Can Feminism be Toxic Too?

What is the opposite of Toxic masculinity? Toxic feminism?  I don’t get it.  Feminism led us down a path that somewhere got twisted into a male hating philosophy.  Feminism was supposed to provide women with equal opportunities as men.  Instead, it created a bunch of men-hating bra-burning women . And furthermore, it did not achieve what it was intended to do.

Was that really the purpose? Women did have a point.  They were discriminated against.  And societal changes were in order.  But have they overshot the target and gone beyond their mission, and their intention?  Men are now afraid to compliment a woman on how she looks.  If a male says to a woman, “Nice dress!”, some women consider that a “mini rape.”  If a joke is just slightly off-color, you have to keep it to yourself, because that is now harassment. 

Where did the humor and humanity go?  You dare not touch a woman, other than your wife.  That could be unwanted sexual advances.  Humans touch each other, just like all other apes do. The back slap, or the touching of the shoulder, that is what the handshake is all about; it shows we do not carry a weapon.  It is genetically ingrained in all apes to groom each other.  It is meant to show friendship.  I do not imply that we should become that familiar, besides we have better ways to get rid of lice. But we did come from apes; we are apes!  Apes touch each other all the time.  It is a sign of caring!  Somehow it has now become aggressive.  I know that certain touching is clearly off-limits, but the whole escapade of Joe Biden, an old grandfatherly edentulous man, kissing the back of a former close associate’s head, has now been escalated to sexual aggression! Where have we gone so wrong?

The whole “income gender gap” is often pointed out as the continuing inequality of men and women.  If a woman makes a few pennies less than a man, the immediate conclusion is that there is an evil male conspiracy to suppress women. Never mind that on average women work fewer hours, never mind that they usually retire earlier, never mind that they have duties that men do not have, and for which they do not get monetarily compensated. Never mind that they often do not negotiate themselves into a higher pay scale, as they do not seem to be as aggressive negotiators as males, and are more incentivized to accept positions that have non-monetary benefits that fit more with their life goals and life situations.  Also, they are likely taking less money because men are more often the primary breadwinners and are therefore more motivated to negotiate harder.  If there is a disparity in income, there are many other possible reasons besides “male privilege.”

Being male has negatives that are not fully appreciated by women or society.  Males get jobs that are more dangerous, more physically demanding, more likely to have injuries, more likely to risk life and limb, such as cops or firefighters. Men are killed on the job ten times more often than women, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Furthermore, four times more men commit suicide than women do. Men take jobs that do pay higher, naval military design, engineering, construction, computer design, orthopedic surgery, and many more, some that require more physical strength, and because of the nature of the job have higher compensation.  Women have more jobs in social services, teaching, or business management, that have a lower pay scale. Indeed, there are women cops or orthopedic surgeons, just not very many. Also, if you consider all the factors, such as hazard exposure, hours worked, time off, number and difficulty of cases for surgeons, and you get down to unbiased specifics, the gender pay gap disappears.  If there are not precisely 50% of the job positions split equally between men and women there is not a male-dominated corporate conspiracy at some nefarious purpose at work to hold women down.  I was the program director of a surgical residency for five years.  We did look at gender equality, but more importantly at academic achievements, letters of recommendation, manual dexterity, and impressions on personal interviews. In other words, real qualifications.  If one year we had 66% of women, the next year it was often reversed. Also, the number of applicants of one or the other gender shifted the likelihood of our gender makeup.    

The sensitivity of women has been dialed up to a level that is no longer comprehensible.  It makes the woman a victim, instead of a “Wonder Woman.”  A favorite term that has become overused is “micro-aggression,” which is defined as, “a casual degrading attitude or language towards any perceived marginalized group, such as different racial, gender, nationality, or disabled group, etc.”  This, no question exists, but negativity is a tool not necessarily to degrade, but to elevate as in teaching, in humor, and in motivation. If the glass is half empty, we try harder. Anticipating the worst prepares a person better for adversity, than glowing praise.  I have often seen so-called “micro-aggression: employed in adult learners, be they male or female, as a useful teaching tool.  It can easily be misinterpreted, instead of an effort to make a point, a means of making casual conversation,  a teaching tool, or just chatter. It has been over-interpreted and over-rated in many instances and should be relegated to the microscopic for which it is named. It further emphasizes that we have become too sensitive.

It is a shame that this can no longer be used, especially since it is often quite effective.  The reason for abandoning this useful method is that the epidermis (skin) of so many groups has gotten so thin.  The “D” word (discrimination) is so quickly used when it was often meant to educate and enlighten and help that individual. The teacher, so labeled, cannot overcome that accusation.  It is like being accused of thinking evil thoughts or being a witch.  You cannot refute it.  I was a poor foreign-born kid with a heavy Austrian accent, often called “a Kraut” when I was growing up.  That was macro-aggression.  My response was, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Inside I knew I could be better than any of them.  On the contrary, it made me more robust and more inspired to prove my worth.

Why have so many women become snowflakes, instead of what the other half of humanity should be that have the gentler touch, the more reasoned and less dangerous view, and the peaceful solution rather than war?  There is good science to back the observation that higher estrogen levels lead to more risk-averse behavior and that high testosterone levels lead to riskier or even criminal behavior. 

The “Me Too” movement is, in my view, a clever PR ploy to emphasize women’s victimization.  The poor aspiring starlet had to get raped by the monster mogul producer to get the lead role on the silver screen.  Yet it was that very act that gave that producer the power to continue abusing women.  All she had to do was to kick him in the groin and walk out, but that was not in her playbook! She chose victimhood vs. woman power. She would have paid the price for that role, but she would have saved the next woman. 

The far extremes of both the right and the left give a voice to the lunatic fringe, from the right it invites misogyny, and from the left, it demands that there is absolutely no difference between men and women.  To have a legitimate scientific conversation of women and men’s differing talents strengths and weaknesses are now not allowed for fear of men being branded as male chauvinists and harboring male privilege. 

Feminism has feminized the male.  Boys should play with trucks, not dolls, while girls should be caring and nurturing, and for them playing with dolls is a good thing. There are plenty of opportunities for girls to be tough in ways that don’t castrate the boys.  A lost art form that needs to come back is “sophisticated shaming.”  This is a witty retort to a male, saying what you mean pleasantly and respectfully pointing out the shortcomings of the male’s insensitive or passive-aggressive remarks. It could go a long way in bringing back gentile, but firm femininity.   Society still needs a strong father and a loving mother to raise a child, be it male or female.  Admittedly the gender roles have blurred, and that has softened maleness and toughened femaleness, and that is not necessarily bad if it does not cross the lines. I think we all have a good idea where those lines are drawn.  After all, there is still and should be a difference between men and women, and as the French say Vive le différence.