Ok, now we're getting somewhere and I appreciate you dialing things back. I agree that it can be hard to communicate via relay message, although I still think the traits that Jessica described were not inherently feminine traits taken to an unhealthy extreme and therefore not "toxic femininity." I see them as the insecurity that a zero-sum society breeds (which is what patriarchy is, because it's based in a dominance hierarchy). Sensitivity has nothing to do with insecurity. I'm highly sensitive and not insecure at all. Most men are pretty insecure because they are forced to live in culture that pits them against each other constantly in order to establish pecking order in the hierarchy. They pretend that they aren't, but that's just a facade. Of course, many women are insecure too because we are taught to always rank ourselves against others, rather than to cultivate our own inner being.

"But what this dog-eat-dog culture fails to understand about itself is that it cannot help but foster a society of insecure children wearing big-boy (and big girl) clothing. People are afraid to be vulnerable, afraid to admit they are wrong, afraid to admit they need help, or that they don’t know everything. They are consumed with always looking good and never looking bad, and are constantly looking over their shoulder to see who is nipping at their heels, ready to take their place on the rungs of prestige and power.

We’ve built an entire culture around comparing ourselves to other people. Who has a better car or more expensive shoes? Who has a vacation home or a boat? Who has most ruthlessly climbed to the top of the pyramid of power? There is no arriving in this scenario. No amount of money is ever enough. No accolades are sufficient. Someone is always coming for your position, so you’d better keep striving. You can never rest, never trust, never have any real friends, and if anyone challenges you, you’d better put them down!

We are taught that we should always be in control, even though vulnerability is having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome. Nothing new was ever invented by someone who was afraid to fail. But everything about our culture says, “Never let ’em see you sweat” and if someone threatens your sense of being in control, beat them into submission. Exhibit C is most political discourse or internet conversation.

The apex of the dominance hierarchy is not made up of strong, confident people who understand their own assets and challenges and are using them to lead in the positions they have earned through hard work and merit (Trump being a prime example). It’s made up of people whose only self-worth comes from constantly evaluating how they rank in relation to those around them and quite often by the maintenance of traditional power conferred upon them by the dominance hierarchy."

As I said in my original comment, I found what Jessica was describing to be a kind of internalized misogyny where this kind of toxic behavior is directly related to the dysfunctional social system - one that harms both men and women, albeit in slightly different ways. People behaving selfishly, and in self-involved ways are a product of a culture that tells them to do that. People who live in more egalitarian and cooperative cultures don't treat each other like that, because the well-being of the group is considered to be good for the individual.

I know just as many "serial flirter" guys as I do women, so I'm not sure how that really adds to this discussion. That feels like a personal experience to me that you are generalizing, but I hope that you better understand now that my perspective is not about women being somehow off the hook, but rather that it is our society and the way that it's organized that teaches both men and women to behave and relate to each other in destructive ways.

For the purposes of being able to compare, let’s look at what the components of a patriarchal dominance hierarchy are:

  • In a pyramid-shaped hierarchy with only a few elites at the apex, you must constantly dominate or risk being dominated. If you don’t win, you lose.
  • When patriarchy began about 6–9 K years ago, it brought not only stratification between men and women but in the larger society as well. For the first time, we had social castes and elites. People must know and conform to their place in the social stratification.
  • The rules of that stratification are enforced through creating fear, the threat of pain, coercion, bullying, and the ostracization of those who will not comply. Men who are not at the apex of the pyramid are also subject to this abusive behavior and are expected to accept it, although they are allowed to abuse those below them in the hierarchy.
  • Boys and men must never embody anything remotely feminine because anything female is lower down the dominance hierarchy and is, therefore, less than. For example, men who have sex with men are like women, so they deserve to be harassed and punished for not conforming to established gender norms.
  • Traits that are considered masculine like control, competitiveness, and stoicism are more desirable for everyone than traits that are considered feminine like empathy, nurturance, and cooperation.
  • Those who have historically held power maintain it through overt as well as more subtle means. For example, racial segregation laws were overt, but after their repeal, many of the same mechanisms for keeping black people in their place were still observed through custom rather than law.

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Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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