By David Futrelle
So who’s more toxic: A dude who spends every lunch hour staring at women passing on the street like a hungry lion eyeing a wounded gazelle, or any of these women who take a moment to tell him to “stop staring at me, you creep!”
If we follow the logic set out by Intellectual Dark Webber Heather E. Heying in her recent piece on “toxic femininity” in Quillette, it would be the women. At least if they’re wearing makeup — because makeup “invites” male attention and it’s wrong for women to chastise men who give women the lustful gazes that they’re (supposedly) signaling they crave.
Heying, a former evolutionary biology professor at Evergreen State College, declares that it’s an “ancient truth” that
[s]traight men will look at beautiful women, especially if those women are a) young and hot and b) actively displaying. Display invites attention.
Apparently, any time a young hottie puts on flattering clothes and a bit of makeup, she’s basically advertising that she’s open for business, sex-wise, much like a female mandrill presenting her swollen red ass to the nearest monkey Chad.
“Hotness-amplifying femininity puts on a full display, advertising fertility and urgent sexuality,” Heying proclaims, writing about human females in much the same way, I imagine, that she’s written about the sex lives of the poisonous frogs she’s studied in the wild.
It invites male attention by, for instance, revealing flesh, or by painting on signals of sexual receptivity. This, I would argue, is inviting trouble.
So you’re saying these women are asking for it?
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.
I’m not quite sure how that’s different from saying “she’s asking for it,” but never mind.
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.
So dressing like a dirty slut isn’t toxic, it just makes you a dirty slut, which Heying definitely isn’t, unlike all you dirty sluts being all dirty and slutty out there with your dirty slut outfits.
Femininity becomes toxic when it cries foul, chastising men for responding to a provocative display.
Ah, of course, femininity becomes toxic as soon as women point out the bad behavior of men.
Heying dials back her rhetoric for a moment to assure her readers that, yes, she does believe that there are some male behaviors that it’s legitimate to complain about.
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.
Alas, she follows up this bit of uncharacteristic reasonableness with a big ol’ “but.”
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.
Wait, what? “Make-up that hints at impending orgasm?”
As best as I can figure it, she thinks that whenever women use any makeup that reddens their cheeks or lips they are doing so because this redness is a simulation of the “sex flush” that many women experience during, well, sex, and that typically starts to fade after an orgasm.
Of course, cheeks also turn red due to embarrassment, sunburn, vigorous jogging, cold weather, falling into a vat of tomato soup. So maybe all that a woman with blusher on her cheeks is trying to signal is that due to her balance issues it’s probably not a good idea to take her on a tour of a soup factory, at least not without securing her with a sturdy rope first.
Also, “sex flushes” don’t only affect the face; they also tend to redden necks and chests, among other places. So for women to really convey just how totally into sex they hypothetically are, shouldn’t they cover every visible inch of skin with red paint, like this sexy lady here?
But I digress. Heying continues her tirade against mean hotties being mean to men.
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.
Weird that very few of these women are able to use this supposedly vast power to command much higher salaries than, for example, their much older and much less sexually appealing male bosses.
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.
Why shouldn’t men treat women as peers? What does “hotness” have to do with it?
Creating hunger in men by actively inviting the male gaze, then demanding that men have no such hunger—that is toxic femininity.
No one is demanding that straight men cease being attracted to — hungering for — women; they’re simply asking that men treat the women they’re attracted to with simple courtesy and not openly drool over them like creepy creeps.
Subjugating men, emasculating them when they display strength—physical, intellectual, or other—that is toxic femininity.
“Subjugating” men for “displaying strength?” Where is this coming from? What the fuck are you even talking about?
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.
No one is claiming that all men are toxic “simply by virtue of being men.” Yes, it’s true that all men in our culture are taught some toxic attitudes and encouraged to display some toxic behaviors. But that doesn’t make all men predators or creeps.
Many men consciously or unconsciously reject the toxic aspects of masculinity — while holding on to other aspects of masculinity that they and many others (including most feminists) find appealing. Terry Crews is about as masculine a man as you can get — and he’s speaking out against toxic masculinity. I don’t know any feminist, male or female, who has a problem with him; I’ve seen Men’s Rights Activists call him a “cuck.”
If every young woman who complains about creeps staring at them is guilty of “toxic femininity,” at least in Heying’s mind, are there men guilty of toxic masculinity as well?
True, she does explicitly acknowledge that toxic masculinity is a thing. After all, there are men out there who sexually assault women. But she’s willing to absolve most men of any degree of blame.
“Yes, toxic masculinity exists,” she writes, before moving on to the inevitable “but.”
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.
Well, pretty much any human assemblage with more than a handful of men in it is likely to contain at least one toxic asshole who likes to grope women without consent. Hell, our president is one of these men, if his own boasts (not to mention the accusations of numerous women) are anything to go by. Kind of hard to argue that “toxic masculinity” is super duper rare when the top elected official on our country is about as toxic as a man can get.
This term, toxic masculinity, is being wielded indiscriminately, and with force. We are not talking imprecision now, we are talking thoroughgoing inaccuracy.
Indeed, she suggests, if you talk about “toxic masculinity” too much, many people will leap to the conclusion that “all men are toxic.” Never mind that this isn’t actually happening in the real world.
While Heying is convinced that every young woman who puts a little rouge on her cheeks is “inviting trouble,” she cuts men a lot more slack. Indeed, at the start of her piece she literally gives human males credit for not murdering babies.
No, really. She starts the piece by noting that male lions, as is well-known, will “kill the kittens in a pride over which they have gained control.” This, she acknowledges, is pretty “toxic” behavior. But
[g]iven the opportunity, the vast majority of modern human males would do no such thing. … the vast majority of men would not and could not kill babies, nor rape their grieving mothers.
Good to know.
So, to summarize: in order to be convicted of toxic femininity in the court of Judge Heying, all a woman needs to do is to put on a spot of makeup and then complain if men leer at her.
In order to be convicted of toxic masculinity, by contrast, a man has to do one or more of the following:
- Grind on or grope a woman without her consent
- Rape a woman
- Demand sexual favors for career advancement
- Kill some babies
With such divergent standards, it’s no wonder that she thinks “toxic femininity” is much more common than “toxic masculinity.”
It’s also no wonder she’s considered part of the “Intellectual Dark Web,” because arguments like hers deserve to be sent back into the darkness from whence they came.