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Heather Heying (rhymes with flying) on toxic femininity

(69 Posts)
Baggs Sat 14-Jul-18 17:38:00

Oh, how well she expresses what I've known in my guts forever! Paragraphs 18-20 in particular (some paragraphs are only one sentence long).

janeainsworth Tue 17-Jul-18 16:17:27

how would you feel if one of the 60+ men spent the whole of a dance staring down the front of your dress? And is it "Toxic" if you don't like it?
It was a hypothetical question really trisher and I’m not sure whether you mean a single dance or the whole evening, but a) they’d have a job keeping up with me as I’d be whirling all over the dance floor, b) I probably wouldn’t notice, and c) if I did, I’d either move away or force them to make eye contact by means if scintillating conversation.
I don’t think it’s toxic to simply not like over-attentiveness. ‘Toxic’ (a much overused word these days) implies an excessive or over-reaction.

knickas63 Tue 17-Jul-18 15:58:58

This isn't about 'asking for it' - she clearly states that no woman (or man) should be touched without permission. But looking? I agree that if either man or woman goes around higlighting and showing off their best bits, then they should expect to get looked at and not complain. Looking is fine. To be quite honest I don't even mind the odd wolf whistle ( so long ago .....). It is the touching and more that is reprehensible, and the Judging! The Judging is in itself toxic. There are some cultures where a woman can walk through a crowd of men completely covered and she would be far from safe, and some where she could walk through in a bikini - yes she would be looked at an probably comments made, but in general she would be safe. In fact, I suspect most of the men would jump in to help if she was in danger. Hiding the female figure often causes the feeling of forbidden fruit and can cause more harm than good.

trisher Tue 17-Jul-18 15:36:29

I suppose it is about degrees of response as well. So Heather Heying castigates the young woman who is complaining about men staring at her, so janeainsworth how would you feel if one of the 60+ men spent the whole of a dance staring down the front of your dress? And is it "Toxic" if you don't like it?
As far as the Uni singing goes, some of the songs I heard in Uni bars in the 60s were completely unrepeatable, the agrics and the rugby teams were the worst, but most of the boys were well brought up, certainly middle and upper class, many weren't used to the company of girls and very few of them were confident when they were away from the crowd. I think it's a rite of passage and not necessarily indicative of toxic masculinity.

Luckygirl Tue 17-Jul-18 14:47:04

The toxic femininity is about always laying the blame at the door of men, not about what you might choose to wear.

janeainsworth Tue 17-Jul-18 13:33:26

Nobody has yet defined exactly what type of clothing crosses the line
Quite, eloethan.
elegran and luckygirl
If I go out on Saturday night in my killer heels, wearing rather more makeup than usual, a sleeveless knee-length dress and displaying some of my admittedly not-very-voluptuous cleavage, to go ballroom dancing with some other 60-somethings, am I sending signals to the men there that I’m ‘up for it’, or am I just indulging in a bit of competitive dressing-up? Women are said to dress not to please men, but to impress other women.
Am I guilty of ‘toxic femininity’?
Or is that sin the prerogative of young, pre-menopausal women?

Eloethan Tue 17-Jul-18 12:41:30

"The duty is theirs [men] to behave; but that goes for the woman too."

Women wearing revealing clothing hurts nobody and is not a crime. Sexual assault is not "bad behaviour", it is a crime.

Nobody has yet defined exactly what type of clothing crosses the line and, as far as I am aware, there is no evidence to suggest that women who get raped are more likely to be wearing certain types of clothing.

Men who sexually assault male and female children and adults always have an excuse for their crimes and try to place the blame on the child or adult for the assault.

There is a suggestion that middle class/educated young men don't behave in this way. There have been plenty of reports over the last few years of male behaviour in all sorts of settings that demeans and disrespects women in the most unpleasant and aggressive ways.

From the Guardian, 2014:

"For female students starting at Emmanuel College, Cambridge this month, a depressing welcome awaited. Student newspaper The Tab reported on a leaked email encouraging members of an all-male drinking society to “smash it (/the girls)”.

"Others from different universities report “points systems” for games such as “fuck a fresher”, “seal clubbing”, or “sharking” – where older male students win points for sleeping with first-year girls. (In some cases, extra points were reported for taking a girl’s virginity or keeping their underwear as a trophy.) In many cases, these are the people supposed to be looking after freshers as they settle in.

"At the University of Nottingham, a video has emerged showing a crowd of first-year students singing a chant including the lines:

These are the girls that I love best,
Many times I’ve sucked their breasts
Fuck her standing, fuck her lying,
If she had wings I’d fuck her flying
Now she’s dead, but not forgotten,
Dig her up and fuck her rotten

"It echoes last year’s video of students at Stirling University chanting on a public bus about sexual assault and miscarriage."

It will be argued, I am sure, that women need to be more confident in sticking up for themselves and dealing firmly with issues of this nature. Development of such confidence and self-belief will surely be hindered when the underlying narrative from some is that "boys will be boys" and women who are sexually harassed or assaulted must look to their own behaviour to prevent such things happening.

Elegran Tue 17-Jul-18 09:35:37

Thank you, Luckygirl "It is not about what we are doing consciously; it is about the reality of biology." That is what I was saying. We can teach our boys to control their biological instincts, but we have also to teach our girls to control theirs. If they are to be equal they can't be either victims or aggressors. That does not mean we force them into shapeless clothing and ban lipstick, it means that we teach them both the biology and the psychology that underpins relationships. We can't blame either one or the other for their biology, but we can have them see reality, not Mills and Boon fantasy.

Luckygirl Tue 17-Jul-18 08:53:40

The "toxic femininity" idea is saying that as a woman I can do what the hell I like and it is up to men to resist the temptation that I am flaunting in their face. Ergo, men are animals and unable to control themselves.

Just as men have to behave in a civilised way so do women; and most do, of both genders.

Young women dressing provocatively and getting so legless that they do not know what they are doing is wholly inappropriate. I am not blaming them - they probably have problems in their lives that cause them to do this. In the same way I do not blame the young men who fall foul of this situation.

We cannot waltz though life in denial about the strength of the sexual urge, particularly in young men and women; and knowing this does colour our behaviour in the same way that knowing that cars can kill causes us to avoid stepping off the pavement.

I do find it very disturbing that young men are regarded in such a negative way and seen to be to blame when there are crossed wires in a sexual encounter. The duty is theirs to behave; but that goes for the woman too.

Luckygirl Tue 17-Jul-18 08:45:42

"Luckygirl Do you think when we wore miniskirts in the 60’s we were consciously ‘presenting ourselves in a highly sexualised way’?"

It is not about what we are doing consciously; it is about the reality of biology.

As I said - blame is the name of the game, and this is not appropriate.

Eglantine21 Mon 16-Jul-18 22:21:11

Now I want to say from the start that I’m not sure what point I’m making with this observation, just that I’d appreciate some viewpoints on it to help my clarify my thinking.

Recently I was walking along the beach, somewhat lost in thought when coming towards me was a man with no clothes on. I was alarmed and felt under threat.

He passed without incident, except for a bit of a look. A little further along, a naked couple. I was on a nudist beach! Several more naked men. No feeling of threat at all now.

A group of naked twenty something year old girls splashing in the sea. Nobody except me seeming to notice them even. Not provocative to anyone.

At this point I thought I would join in. The sea was warm. I dried in the sun and wind not having brought a towel. At no point did I feel uneasy even though I was naked where there were several naked men.

Then the man with clothes on came and stood on the sand dunes and watched. I felt threatened. I felt the girls in the water were being abused visually.

It wasn’t just about what was on display, was it? It was more to do with the person who was looking. I think.

Elegran Mon 16-Jul-18 21:24:00

Yes indeed - but that is some girls, and the pursuers can be some men. Men are not always the aggressors and the girls not always the victims, any more than you can say that it is the other way round. It is the same old game that has always been played, with the same old misunderstandings.

trisher Mon 16-Jul-18 20:42:28

but even a mild approach could be greeted with horror - they must see and never touch.
Oooh not necessarily. There's lots of touching (and more) in quite public places on nights out in the city where I live. The girls are not just displaying, and in groups they are a bit scarey. They pursue the men quite aggresively sometimes.

Elegran Mon 16-Jul-18 20:04:22

The article that Baggs posted a link to didn't say that only scantily dressed girls get raped either. It said that girls looking and behaving excessively sexily were a threat to men. (What is excessive is a subject for discussion, of course, what one person thinks charmingly attractive looks like Jezebel on steroids to another) They seem to be inviting sexual attentions, but even a mild approach could be greeted with horror - they must see and never touch. It is a minefield now for young people starting off on love's roundabout. I don't envy them.

Elegran Mon 16-Jul-18 19:56:04

I said nothing about "only" middleclass young men behaving well toward girls, or about middleclass girls all being virtuous virgins. I know perfectly well that quiet girls attacked too. I was never raped - thank god - but I was attacked, in a deserted theatre at Moray House, when I was eating my solitary sandwich in an empty room. All the cast - I thought - had gone to the pub, but I was stony broke so said I would stay. One bloke returned, sought me out and was all set on - whatever. I removed his vacuuming face from mine by gripping his cheek and pulling, hard which caused a set of deepish scratches across it and must have encouraged him in his rapid retreat, all without a word spoken. He was a friend of the producer/lecturer and said to be a future star - I wonder how he explained the scars at auditions. I have also wondered which future star he became, if any - I didn't catch his name, and he never spoke to me.

trisher Mon 16-Jul-18 19:19:31

Elegran what a narrow perception of relationships in the 60s. I don't think everyone behaved like that, in fact I know they didn't. There were quite a few promiscous girls who were busy having a good time with boys they never introduced to their parents and certainly never wanted to marry.
Of course rape is completely unacceptable but ths perception that it is girls who are provocatively dressed who are the ones who get raped is completely wrong. Rape isn't about sex it is about power and a decorously dressed girl can still be a target. In fact she may be more likely to be. And today some of the girls who do dress provocatively are actually looking for sex not necessarily a long term relationship

Eloethan Mon 16-Jul-18 18:33:28

"We" Elegran?

The account you give is about you. Don't presume that it everybody's experience. (And don't presume that only middle class men and women know how to behave in a civilised and decent way)

I am sure there will be several Gransnetters - we have already read the moving words of one - whose "civilisation and middle-class upbringing" did not protect them from physical and emotional damage or conform to the the "happy every after" story you relate.

As someone else pointed out, men also rape openly gay men and women - sometimes, reportedly, as a "punishment". Some men also rape children. This seems to support the notion that the vast majority of rapes are not about "mixed messages" resulting from clothing or behaviour or about unstoppable sexual desire but about inadequate men who need to control and exert power.

muffinthemoo Mon 16-Jul-18 18:20:58

If someone could explain to me how I can detach my vagina and leave it in a locksafe place like I can with my handbag, so I can go out in complete safety, that would be brilliant.

Elegran Mon 16-Jul-18 17:55:39

Those mini-skirts - yes, we were displaying our sexual attractiveness. It worked too, didn't it? We clicked with some great guys, who didn't take advantage of our attractiveness and rape us, they were too well-brought-up for that. They took us dancing and to the pictures and the theatre, they kissed and cuddled and took it as slowly as we wanted, we introduced them to our parents and we met theirs, and once we had passed all our exams we married and settled down and had many years of happiness. That was all according to our civilisation and our middle-class culture.

Elegran Mon 16-Jul-18 17:45:12

I think my handbag analogy is valid. Using cosmetics to mimic sexual receptiveness, wearing clothes which accentuate the secondary sexual characteristics of full breasts and rounded hips and plunge to reveal most of the breasts and the legs up to the buttocks, drinking to release any inhibitions moving sensually and maintaining eye contact with those dilated-looking pupils and maintaining eye contact with those dilated-looking pupils - they may not think with their conscious minds that they are saying "I am available, come and get me" but that is what their subconscious is broadcasting, and that is what the subconscious mind of the male they are displaying to is receiving.

Elegran Mon 16-Jul-18 17:30:23

My point (going back to include my previous posts as well as these latest ones) is that in most animals mating is primarily initiated by unconscious and unintentional signals that the female is at the most fertile point in her oestral cycle These signals tell the male that now would be the best (or for most, the only) time to mate and ensure that her offspring carry his genes. The signal can be smell, taste (giraffe males are forever licking the female's rear to check), appearance (the chimp's red behind) or behaviour.

Animals only exhibit these signals at this time, and for most animals, that is the only time that they mate. Fertility and receptiveness go together. If an animal is not at her fertile phase, she does not display that she is ready, and she is not interested, neither is the male interested because the right button has not been pressed for him.

Human beings do not have this clear timing of fertility and receptiveness. Sexual activity can take place at any time of the month, whether or not it coincides with fertility.

But female human beings as well as other female animals still give unconscious and unintentional signals that they are ready for sex, and the bodies of male human beings respond to those signals. They include flushing of the skin of the neck and chest, and widening pupils.

(Centuries ago, girls put belladonna drops in their eyes to widen the pupils and rubbed red petals on the skin to give it that blush. The effect aimed for these days is much the same - rosy skin and wide eyes.)

Human beings are still animals in their instincts. That is not a condemnation or an accusation of basic beastliness, but the fact that they respond to their hormones just as much as animals do.

Every generation of young people has the same instinct to be attractive to the opposite sex, and every generation faces the same conflict between that instinct and whatever the current standards of sexual activity are.

We can and should train our boys to respect the decision of the girls they court on how far they follow the drive of those hormones , but there could inevitably be some who are tempted beyond their powers of control, for whatever reason. Girls also need to be trained to be aware of that, and to know what power they have and when to turn down the wattage. The self-control should not all lie with the young men.

I think that is what the article was saying about toxic masculinity and toxic femininity, though I don't like those terms.

janeainsworth Mon 16-Jul-18 16:14:37

I’m struggling too eloethan.
elegran the point of farnorth’s analogy was that even if temptation is put in someone’s way, that doesn’t lessen the crime.
Your analogy isn’t valid anyway, because the basis of rape is lack of consent.
If you offer your handbag full of £100 notes to the nearest stranger, you are consenting to them taking it, so they haven’t stolen it from you.

Eloethan Mon 16-Jul-18 13:15:10

Words fail me.

Elegran Mon 16-Jul-18 12:52:59

There is also a difference between leaving the car door unlocked accidentally or opening it wide with a large placard on it saying "This handbag is full of £100 notes that I am giving away. I would be so pleased for you to take it."

Elegran Mon 16-Jul-18 12:49:42

So it does, Farnorth, but the insurance company won't pay out if the car door was unlocked. The owner of the handbag has to accept that they have lost it and won't get the value of it back (well, the percentage that the insurance company would have been prepared to pay out, anyway).

FarNorth Mon 16-Jul-18 10:14:45

If someone has left a handbag in their unlocked car, and I open the door and take the handbag, that makes me a thief not just someone who was given the wrong message.