Is there anything "toxic" about femininity? The rigid femininities that keep us locked in
Source TitlePsychology and Sexuality
PublisherTaylor & Francis (Routledge)
University of Melbourne Author/sMcCann, Hannah
AffiliationSchool of Culture and Communication
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsMcCann, H. (2020). Is there anything "toxic" about femininity? The rigid femininities that keep us locked in. Psychology and Sexuality, https://doi.org/10.1080/19419899.2020.1785534.
Access StatusOpen Access
Accepted version has the title: Theorizing Toxic Femininity: The Rigid Femininities That Keep Us Locked In
In recent years there has been rising popular discourse around ‘toxic masculinity’, and the problems of a hegemonic gender structure that facilitates male violence and misogyny. In the public debate over whether toxic masculinity is fact or fiction, ‘toxic femininity’ is often raised by men’s rights activists and others as an anti-feminist retort, to suggest that women can be ‘toxic’ too. This paper provides a sketch of how the term has been used so far, in tandem with an overview of the limitations of the more extensively discussed idea of ‘toxic masculinity’. This paper suggests that rather than deploying ‘toxic femininity’, it is more useful to consider what might be ‘toxic’ about some approaches to femininity. Drawing on existing theories of femininity, including emphasised, hegemonic, normative, patriarchal femininity, pariah femininities, and femmephobia, this paper offers the notion of ‘rigid femininities’ to explain the structures that keep us locked into a ‘toxic’ gender system. This paper utilises the term toxic femininity as a jumping-off point for theorising femininity broadly. In theorising femininity, this paper offers a conceptualisation of the ‘toxic’ attachments that reinforce the gendered power structure/essentialized gender.
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