention these behaviors as expressions of systemic patriarchy.

      It not males that are toxic, it’s patriarchy. While all men are beneficiaries and vectors (and victims) of it, only some manifest its most aggressive/destructive aspects.

      But I don’t think that’s the author’s purpose here; I think she (like her husband, btw, whose mistreatment by some idiotic college Identitarians is being used by the Right to further attack the Humanities) is claiming to take a very courageous stand, when in fact her arguments reinforce traditional power and gender relations.

      I’m not qualified to comment on the author’s scientific work, but I hope it’s superior to her cultural and social analysis.

      • Rob says

        Or perhaps her culture and social analysis does not share the structuralist belief that we live in a systemic patriarchy.

        Are there patriarchal elements in our society? Of course. There are all sorts of influences on our society: social, tribal, genetic, sub-cultural. Some top-down, some bottom-up. It’s complex. But the doctrinaire champions of identity politics, like all ideologues, have an intense aversion to complexity. They see only systemic racism and sexism. Only power structures and oppression.

        And their credo is ferociously hostile to any notion that behaviour can have explanations rooted in biology. Those who see everything through the lens of systemic patriarchy dismiss the very legitimacy of evolutionary biology. No doubt Heyer has encountered this hostility in her academic life.

  40. Lucid says

    Although I very much agree that there are a whole host of things wrong with calling all men toxic, most feminists I know will just scoff and insist that toxic masculinity “only refers to toxic masculine norms.” I suspect a motte-and-bailey tactic, and I don’t doubt that you could furnish plenty of examples of the way people use the term to bash men at large and then present them to anyone who seeks to accuse you of attacking straw men. We see this all the time with terms like “privilege”; you object that white people are not unilaterally privileged, the progressive explains that privilege is just a way of describing the ways that a population is not disproportionately disadvantaged, and then people like Michael Eric Dyson and Tre Melvin talk about how white people have an inherent set of advantages due to their skin color. It’s ridiculous.

    I think it would have been worthwhile to examine the pseudoscience of “masculine norms.” One of the resources I’ve been pointed to in the past is the Conformity to Masculine Norms Index. The idea is that feminists in academia compiled a list of common behaviors among men, but employed a process that was riddled with bias. If I recall correctly, some man-hating white knight got a group of men and women together, assembled them into focus groups, and worked with them over several weeks to develop a list of norms. There’s an older channel on YouTube that goes by TL;DR, and he went into the process in detail.

    What interested me about this was that previous attempts to classify masculine standards of behavior often contained language that was much more positive, so much so that the ingrained prejudice is shocking when you contrast them. It’s also not lost on me that the social sciences tend to be disproportionately progressive, or that concern over indoctrination on college campuses is a common talking point among Anti-SJW’s. Here’s the list from the CMNI:

    Winning

    Emotional Control

    Risk-Taking

    Violence

    Power Over Women

    Dominance

    Playboy

    Self-Reliance

    Primacy of Work

    Disdain for Homosexuals

    Pursuit of Status

    And here’s the link to the index itself: http://www.psychwiki.com/dms/other/labgroup/Measu235sdgse5234234resWeek2/Krisztina2/Mahalik2003.pdf

    One point of confusion for me is that domestic violence and murder of women (usually coined “femicide”) are the two instances of toxic masculinity that I most commonly see cited from activists and various self-identified feminists on the web and in public. This puzzles me, because any time I’ve asked a feminist to list masculine norms, they’ve cited things like “provide for women”, “dominant,” “aggression,” “be heroic” and so on. You can’t really extrapolate “kill your wife” from any combination of these traits unless you’re either playing fast and loose with the norms, or you’re representing the death and brutalization of women as some kind of tragic byproduct of foisting these norms on boys.

    Laci Green also posted a video on this topic, and to her credit, she didn’t omit toxic femininity. I couldn’t find her sources, but here’s the list of feminine norms from her video. I’m not sure that these are exactly right, but they give us a vague outline.

    Vagina

    Have Babies

    Emotional

    Supportive

    Nurturer

    Self-Critical

    Passive

    Gentle

    Weak

    Victim

    Afraid

    Irrational

    Small

    Pretty

    Graceful

    What does it look like when these traits are pushed to their limits, or become toxic? It’s tricky to extrapolate out exactly what femininity consists of, but I think you hit a few of the high notes. As I see it, it’s not just when a woman cries foul at a man who looks at her breasts when they’re hanging out of her low-cut, skin-tight top, but what that entails: an attempt to incite proxy violence or impose shame on someone, not as justifiable retaliation to a crime committed against her person or to prevent behaviors which are legitimately harmful to society, but to attract men, or just attention, or out of a vindictive desire to lash out at someone.

    I’d also argue that toxic femininity encompasses the abuse of the helpless, or of anyone under your care, usually for attention, but sometimes to be vindictive, or perhaps for reasons that are so alien to me that I simply cannot fathom them. In “The Origins of War in Child Abuse”, the author talks about how women used to line up in droves to throw newborn infants into the Tiber, and in Ancient Sparta, children dined with their mother and father but lived exclusively with women:

    “Thus Herodotus could admit that “a boy is not seen by his father before he is five years old, but lives with the women.”4 It was mainly the women of the gynarchy in every early state who determined the child’s personality through infanticide, incest, torture and domination, so early families are termed by historians as matrifamilies: “The family in Egypt was matriarchal. The most important person in the family was not the father, but the mother. The Egyptian wife was called the ‘Ruler of the House.’”5 Right up to the Reformation it was common that “a boy until seventeen should sleep in the same bed as his mother,”6 so that maternal incest was common.”

    The above author describes all manner of particularly horrifying manifestations of child abuse, often perpetuated by women out of jealousy, or else due to some fit of conveniently-temporary psychosis in which the woman claimed to be possessed. In one example, women who felt spurned by their lovers would give their lovers children–boys as young as five–over to visiting Athenians, to be raped. Sometimes they would murder one of their infant children and blame it on some form of temporary possession. I wonder if our ancestors bought it as easily as we do today?

    Infanticide (especially the murder of neonates shortly after they’re born) is a crime almost exclusively committed by women, and safe haven laws are justified on the basis that it’s better for a woman to abandon her infant at a fire station than to suffocate it to death and throw it in the trash, or stab it seventeen times and leave it in your neighbor’s shed. Of course, it’s not their fault: she was possessed by her thumos–erm, sorry, “struggling with postpartem psychosis”–so she can’t be held accountable for her actions. Gotta maintain that feminine hypo-agency. I’ve always suspected that munchausen by proxy was a classic example of this.

    Of course, none of these behaviors are exclusive to men or women. They’re just feminine or masculine norms. Male nurses can abuse people under their care as well, or murder infants, or manipulate authority for personal gain, or to be vindictive, or for attention. Women, likewise, can be violent (and arguably commit violence against men with far more frequency than men commit it against women, albeit with far less severity.) I appreciate you talking about some of these points. I think people ought to give due consideration to the full spectrum of human atrocity, rather than look at men as if we are uniquely responsible for all the evils of the world.

    Nobody really has clean hands.

    • Lucid says

      Blegh. A few editing problems, so I found the CMNI and then shared them after the following paragraph, which grabbed a few norms from Laci’s vide. It’s all pseudoscience anyhow, but at least you don’t have to play fast-and-loose with the first set to understand how taking them to extremes might be toxic. It’s trickier to do this with feminine norms, but I don’t recall if the same people who did the CMNI also did an index of feminine norms.

    • dirk says

      Women are good in poisoning their husbands or mates. That’s history, and logic.

  41. Lilly says

    Comparative evolutionary study between why cute is dominate in some cultures vs sexy when?

  42. Phil says

    https://images-fe.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51yd7WJacfL.jpg

    Venus the dark side is a book that I procrastinated about reading it, for a number of years, and I finally read it,

    Toxic femininity has been a no go zone for decades, So finally information is starting to appear, And this article is just one step in the right direction,

    Esther Villar wrote the Manipulated Man, decades ago, and this book in itself is just another part of the jigsaw of human behaviour.

  43. All feminism is toxic says

    An accusation of “toxic masculinity” is no different to “you sound angry”. It’s a nonsense, designed to make the accuser’s position a fait accompli.

  44. Rob says

    The very communities where ‘toxic masculinity’ is being discussed most are the communities where the men are, in my experience, compassionate, egalitarian, and not at all toxic.
    ===============================================================

    I’ve noticed this paradox as well. The tabletop gaming hobby is in the throes of a moral panic around sexual harassment and misogyny. And yet the educated, nerdy young men who play Settlers of Catan and Pandemic are among the most mild-natured and fair-minded people on the planet. My wife laughed when she heard there’s an online movement to combat the alleged toxic misogyny of boardgamers, and commented that most of the gamers she’s met can’t even look women in the eye, let along catcall and grope them.

    Anyone who finds that community hostile and threatening must be completely unable to function in wider society. Which is sad for them, but we shouldn’t let our social norms be dictated by the most anxious and fragile people.

    • NeonCrusader says

      There’s no mystery there: Feminist activists go after the communities where men are (rightly or wrongly) assumed to be submissive towards women and eager to please. Much easier for a bunch of overweight, pink-haired feminists to subvert and control the chess club than to try to infiltrate and dominate the rugby association.

  45. Ryan Dube says

    Thank you so much for writing this Heather. It’s such a breath of fresh air in a hateful, toxic world.

  46. Karen O. says

    Great article ! Honest, clear-headed, thought-provoking and insightful. As a woman and a mom to both a son and a daughter (both young adults now), this is much needed discussion for young men and young women growing up being (unknowingly) brainwashed by the toxic media (both so-called left wing and right wing media, ‘two wings of the same bird of prey’).

    A big thank you to Heather Heying and to Quilette for publishing this ! Long over-due discussion – BRAVO !

  47. Christian says

    It’s very strange that something so obvious had to be written.

    However, I did find myself comparing TM to TF. In the way these terms have been defined, one is certainly worse than the other. We’d be better off not using the term “toxic”, which has become meaningless due to overuse. Instead, we should talk about behavior in a precise way.

  48. Why do I get the sense that the author does not understand what is meant by toxic masculinity? She says that she doesn’t blame men for looking at women but that is not toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity is when a man sees a woman and decides that nothing will stop him from getting her. When his friends and family say “don’t give up, she’ll eventually fall for you.” When people like herself say that women are responsible for the actions of men, just because of how they look.

    She says showing skin isn’t “asking for it” but rather “inviting trouble.” Asking = inviting. It = trouble. She conveniently doesn’t elaborate on what the difference is to her. Someone help me out here…

    She says that men shouldn’t be “subjugated when they show [masculine traits]” but that’s not what feminism does. It subjugates them when they act like animals, and when they defend others who do the same. Either she doesn’t know the goal of feminism or she actually thinks that committing sexual assault or rape is a defining trait of masculinity. THAT, crossing those boundaries that separate us from the lions and tigers, is what feminism is against.

    I mean, right in the middle of her argument she asserts that feminists actually think being male with being masculine. “Their maleness does not make them toxic, any more than one’s ‘whiteness’ makes one racist.” Exactly, it’s the hardness, the lack of any sensitivity, the pressure to ignore and bottle up feelings that makes masculinity toxic. She really has no idea what she is talking about.

    • typo in the last paragraph should read “actually confuse being make with being masculine.”

    • For a lot of third wave feminists acting masculine is acting like an animal. You ever hear of the dastardly male gaze? Even though men are generally expected to be the aggressor in romance its too much for some women to occassionally get checked out by males. Not even approached just a lingering glance is enough for the fainting couch. Some women wonder why they can’t get dates anymore its becaues men are terrified of acting like men.

      • Oregoncharles says

        Better than “terrified,” some men are convinced that it’s rude and inappropriate to act in the role they’ve been assigned – by women, if only because women refuse to take the initiative themselves.
        Of course, in some contexts it could be career-ending. Too bad work may be the only place some people meet.

      • pook says

        Apparently you don’t know what the male gaze is. It’s actually a film-making term, referring to the assumption that your audience is male. While sometimes that’s relevant to sexuality (e.g. if a director makes every female character hot and sluttily dressed even if they’re professors or politicians), it doesn’t have to be – and it’s not automatically bad, either (although it can be, as in my example above).

        • The ‘male gaze’ is a psychoanalytical term from film theory, not film making, unless the film maker in question was Laura Mulvey.

          Like most psychoanalytical terms it is utter bollocks. It doesn’t just refer to the male POV, it refers to the interpolation of the male viewer into either the POV of a sadist or a voyeur; for the woman there is only the POV of a masochist.

          There’s a whole lot of associated bullshit that goes with it, including the assumption that the female viewer suffers guilt or shame at their ‘loss’ of their phallus.

    • Oregoncharles says

      People ARE animals, Dave, and forever will act accordingly. They’re also human and social, which places all sorts of constraints and expectations, but the animal remains. Trying to deny that only leads to more trouble.

    • Razz says

      Actually Dave its about not allowing you emotions from getting out from under your control. A man who cannot control his emotions is toxic.

    • Just Me says

      “She says showing skin isn’t “asking for it” but rather “inviting trouble.” Asking = inviting. It = trouble. She conveniently doesn’t elaborate on what the difference is to her. Someone help me out here…”

      Simple.

      It’s like the police giving advice on how to prevent break-ins, or how to prevent getting pick-pocketed, or having your bicycle stolen, or advice given to travellers on how to avoid getting scammed abroad, or having their passport stolen, etc.

      Young men might be advised not to get drunk and pick up strange women in bars and take them to their hotel room when abroad, in, say, Thailand, for example. Or don’t go into dark alleys alone, late at night.

      If someone is aware of the advice, and nevertheless ignores it, and does not follow that advice, or is generally careless, that is “inviting trouble”. If they then get robbed, or scammed while traveling, or their house gets broken into, etc., most people are going to be sympathetic, and no one is going to defend the robbers or scammers for taking advantage of them because the person was “asking for it”…but they will say things like, “What were you thinking?!”

      Taking obvious steps so that bad things don’t happen to you is just common sense, and it doesn’t imply that the person doing the bad thing isn’t guilty of wrongdoing.

    • @Dave

      I could just as easily say that it is the inability of women to bottle up their feelings that makes femininity toxic.

  49. The one thing I would note when it comes to toxic femininity is in relation to the type of men who give said women attention. There is quite the difference between men deemed attractive by a said woman compared to an unattractive one. The attractive male can get away with a lot more behaviour that an unattractive man could not. The recent allegations in UK Parliament after #MeToo began were largely complaints around behaviours by men the accusers deemed unattractive. The idea of a man asking out a woman, smiling at her or saying good morning being deemed harassment and worthy of career ending and potential liberty ending punishment by mob cheapens and belittles actual harassment, makes men more distrusting and distant from women, removing themselves from the dating pool and widens the gender divide purely because a number of women have complained about getting innocuous attention from men they deem unattractive, unworthy and therefore, guilty.

    The idea of men being punished and branded toxic purely on characteristics they can not change (easily) such as looks or height. No, I refuse to accept this.

    • J.Ryall says

      I think you raise a key point in all of this. Women are far more receptive to attention from men they consider attractive. If an extremely attractive man offers to buy them a drink or tries to start up a conversation, they’ll likely be okay with it. Conversely, if it’s a guy who they don’t find attractive, they’re more likely to call him a creep or consider the attempted interaction to be sexual harassment. That said, all I have is personal anecdotes to back this up, so it’s by no means an empirically supported hypothesis, but I’m reasonably confident it would hold up under analysis.

  50. Oregoncharles says

    Good article. I like to see anything that reminds us, cogently, that we are evolved animals. Helps deflate the hubris.

    I do have a quibble, with this statement: ” There are many ways to be female, and many ways to be male, and some of each are bad news for everyone but the individual employing them.” Ultimately, they’re usually also bad for those employing them, because they’re cheating and society has ways of punishing that.

  51. Devon Ironside says

    This is a brilliant article. I would like to pick up on one think the author said regarding universally agreed upon boundaries.

    “Every woman has the right not to be touched if she does not wish to be; and coercive quid pro quo, in which sexual favors are demanded for the possibility of career advancement, is unacceptable.”

    For the record, I agree 100% with both points. However, I would like to draw a distinction between two types of quid pro quo, one which is coercive and one which is not.

    Take the case of an aspiring actress in LA who has gone to thousands of auditions and faced nothing but rejection, landing not a single role. It’s not because she isn’t beautiful and talented – either she just didn’t quite fit, or she just got outclassed by ferocious competition. Until one day she meets an aspiring male writer/director who is investing his own savings in an independent feature film. This male director is not unattractive to women, but he’s had no success at finding a sexual partner because, like the actress, he keeps getting outclassed. There’s a supporting role in the film for a sexy female, a role for which the actress would be perfect. The actress senses the director’s sexual frustration and the director senses the actresses professional frustration. The actress hints that if the director gives her the role (and pays her for it at union scale), she’ll have sex with him. The director takes the hint and insists on sex first, role later. She trusts him, they have sex, she plays the role and they part ways (amicably, as friends).

    Is this coercive? Is it inherently toxic? The director is not Spielberg and the actress is not starving, just frustrated. He does not hold the key to her future career. At best, he can hire her for a day in a film that will likely be forgotten as soon as it is released.

    Should she be able to “come forward” 20 years later, when the director is at the peak of his career, and say he “coerced” her?

    I argue that the initial transaction, though clearly quid pro quo, is not coercive and not toxic. Crying foul about it would be toxic.

    The situation would be different if the director were a filmmaker as rich and powerful as Harvey Weinstein. He really did have the power to make or break careers. But our intrepid young filmmaker and would-be Romeo is in no such situation. If anything, I’d say he was at a disadvantage (depending on how strong his attraction to the actress was) and he knew it, which is why he demanded the sex first (since she could refuse sex more readily than he could refuse to cast her after sex).

    I close by restating my point that quid pro quo sex is not inherently coercive or toxic, but only becomes so when there is far more at stake for one person than there is for the other.

    • marms says

      Hello Harlequin.

      And we thought no one wrote bodice rippers anymore.

  52. mobile867 says

    Thank you for your courage to write this knowing the reaction it will recieve.

  53. HellionBleak says

    If women were bigger and stronger than men, feminists would be beating the hell out of their husbands, but they aren’t so they resort to jargon like “toxic masculinity” and “rape culture” to express their hostility under the guise of academic research.

  54. The Lion metaphor is an interesting one, I remember watching one of my favourite National Geographic documentaries, “Eternal Enemies” which covered a pride of lions and a pack of hyenas that operated in the same territory and the conflicts they had over the region and I remember reading comments from angry feminists about how toxic the patriarchal structure was given the female lions did the bulk of the hunting and they got to eat least, if the males left any food behind.

    On the surface it does seem cruel and uncaring, but there is a fine line between life and death when your struggle is day to day and the reality is if some female lions starve to death, the pride will survive, but the pride could be in jeopardy if the male isn’t strong. The documentary showed two significant clashes between the lions and the hyenas, in both clashes the pride leader, Ntwadumela, “he who greets with fire”, singled out the matriarch of the hyenas and killed them. In other skirmishes when the male wasn’t around, the hyenas killed female lions.

    What the documentary didn’t show, long after they finished filming, the bothers who ruled the pride became old and were driven off by a roaming pack of younger males, these younger males lead a different pride so didn’t remain. The pride was left without any males and all the remaining female lions eventually starved to death as the hyenas took anything that they killed and picked them off.

    • Jack B. Nimble says

      @MephistoVim

      Heying’s use of the lion metaphor is terrible!!

      ‘………Male lions can be monsters, murderous and focused. Toxic, if you will.

      Given the opportunity, male lions will kill the kittens in a pride over which they have gained control. They commit infanticide, which brings the new mothers, freshly childless, back into estrous. The females are quickly impregnated. This, we can all agree, is disturbing behavior, and may make some people feel rather less pleased with lions…….’

      Was she channeling her inner “Peterson” when she called some male lions monsters? Using terms like rape, murder and children to describe lion behavior postulates a close resemblance or correspondence between male lions and human males that just doesn’t exist.

      Look, female lions care for their young for 2-3 years, during which period they are reproductively unavailable. Kin selection theory predicts that males should favor their own genetic offspring over non-relatives, and in lions that sometimes leads to infanticide.

      If a male lion kills a juvenile, that is shocking to human sensibilities [just as if a juvenile lion were to be killed and eaten by a hyena], but not disturbing. That is just what lions and hyenas do.

      And humans? Step children are more likely to be abused or killed by men than are biological children, but whether this pattern is the result of kin selection or something else is controversial. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinderella_effect

      Heying’s article suffers from too many vague generalizations, of which the lion metaphor is just the beginning.

    • Jack B Nimble says

      @MephistoVim

      Heying’s use of the lion metaphor is terrible!!

      ‘………Male lions can be monsters, murderous and focused. Toxic, if you will.

      Given the opportunity, male lions will kill the kittens in a pride over which they have gained control. They commit infanticide, which brings the new mothers, freshly childless, back into estrous. The females are quickly impregnated. This, we can all agree, is disturbing behavior, and may make some people feel rather less pleased with lions…….’

      Was she channeling her inner “Peterson” when she called some male lions monsters? Using terms like rape, murder and children to describe lion behavior postulates a resemblance or correspondence between male lions and human males that just doesn’t exist.

      Look, female lions care for their young for 2-3 years, during which period they are reproductively unavailable to any males. Kin selection theory predicts that males should favor their own genetic offspring over non-relatives, and in lions that sometimes leads to infanticide.

      If a male lion kills a juvenile, that is shocking to human sensibilities [just as if a juvenile lion were killed and eaten by a hyena], but not disturbing. That is just what lions and hyenas do.

      And humans? Step children are more likely to be abused or killed by men than are biological children, but whether this pattern is the result of kin selection or something else is controversial. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinderella_effect

      Heying’s article suffers from too many vague generalizations, of which the lion metaphor is just the beginning.

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  59. Bee says

    I think maybe she forgot that there are men who will try to stalk, attack, and intimidate women not dressed provocatively and not for any sexual reason but to display their power over them. I’m not saying that every man does this, just in case some of you like to take anything i say to the extreme, even when not implied, but there is a culture of male violence in many societies, some more than others, both again other men and against women. Men are often taught to only have two emotions: horniness & anger. Perfect example – what kind of media are men taught to like? Women are portrayed as only valuable if attractive, dumb and weak in most media out there today. Have a look at pornhub and see how women are treated – most would find it pretty disturbing, violent and uncomfortable to watch, but there are stupid men out there that take the bait and actually like this crap. This is what men are taught, and many don’t question it, and this is the idea behind toxic masculinity. The fact that she doesn’t understand it just makes her look ridiculous. I guess not every evolutionary biologist is also an expert in sociology.

    • Just Me says

      “what kind of media are men taught to like”

      You have it the wrong way around.

      This is the kind of media men flock to when left to their own devices. It speaks powerfully to their natural biological urges.

      Well socialized male learns to control those impulses, and direct them in more socially beneficial ways.

      Unfortunately some males do not get properly socialized.

    • Susan says

      “I think maybe she forgot that there are men who will try to stalk, attack, and intimidate women not dressed provocatively and not for any sexual reason but to display their power over them.”

      Bee, I heard all my life that rape was about power, not sex, but Steven Pinker, in “The Better Angels of our Nature” says that this concept (power, not sex) originated with Susan Brownmiller in “Against Our Will” (1975) and “… Brownmiller wrote that she adapted the theory from the ideas of an old communist professor of hers, and it does fit the Marxist conception that all human behavior is to be explained as a struggle for power between groups.” Pinker stated that there was never any evidence for the “power” theory nor has there been any subsequent evidence in any study.

      I expressed my astonishment to my husband who responded along the lines of “duh”. I asked him why this was not more widely known and he said, “Right, ‘mansplain’ rape to a woman?”

  60. A much-needed article. When people talk about ‘toxic masculinity,’ though, I think they’re often talking about the much higher rates of male violence. That’s why I think when we talk about ‘toxic femininity’ – which we obviously need to more – we should focus on the scientifically well-established lead that women have in terms of ‘indirect aggression,’ i.e. gossip, slander, and so on. As the excesses of the #metoo movement have demonstrated, this kind of toxic female aggression is just as adept as male violence at ruining lives.

    • C Young says

      Took the words out of my mouth. Another male-female dimension worth exploring is Baron Cohen’s Empathizing-Systematising spectrum. Opposition to science, due process and law from identitarians is typically a product of empathy trumping systematising e.g. the claim that women’s feelings should trump male rights in the Galloway case, or the idea that some types of science should be suppressed because they hurt people’s feelings.

      Excessive empathy can be toxic. Fetal testosterone may suppress it.

      We are quite happy to talk about the pros and cons of the ‘extreme male brain’, perhaps the inverse should feature.

      • J.Ryall says

        A minor quibble here: the identitarian left is all about sympathy, not empathy. To empathize would entail an honest attempt to understand the situations of other people and the reasons why they act as they do. For example, identitarians have no interest in trying to understand why Trump supporters voted for him, preferring instead to simply cast them as racist, sexist, bigots (disclaimer: not a fan of Trump, personally). The obsession with white privilege and their dismissal of uniquely male problems (ex. disproportionately high suicide rates) is another good example.

  61. “Young women have vast sexual power. Everyone who is being honest with themselves knows this: Women in their sexual prime who are anywhere near the beauty-norms for their culture have a kind of power that nobody else has…”

    This! There is no greater ‘unearned privilege” in western society than being a beautiful young women. All you have to do is smile periodically and the world is yours. You can have unlimited access to power, resources, status … anything you want, just by virtue of being young and beautiful.

    If you are one of these young beautiful women, I hope you use your precious power wisely when it is at it’s peak.

  62. Just Me says

    “Given the opportunity, male lions will kill the kittens in a pride over which they have gained control. They commit infanticide, which brings the new mothers, freshly childless, back into estrous…

    Given the opportunity, the vast majority of modern human males would do no such thing.

    … As such, and because few human cultures would tolerate such behavior, the vast majority of men would not and could not kill babies…”

    Um…actually, infanticide has been quite common across history and cultures.

    https://www.wikigender.org/wiki/history-of-infanticide/

    “nfanticide has been the norm within many cultures throughout history. Child sacrifice to ancient deities and spirits was quite common during ancient times. Anthropologist Laila Williamson observes has been practiced on every continent and by people on every level of cultural complexity, from hunter gatherers to high civilizations. Rather than being an exception, then, it has been the rule”[1].”

    Evolutionary psychologists would be more convincing if they paid more attention to anthropological evidence…

    • Just Me says

      ..and historical evidence.

      The notion that all babies have equal worth as humans is not self-evident, and is a “social construction” introduced by Christianity:

      “Christianity abhorred infanticide. In Apostles it was written, “You shall not kill that which is born” [8]. In 318 AD Constantine I felt that infanticide was a crime. In 374 AD Valentinian stated that people must rear all children. The Council of Constantinople issued that infanticide was murder and in 589 AD the Third Council of Toledo worked on ending the Spanish custom of killing their children.”

      • Just Me says

        This is not to say that infanticide was committed for the same reason male lions kill cubs, but it does indicate that humans, male or female, are not biologically averse to killing even their own babies when they deem it advantageous.

    • You’re overstating your case.

      On the family level, infanticide in the West is closely associated with periods of famine. It is something like utilitarian triage. Cf.; Hansel and Gretel, although it was the evil step-mother who insisted upon abandoning the children in that case.

      On the community level, ritual infanticide is closely associated with other sorts of acute crises.

      I don’t know of any stable society in the West or elsewhere that has have ever condoned the routine killing their own children.

      Perhaps your authorities have been a bit careless with their use of the words “quite common” and “norm.”

      • Just Me says

        EK-

        The problem in these debates seems to be with the definition of what “the norm” means.

        It doesn’t mean most people actually do it, it means it is deemed acceptable, “normal”, praiseworthy, etc., rather than being decried, looked down on, etc.

        In this case, it has been deemed a perfectly acceptable response to certain situations.

        Unlike our own society, which deems it a horrible crime, no matter what the circumstances.

        • Rob says

          A better characterization of infanticide is “a painful but sometimes legitimate response to crisis.”

  63. dirk says

    What I know from the Inuit, Eskimos, before giving a name, a baby was not yet human, and could be killed ( as were very old people), a normal thing to do in a scene where different rules reign, because of available food and other conditions.

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  65. Vince says

    “Everyone who is being honest with themselves knows this: …”

    Ah yes, the old bandwagon approach fallacy, designed to conceal what is in reality a very weak argument (or in this case, the complete lack of an argument).

    Toxic femininity exists, of course, in female aggression or passive-aggression (or, to be more accurate, the types of aggression more often performed by women), whether verbal, emotional, or in other ways, which infringes on the rights of others.

  66. Evan Myers says

    Uniforms in the workplace. No make up.

    That’ll sort it.

  67. Dave says

    The Cinderella effect is real — correcting for race and social class, a child living with a step-parent is about seven times more likely to be abused or neglected than a child living with both biological parents.

    Humans are different from animals in that we invented Patriarchy, a system that bonded each woman to one man and each man to one woman, and provided the family stability needed by a species whose young require at least fifteen years to mature. Except for a brief period of courtship leading to marriage, showing the slightest sexual interest in anyone you weren’t married to was a serious offense, even if that interest was mutual!

    Now that we’ve smashed the patriarchy, all females are fair game regardless of age and marital status. All that matters are her feelings — if she likes you, you’ll get laid; if she thinks you’re a creep, you’ll be permanently unemployed. Or she might have sex with you and later decide that you’re a creep.

    With females in control, humans are reverting to more animalistic mating patterns, where women have a series of unstable relationships with impulsive, low-achieving sexy bad boys. I live in a white rural area and half my kids’ classmates have daddies in prison, so if you think “toxic masculinity” is bad now, wait til this generation grows up!

    • Becky says

      You know feminism is supposed to be about equality and not just females being in control, yes? Because I think if everyone was on the same page with that, this would be a lot easier.

      • Dave says

        Nature gives women tremendous power. As they hold the keys to the next generation, women wield great influence even in societies that treat them as property, so political “equality” is in effect total female domination.

        Although men are slightly smarter on average, and vastly stronger than women, they have no intrinsic value because sperm is cheap. My daughter cannot see how lucky she is to have a hitherto unspoiled womb that she could contract to a good man in exchange for a very comfortable suburban lifestyle, something for which her brothers might toil for many years and still fail.

  68. jsolbakken says

    “Holy shit, this bitch is still mad she didn’t get invited to any sleepovers.”

    I thought the comments were getting stupidly off track and then you came along. Congratulations on being the idiotic jackass that makes the rest of the commenters look like erudite geniuses.

    • Becky says

      Hey, it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta make the rest of us look good 😉

  69. Morgan says

    Requiring sex in exchange for career advancement IS unacceptable. But once you’ve accepted, you can’t really complain about anything but your own amoral ambition.

    I liked this part: “It is a game, the benefits of which go to a few while the costs are shared by all of us.” This is the case, of course, because it’s a free market. Whatever a person wants to do with their value is fine, and since young women near the beauty standard are the social equivalent of billionaires (or rather, the children of billionaires), some of them do terrible things, and they get away with it due to their ability to exchange value for favorable treatment in spite of their behavior.

  70. Elizabeth says

    As a beautiful woman, now of a certain age, I found myself agreeing to a lot of this until the very end, although there was one red flag in the middle, when the only job-related marker of toxic masculinity was the idea of requiring sex in exchange for career advancement (a self-serving transaction that she views as a “game” that benefits the parties directly involved). She forgets entirely that for many women, the scenario is more like requiring sex (or tolerance of leering, groping, etc.) in exchange for keeping your job at all. This omission suggests a major blind spot, which is the reality that, while women can tart themselves up all they want, men largely hold all of the economic, political and physical power in our society..

    So the author’s conclusion seems like a real manifestation of Stockholm syndrome:

    “The sex-specific toxicity that I have seen, when it has been obvious, has mostly been in the other court.”

    Uh, no. The fact that women can make men horny and then decline to put out is not remotely symmetrical with men’s ability to rape, intimidate, humiliate and fire women.

  71. Women’s (and particularly feminist’s) complaints against men would not be so insidious if they were consistent. Complaints against over-competitiveness, aggression, sexual forwardness etc would have more authority if women didn’t then proceed to select just such characteristic in their partners. What they are really complaining about is the men who approach them who they consider to be of lesser value, which for most women is around 80% of men.

    • Rob says

      There’s also a class element at work. Most feminists come from the Brahmin class, and have little knowledge of working class and lower middle class culture. They come from a very reserved, nerdy, neurotic strata of society. They may not be attracted to muscular, assertive men (or not willing to acknowledge the attraction anyway), but a great many women are. Camile Paglia has pointed out that many working-class women are attracted to such men simply because the sex is good, a reality that’s too uncomfortable for fainting-couch women’s studies graduates to acknowledge.

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  73. “The very communities where ‘toxic masculinity’ is being discussed most are the communities where the men are, in my experience, compassionate, egalitarian, and not at all toxic.”

    I actually quite disagree. It is the communities where toxic masculinity is being discussed that contain the most toxic masculinity. Time and time again, we see prominent male feminists being accused, even charged, with sexual crimes. These men are willing to do anything, including condemning all of men and masculinity, to reinforce the idea that police won’t help rape victims, and thus, shouldn’t report to police (what better message could a rapist want to spread with the credibility of the feminist movement behind it?), harming not only his own victims, but all victims (as well as future victims that could have been prevented had the victim gone forward) who believe that message, as well as society in general, as faith in the services designed to protect us and maintain order are undermined.

    No no no. The communities the topic of toxic masculinity are discussed in… they are rife with toxic masculinity. Moreso than the general population.

    • I should note. Other than this one point, I largely agree. I should note (and you did skirt this point, but only briefly), that toxic masculinity originally began by describing something real…it began by describing a behaviour that took traditionally masculine characteristics, and ramped them up to unreasonable levels. This is something that can be discussed. But very quickly, ideologues began tacking on anything they didn’t like onto the term, and so homophobia became an example of toxic masculinity (and if toxic masculinity is a ramped up attribute of normal masculinity, then that means homophobia is being described as inherently masculine). eventually, the term toxic masculinity morphed yet further to describe masculinity, in general, as something inherently toxic.

      This transformation of the term clear shows a disdain, even hatred of men, and is routinely used by those who espouse these transformed versions, to spread their misandry and denigrate men in general. And in doing so, helps create the very divide in the relationship of the sexes you mentioned.

    • dirk says

      @mark: but you know that in Sweden, where kids are educated completely a-sexual and equal, the toxic masculinity (in crime) and the misfits are higher than everywhere else in Europe (especially compared to the Southern parts, where male attitudes still count?

    • Empty Space says

      “Time and time again, we see prominent male feminists being accused, even charged with sexual crimes.” I don’t know where you came up with that from I suspecty those men are greatly outnumbered by the non-feminist feminist men who are accused/charged.

  74. Andrew Meyer says

    You are to be congratulated on generating so much controversy, but please forgive me if any of my remarks here are redundant in this thread. Also, advanced apologies for “mansplaining” (though, if I understand your argument correctly, by extending you such regrets I may be communicating suspicion of toxic femininity). I think you are making some conflations and false equivalencies. Was the young woman in a swimsuit you describe really guilty of the same error (in either kind or degree) as the young man that cornered you behind the catering hall? I would argue that the latter is much worse, and that the contrast undermines the implicit symmetry your nomenclature encodes- “toxic femininity” simply isn’t the same kind of moral lapse as “toxic masculinity.” They are so different as to constitute different species of error, undeserving of names that mirror one-another so closely. I think also that your analysis radically underestimates the breadth and scope of the damage that toxic masculinity does. All women may not be “victims,” but the quality of all women’s lives is materially eroded by the prevalence of toxic masculinity in our culture. If one in ten men is toxically masculine in the manner of the man that accosted you (and statistics indicate that at least that many are, with your accoster exemplifying the very low end of the spectrum among that toxic 10%), every women can expect to encounter toxic masculinity frequently enough and to a degree that will add serious stress to her life (with effects ranging from annoyance through neurosis and up to trauma), and some will suffer quite a bit worse. “Toxic femininity” surely has adverse effects on men, but I would be willing to bet a lot of money that one could devise empirical tests to prove that, taken across society at large, its impact is infinitesmal by comparison. Moreover, your construction of the category takes in so much that the concept collapses from vagueness. Why should a woman’s belittling a man’s strengths necessarily be “toxic femininity? Why should her gender be complicit? Maybe she is just a bigot who, like bigots of all genders, targets people that are different than her. Finally, I would argue that you are giving too little shrift to the ways in which male power is perpetuated in many societies. You are no doubt right that someone (man or woman) who is dressed to broadcast attractiveness is silly to resent being looked at, but there is looking and there is looking. No matter how a woman is dressed, she has a right to expect to be spoken to and looked at with respect. Men who leer, catcall, or insult her are not doing it out of some kind of uncontrollable evolutionary impulse, but to put her in her place. “Toxic masculinity” is not biological, it is social- a way of institutionalizing male privilege. Blaming women for “making themselves” the targets of such assaults only serves to reinforce the rules of a game that is designed to deprive women of freedom that men take for granted for themselves.

  75. Indie Wifey says

    We subsist in a promiscuity culture, thanks to the free love movements of the 60s. Our so called strong and independent women are throwing themselves about sexually – what kind of meta image do all those swipe n hookup participants think they have created? And “success” in that realm? It has nothing to do with attractiveness…

    “We” with this infinitely broadened stage (w tech) have too much attention to pursue. Shallow approval is everything to many. Tact and Resraint – allure – are back seated. I eagerly await them to cycle back in. I’m waiting for it to be way cool to be a lady again. and in the reacceptance of gentlemen and men as men. Wow – unicorns and rainbows eh?

    collective, cultural sour grapes feed the intertwined and symbiotic sj and feminist warring. equal outcome insistence of our entitled generations sets up so very many for disappointment, and the current climate fosters the leveling of fields as a taking down of all to the lower levels – it’s not diversity we are headed toward; rather homogenization of the collective “as is”.

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  78. Michael says

    The problem with attempting to legitimize a term like “toxic masculinity” in any form is that it keeps it alive for anyone to apply where they see fit.

    Why are we so uncomfortable judging people and events based on their individual traits. A man who backs you into a dark corner at a party isn’t being “masculine” he’s being threatening, he’s being dominating, he’s being an asshole.

    It might make us feel better to find a category for things, like “masculinity,” it rarely helps our culture. It automatically fails to appreciate the actual situation and simply files it in the “proper” place for easy judgment.

  79. Terry G says

    Heather, thank you for putting yourself “out there” by writing this article.

    I think your points are “right on”. That may be because I agree with pretty much all of them.

    I am a male in my late 70’s and have been observing male-female interactions and trying to make sense of them for a long time.

    My basic conclusion is that humans continue to exist because of the survival drives embedded in our DNA as a result of many millions of successful experiments during our existence.

    That also works in the Lions, of course. The female lion does not just “decide” to be receptive. Her DNA does that for her. Genes want to survive and one way or another, they will.

    These drives seem to have worked well in the conditions where they developed (individuals and separated small groups). The problems come from when we began to live in larger groups with individuals close together. This was a new survival tool for the human race developed quickly more by intelligence than slow DNA experiment. In order to live close together and not kill each other, we developed social rules (laws and moral beliefs) that were intended to control our more destructive basic DNA drives. We have not lived close together long enough for the these old drives to change much.

    Many (if not most) people seem to think that these social artifacts are what control and drive us now. This is evidenced by many of the comments on your article. The thin layer of civilization is easily removed in some conditions and results in a violation of these social laws.

    Many of the comments reveal that the people think (or believe) that they consciously control all of their daily thoughts and actions. What we wear and how we act are strongly influenced by our underlying DNA drives without rising to the level of consciousness.

    Since we have a continuous spectrum of male-female ability to “control” ourselves, we have people on both ends of that spectrum that will “push the envelope” to try to satisfy their basic DNA drives.

    These are the “toxic” people and they can make it hard for the others to not break the law or customs.
    They are still part of the experiment.

    Even in my late life status, I will look at a “hot” woman. It is in my DNA and not easily controlled. I am not dead yet and my DNA drives are still very active.
    In my case, a “hot” woman is not necessarily young, sexy dressed, etc. A reasonably fit, intelligent, open, funny, engaging older woman, will get my attention, also.

    So, onward with the experiment!
    What will we be like in a few hundred or thousand more years? Assuming we make it that long.

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  81. David C Levy says

    Toxic feminism includes threatening men with false accusations of harassment or even assault in order to gain advantage. Like in college student to professor – give me a better grade or I will accuse you of touching me inappropriately.

  82. I would love to send quotes of your article, or a link to it, to my female Professor colleagues in an academic department at a major university. But if I (a white male, the only illegal alien in liberalism) send it, I shall be subject to an inquest. If I ascribe value to it, the female lionesses will show up to gobble up my whelps and demand that I shall never be allowed to create any new ones. And they shall be quite certain of their own superiority and shall be immediately reinforced by jeering gangs of chorus. Thanks for writing it, but there is no hope. The toxic female has siezed power, rules, and will only be dislodged with the collapse of the society.

  83. Empty Space says

    There’s definitely some truth in this article but it’s also a bit of a straw man argument. The 90% naked princess whining about the men staring at her sounds more like a comic book character than a real brain-dead amateur feminist & liberals don’t always assume anything a member of an officially certified oppressed group says is irrreproachable truth. Look at how much they hate Clarence Thomas.

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  85. While leading a discussion on the nature and effects of sexual objectification (“She dresses to attract, he perceives seduction: a gender gap in attribution of intent to women’s revealing style of dress and its relation to blaming the victims of sexual violence”; Moor 2010), I remember being asked what is the point of all this research, why am I interested in asking about presentation? Do I think it causes the abuse of a person? I responded by saying not necessarily; in terms of sexual assault the misinterpreted prime is more likely to be taken out on a more vulnerable member of the group.

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