Can Women Be Awful, Too?

toxic feminity

Meghan Daum is an author, a writing instructor, a former LA Times columnist and a Facebook friend, in that order. We haven’t met in real life. But I respect her work more than I can possibly say. Daum – like me – knows one mode: 100% honest.

I can cite a few of her recent posts on Medium that I loved but instead I want to focus on this piece from last fall,  in which Daum makes the obvious (but wildly controversial!) assertion that even in this time of #MeToo and #BelieveWomen, women are also flawed human beings with the same ability to mistreat to a member of the opposite sex.

Daum knows that a sensitive reader will immediately engage in whataboutism – and simply revert back to what’s wrong with men…

“I’m cognizant of the fact that for every bad behavior I mentioned in my opening list of questions there is an equal, opposite, and potentially more physically threatening form of bad behavior that men can, and do, visit upon women with just as much frequency.

But that, right there, is precisely my point. In a free society, everyone, regardless of gender, or any other identification, is free to be a manipulative, narcissistic, emotionally destructive asshole. So I’m not sure why men have been getting all the credit lately.

The #BelieveWomen memes that have arisen in the wake of #MeToo in general, and the Brett Kavanaugh saga in particular, are coming from a place of empathy and good intentions. But they’re also stripping women of our complications and contradictions, and therefore our humanity.”

She continues:

Women are not simple, guileless creatures to whom only the most innocent motives should ever be ascribed. Both sexes contain multitudes.

#BelieveWomen, with its suggestion that women are some monolithic entity that is inherently more moral, innocent, or trustworthy than men, is not just reductive but insulting. Women are not simple, guileless creatures to whom only the most innocent motives should ever be ascribed. Both sexes contain multitudes. Or, as George Carlin put it, “Men are from Earth, women are from Earth. Deal with it.”…

Until it admits that women can be as manipulative and creepy and generally awful as men, the (#MeToo) movement will continue to send a message that we’re not really whole people. And why would anyone believe someone like that?

I’m a dating coach for smart, strong, successful women and I have advocate for my women clients around the world for over 15 years. I’ve also dated a lot of women who, by any objective measure, were not always kind, honest, ethical, or reasonable at seeing other points of view or resolving conflict.

We cannot live in a world where a man is presumed guilty because he’s a man and a woman can do no wrong because she’s a woman. It’s important that liberal pundits like Daum continue to preach a more neutral tone on gender relations and politics.

Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.

Join our conversation (54 Comments).
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  1. 1

    I’m a woman and a law graduate, and I find a concept like #BelieveWomen absurd.

    Why should women be exempt from the burden of proof just because they are women?

    In the old days in my country, the courts had what was called a “cautionary rule” which they adopted when considering the testimony of women in sexual assault cases. In a nutshell, this meant that they had to be a tad skeptical about a woman accusing a man of rape/sexual assault because the assumption was that women could be vindictive and would use the court system to ruin a man.

    That was obviously abhorrent and sexist, but now we seem to have swung to the other extreme, which is just as wrong. That women should be believed and sided with, whether there is evidence or not.

    What happened to trying to be objective, to requiring evidence which was then scrutinized and interrogated and then coming to a fair conclusion? As human beings that is not always easy, but I believe it is what we should aspire to.

    As a woman I am offended by anything which patronises and infantilises women and applies a different standard to their behaviour. Of course women are capable of shitty behaviour. Some of the worst treatment I have ever received in my life has been at the hands of women, not men.

    I love women; I think we are wonderful as a gender, but I would like to see us aspire to be our best selves, not take shortcuts.

  2. 2

    My favorite part of the article was in Daum’s definition of “toxic femininity” as a woman’s weaponizing of her fragility. This is right on the money. It is nothing like toxic masculinity, which is why most women don’t notice it.

    Daum talks about women initiating unwelcome sexual acts onto men….and while I think most men (including myself) have some experience with this, it doesn’t mean the same thing to us as it seems to mean to women. Isn’t the thing that women do that men hate. And this is the crux of the misunderstanding between the genders. Women look at the issue of rape, for example, and the fact that the overwhelming majority of rapists are male. So they think of rape as a male problem, as something that women (generally) simply do not do. Same with harassment, same with violence. And so, if these things are the problems of society, then men ARE the problem. And women aren’t.

    The problem with this line of thinking is that women are missing the areas where women are the problem (and men aren’t) because they don’t experience these selfsame problems. Aren’t generally manipulated into action by the fragility of the opposite gender, by the fear of emotional withdrawal or overload. The women I know tend to get their way the overwhelming majority of the time, and – HERE’S THE KICKER – aren’t aware of the fact that they do. Aren’t cognizant of the manipulation. Aren’t aware that what is happening isn’t exactly what’s supposed to be happening.

    My mother in law is one of the nicest, most even-tempered women I’ve ever met. She is (re-)married to one of the nicest, most self-effacing men I’ve ever met. When they disagree, she’s more than happy to hear his perspective, to talk it out. And after they’ve talked it out, she gets her way. He wants to go to Florida all winter, she doesn’t want to go for more than 6 weeks. Guess what? They go 6 weeks. He wants a renovation (that he’ll pay for), she doesn’t. It doesn’t happen. She isn’t aware that “talking it out” is the equivalent of fighting an unfair fight. That women are generally so superior at talking and at subtle emotional manipulation that most men either capitulate or withdraw. The tears, the accusations of uncaring, the emotional warfare….and the lack of admission that it IS warfare.

    I wonder how many women reading this (if any still are) will acknowledge this. That they do this. That this is a thing. I don’t know any men at all who aren’t aware of it.

    1. 2.1

      Hi Jeremy

      I wonder if this is cultural? (Not Canadian). At least to some extent. I know it’s dangerous to generalize about a group which has already suffered so much discrimination, so I do apologize. But I think there’s some truth to it.

      IME, in a different cultural & religious context, the likely standard/ narrative would be for men to get their own way, through implied anger/aggression (or actual aggression), or withdrawal of affection, resources etc.

      Of course the speak of exists, but not for all women.

    2. 2.2

      Jeremy said :
      My mother in law is one of the nicest, most even-tempered women I’ve ever met. She is (re-)married to one of the nicest, most self-effacing men I’ve ever met. When they disagree, she’s more than happy to hear his perspective, to talk it out. And after they’ve talked it out, she gets her way. He wants to go to Florida all winter, she doesn’t want to go for more than 6 weeks. Guess what? They go 6 weeks. He wants a renovation (that he’ll pay for), she doesn’t. It doesn’t happen. She isn’t aware that “talking it out” is the equivalent of fighting an unfair fight. That women are generally so superior at talking and at subtle emotional manipulation that most men either capitulate or withdraw. The tears, the accusations of uncaring, the emotional warfare….and the lack of admission that it IS warfare.

      If she resorts to “tears, accusations of uncaring, and emotional warfare” can she really be described as nice and even tempered ?

      If one spouse wants to go to Florida all winter, and one doesn’t, how do you suggest they negotiate through that conflict of wants ?   Have you been privvy to EVERY conflict that this couple has, or do you only hear about the ones where she “gets her way ” ?   Honestly, the only way I know of to negotiate through a conflict of wants or desires is by either talking it out, or one party just letting the other party have their way, without voicing their desires.   Is that what you think women should do ?   Just let the man be in charge and make every decision ?   That has not been my experience.   Not every negotiation of conflicts wants has been talked about until I “get my way.”   Not every conflict of desires/wants even gets talked about.   Sometimes my spouse will want to do or buy something that I don’t particularly want, but when he brings it up, I see it is something that he wants more than I don’t want it, so I let it go without a discussion,   or I give my opinion (we don’t need another appliance taking up space on our already crowded counter top, but if you REALLY want that air popper,   go ahead and buy it) and then let him “have his way”.   I think men (or spouses in general) aren’t aware of the times when their spouse lets a conflict go to keep the peace, because, well, they let it go to keep the peace.   Also, I really don’t buy that men are helpless in negotiations with women.   Lawyer and salesmen are two jobs that many men excel at, and both of those jobs require a lot of negotiation.

      Also, I grew up in a home, where conflicts between ALL family members (mom and dad, dad and one of the kids, etc.) were settled by my father thundering “This is what’s to be done, END OF DISCUSSION”,   followed up with a threat of violence if anyone tried to voice their POV, or didn’t follow his dictates.   Only one person in our household ever got their way, and they weren’t female.   I don’t think ours was the only household run in this manner.

      I think your observations are heavily colored by confirmation bias.   You don’t see the conflicts that she didn’t think were worth having a discussion about (and neither did he), you don’t see or notice the conflicts where they both reach a middle ground compromise.   (Perhaps the 6 weeks in Florida WAS the compromise, perhaps she didn’t want to go at all, or only wanted to go for 2 weeks) and you don’t see, hear or notice the conflicts* where he prevails.

      I get from your post that you think the wife should just go along with her hubby, instead of talking it out, which you view as manipulative.   Am I wrong ?   If so, other than talking it out, or one person (the wife) going along with whatever her husband desires, how do you suggest a married couple negotiate through a conflict of desires ? TIA for your response.   🙂

      *When I speak of conflicts, I am talking about “soft” conflicts, where each partner wants differing desires that neither is necessarily in the wrong.   (one wants a reclining chair, the other wants a chair with an ottoman, etc), I am not talking about serious conflicts such as violence, infidelity, wreckless drunk driving, addictions, etc)

      PS – In regards to the OP “Can Women Be Awful too”, my answer is YES OF COURSE.   Awfulness is a HUMAN problem and isn’t limited to one half of the population.   I realize the question is rhetorical, but human nature being what it is, and awfulness not being confined to anyone group, it seems like a silly question to me.   I have seen plenty of awful behavior from women towards their spouses/partners, but that awful behavior was not voicing their opinion when a conflict of want arises.



  3. 3

    I didn’t do well with my last comment so I’ll pare it down a bit. When couples disagree, it is often the woman who pushes for further conversation and often the man who withdraws. Withdraws because he feels that conversion only makes it worse, that he can’t win. That his partner’s invitation to conversation is essentially an arm-wrestling match with a giant. Because while she might be the one to cry, to yell, to hush, to emote….he is more often the one getting the emotional shit beat out of him as he sits in silence or stammers his replies. Toxic femininity – aggression through fragility. Invulnerability through vulnerability. Lack of compromise through offers to compromise. Mistaking one’s own prerogatives for the objectively correct. Nothing at all like toxic masculinity, which is the masking of weakness with aggression.

    1. 3.1

      Jeremy, if you believe that every disagreement involves a woman crying, yelling, hushing, and emoting, I think you need to fix your picker. I assure you that emotionally stable, rational, empathetic women exist. We don’t all turn every debate into a screaming match. To imply otherwise is incredibly dismissive and harmful to literally half the population. Please stop.

      1. 3.1.1

        And there it is.

  4. 4
    No Name To Give

    I’m gonna need a giant tub o’corn for the comments on this one.

  5. 5

    The idea of “toxic femininity” is pretty ridiculous. I have never coerced a man into sex, blamed my bad behavior on my period, threatened suicide at the end of a relationship or faked a pregnancy scare. I don’t know a single decent woman who has. I certainly agree that women are just as capable of being bad as men are and that not all accusations have equal validity. However, to claim that toxic femininity is a thing is kind of ignoring the core of what #MeToo is all about, which is taking down the patriarchal system.

    1. 5.1

      Is the solution to do as you wrote, to teach young men to check for nothing less than enthusiastic consent from women?   Or might the solution also involve women?   What if, indeed, we also taught young women to walk if their consent is less than enthusiastic?   After all, do they not know their own minds better than men can intuit them?


      The notion that men should be entirely responsible, that women are victims because they just can’t walk (because of all the emotional reasons and excuses I recall you wrote on the Aziz Ansari thread) – this IS toxic femininity.   Manipulation through fragility.   Fragility that you cultivate, but deny to men.   That IS the patriarchal system, if only you could see it.

      1. 5.1.1

        I don’t deny that there are bad women out there, but the idea that bad women are responsible for the world’s ills in the same way that bad men are is the biggest crock of shit I have ever heard.

        If the patriarchy doesn’t exist, then pray tell, why is it that we haven’t yet seen a female equivalent of Harvey Weinstein or Roger Ailes? Why is it that we haven’t yet heard of a highly powerful woman harrassing and assaulting dozens of vulnerable young men? Why is it that child pornography is almost exclusively made, distributed and consumed by men? Why is it that the vast, vast majority of sexual violence is committed by men? Come on.

        Insisting that “toxic femininity” is a thing sounds a lot like when I hear white people talking about reverse-racism. It is true that black people are capable of being racist and destructive (because those qualities are simply part of being human, and not specific to any ethnicity), but claiming that black people being racist to white people has caused the same level of mass harm as white people being racist to black people is privileged denial.

      2. 5.1.2

        To answer your question succinctly, because sex is not what women need to use their wiles to get from men.   Harassment, rape, porn, those are sex crimes.   Crimes perpetrated by the gender that is born addicted to sex, needs to use their wiles to get sex, can jump the queue to sex through the above crimes.   Consider for a moment what women ARE addicted to, not what they aren’t.   Consider how women get what they want when frustrated, not how men do.   They. Are. Different.


        To use just one of many possible examples, we call it rape when a man forces a woman into sex, and rape is a crime. But sex isn’t the prime motivation of child-bearing-aged women, having a baby is. What do we call it when a woman tricks a man into paternity without his consent?   Is it criminal?   And how often does it happen?   If we called it “fape” instead of “rape,” how many women would be “fapists”?   Why, America would have an epidemic on its hands.   It’s not a “thing” because no one has defined it.   Because men are the privileged gender and women are the victims, because we define victimhood as pertaining to the prerogatives of men, considering the prerogatives of women to be justified (or at least justifiable).   After all, when I gave my “fape” example, did you agree, or did you make excuses as to how men consented to parenthood when they had sex?

        1. Paloma

          I definitely agree with you that tricking someone into conceiving a baby is a   pretty repugnant thing to do. I wouldn’t make excuses for any woman who would do something like that. However, to claim that something “fape” is a global issue as crippling and widespread as sexual violence, child pornography, human trafficking, genital mutilation and male abuse of power which occurs every day in literally every industry is bullshit, and you know it is. The reason why we haven’t seen any female equivalent of Harvey Weinstein isn’t because all women are inherently better people than men. It’s because women just aren’t granted the kind of power in our society to behave that way. Guys like Weinstein and Ailes get away with that shit for so long because they were aided and abetted by all the people around them. Even so, do you honestly believe that the lovely, even-tempered woman who always gets her way in her marriage is just as evil as, say, the child pornographer who lives next door? Or the guy who asserts his power by beating or raping members of his family? It sounds like what you are really trying to do is diminish the impact of the considerable destruction men have had on the world by bringing up a few bad women you’ve known. Classic MRA

        2. sylvana


          you need to find a much better example than “tricked into paternity”. Because there is no such thing. Sperm is the mobile ingredient needed to achieve pregnancy. It needs to a) fertile, b) be deposited near a woman’s uterus, and c) then travel within the woman’s body to find her egg and force its way into it.

          There is no way a woman can “trick” a man into depositing his mobile, fertile sperm near her uterus. None whatsoever. Or do you think she can blindfold him, then pretend he’s depositing it in her mouth or nether hole with him being none the wiser? And her eggs aren’t jumping into his body to inseminate themselves.

          She can rape him (which is an equal crime to him raping her), steal his sperm somehow and place it in a precarious location. But, once she has consented to sex, she has absolutely ZERO control over HIS bodily fluid, or where he ends up placing it.

          If a man is not willing to become a father whatsoever, he better make damn sure to not place his egg-seeking missiles anywhere near where they might cause an accident. Because even if she is on birth control, those troublesome little swimmers can still cause a major collision – and therefore irreparable damages to her body.

          Whether she aborts or not, at best she is guaranteed to endure pain and suffering. And she will NEVER get reimbursed for those damages if the man isn’t willing to. He might end up being forced to pay for the child, but there is no law stating he has to pay for the damages occurred because his sperm forced its way into her egg.

          To say she “tricked” him into inseminating her is the equivalent of saying a driver stopped at a red light tricked the moving car that slammed into her into doing so.

          Wear a freaking condom, use spermicide, AND pull out if you’re that worried about it. Three methods of birth control that MEN have total control over, and can even use at the same time. While even a sterilized woman still has a chance of getting pregnant. I personally know two women who got pregnant with IUDs.

          Consider how women get what they want when frustrated, not how men do.  

          Well, that’s the whole point. Toxic masculinity is all about the METHOD used to reach whatever the goal is. Personally, I don’t really believe the term toxic masculinity is a good one. It should be called toxic aggression – using force, violence, physical dominance, or threats to get what you want, or to oppress, etc.
          It also is by no means limited to sex, Look at violent crimes in general, and see if the majority aren’t committed by men. Goals have nothing to do with it. It’s all about the “method” to reach said goal.
          Also, let’s not forget that this is not just a men vs women issue, but a men vs. men issue as well.

          Is there such a thing as toxic “femininity?” Sure. I guess it would be manipulation and lying. Both of which men are equally guilty of. I guess that leaves men doubly screwed.

          In your above example, you’re actually trying to compare a violent act like rape with lying or manipulating someone to get something you want.

          Man wants sex. Woman wants child.  He rapes, she lies to him about being on birth control. Absolutely incomparable!

          The equivalent would be this:

          Man wants sex. He rapes woman. Woman wants child, she RAPES him, and forces him to orgasm while ensuring his sperm is placed as close to her uterus as possible.

          Toxic femininity, I guess, would be this:

          Man wants sex. He lies to her about really liking her, wanting to date her, etc. Woman wants child, she lies to him about being on birth control (“tricked” him into fatherhood”).

          It’s not a “thing” because no one has defined it.  No. It’s not a “thing”, because it’s not a violent crime, and he was not FORCED to deposit his sperm near her uterus. He was not forced to not use any form of birth control available to him. He CHOSE not to do anything at all to prevent pregnancy on his end. He actually chose the super high-risk stakes of having an orgasm near her uterus on top of not using protection on his end. That’s why it isn’t a crime in general. Due to the way nature designed it, however, his sperm DID force it’s way to and into her immobile egg.

          I do fully agree that men should not be held responsible for the child if they choose not to be. That being said, men should most definitely be responsible for the damages and pain and suffering a woman endured if his sperm collided with her eggs and managed to impregnate her. In case she goes through with the pregnancy and gives birth, it’ll likely cost you way more than simply paying for the child. But even abortion, and even if just via pill, are not a physically or mentally pleasant experience, and can pose risks to future fertility.

          So nice of you to say “well, I don’t want the child”, and leave her hanging with 100% of the physical consequences. Also so nice of you to completely disregard the physical and health consequences of bearing children in general – plenty of which are permanent.

          did you make excuses as to how men consented to parenthood when they had sex?

          You’re asking the wrong question. The correct question(s) would be this:

          Did he consent to depositing his fertile sperm where it might impregnate her even if she was on birth control? And what exact birth control method available to him did HE use while doing so to ensure that the responsibility for birth control was not left up completely to her? What responsibility at all did he take to ensure she would not end up pregnant?

          He didn’t want that child. He sure as heck isn’t going to be dumb enough to leave preventing having one totally up to her, is he?

          Or are you actually displaying a bit of that toxic masculinity by stating that a man has all rights to leave the responsibility of preventing pregnancy 100% up to her? Especially men who do not want children?

          Poor, poor him. He didn’t use a condom. Didn’t use a spermicide. Didn’t pull out. But it’s all her fault! She lied to him about being on birth control (of which there is not a single one out there 100% effective. So what…you expected HER to use at least two methods of birth control so you don’t have to use a single one???).

          But the poor guy was tricked into not using any method of birth control available to him.  How dare you women demand that men who do not want to sire children take some responsibility for not doing so themselves.

          This is beyond mind-boggling to me. You choose to take zero responsibility, but it’s all the woman’s fault.

          Put it this way. There’s a HUGE stop sign at her uterus. You choose to send your sperm speeding right through it without pausing and cause a wreck, you damn well better reimburse for the damages.

          And no. We do not define victimhood as pertaining to the prerogatives of men.  Reality remains, though, that the majority of people using violence, threats of violence, physical dominance, or force are men. When it comes to abusing power, I’m sure the scales are more equal.

          When it comes to manipulation and lies to get what they want, men are right up there again alongside women. And while there might be some women who will try to justify this type of behavior, the majority of women will not.

          Personally, I count myself blessed. Because my experiences with men has been overwhelmingly positive. And, in the few instances where I was threatened by a man/men, I could always count on other men to protect me. I look at men in general as the good guys. Not to mention that I’m not one to shrink away from using physical violence myself. Luckily, I’ve also never been in a situation where someone used power to try and ruin me.

          That being said, I can fully understand where these women – and let’s not forget the male victims of toxic masculinity! – are coming from.

        3. Jeremy

          The point I’m trying to make is that violence is not the only way for one person to coerce another. It is the classically male way.   The classically female way is through shame and emotional manipulation.   And while I agree that men can be manipulative too (as women can be violent), it tends to go the other way much of the time IME.

          I agree with Rachel above that not all (or even most) women turn every debate into a crying/screaming match – it is far more subtle than that.   Observe, for example, Paloma’s last response to me.   After she makes her argument, she subtlety adds a does of shame, “classic MRA.”   No tears or screaming, just an emotional conversation ender.   It’s not enough to debate the point, one must add a dose of shame – because if one is a “classic MRA” (which I am not), then debate is moot.   “You’re so immature.”   “Grow up.” “What the hell is wrong with you.” “Don’t you see how much this is hurting me?”   See Brene Brown’s work on shame in men for more on this.   Do women realize that the effects of shame in men are more emotionally crippling than an open handed slap in the face?   Yes, women don’t use violence to coerce men into doing what they want.   They don’t need to.

        4. Paloma

          Also, claiming having a baby is the “prime motivation” of women under 45 is an extremely sexist stereotype. My ovaries kind of shrivelled up when I read your last post. Are we in the 1950s? There are zillions of women out there who have better things to do than make babies. You seem really stuck on this notion that women in general are just like Yerma. Everything that you and YAG write on this site positively reeks of male privilege

    2. 5.2
      Yet Another Guy


      Just because you did not engage in the behaviors that you listed does not mean that other women have not included them in their bag of tricks.   Believe it or not, there are toxic women; however, just like toxic men, they are a minority for which the majority should not made to pay.

      In my humble opinion, the patriarchal system is little more than a feminist boogeyman.   Any women who thinks that she has it so bad should watch the movie “Deepwater Horizon.”   If men have it so great, why do so many men have to risk their lives to earn a living?   The number of male workplace fatalities dwarfs the number of female workplace fatalities because women do not want the triple-D (dirty, dangerous, and demeaning) jobs.   For example, I do not remember the last time I saw a woman hanging off of the back of residential trash collection truck.

      The reality is that while most men and women are decent human beings, there are bad apples on both sides of the gender divide.   For example, I worked for a female-owned corporation in the eighties where I constantly had to fend off one of the female owners who was twenty years my senior and married.   I eventually found a comparable position and left, but I had to play it off and avoid interactions with this woman until I was able to do so. Guys cannot go to HR and complain about sexual harassment because they will get laughed out of the office, especially when the perpetrator is an owner of the company.   The same bias exists in domestic violence.   If a man calls the police to report an act of domestic violence by a woman, he is more likely to get arrested than receive help.

      1. 5.2.1

        As a woman I can attest that toxic femininity is not a ridiculous notion at all. I’ll admit I’ve blamed emotions on my hormones. One of my former best friends has lied about being on birth control, STDs, and threatened to hurt herself if a guy left her. It was rather exhausting being friends with her.

      2. 5.2.2


        I work with dangerous horses and stallions every day. It’s something I choose to do. Let me ask you this? Who FORCES men to put their lives on the line for a living? No one. And there are plenty of men who would never even consider doing so. And if men would refuse, there would be plenty of women who’d simply take over. We’re already seeing a shift to having more and more women in physically demanding and dangerous jobs as the stigma around it diminishes.

        As for people in power, I agree. Both women and men are pretty much equally guilty of abusing power. In case of sexual harassment there, I actually feel worse for men, because they have almost no support to take action against those women.

        In cases of domestic abuse (or any other sort of fighting, etc.). I think this is more a matter of people being bias due to physical size and strength. Even if it was just two women, if one was physically way stronger than the other, people would have a harder time believing the puny, weaker-looking one is the one doing the abusing.

        I had a drunk, 5 ft. wildcat come at me in a bar once. People thought it was funny. I, not so much. I’m 6ft. 2, and I’ve knocked 1,200lbs horses around. I would have killed her had I tried to defend myself. Not a funny situation to be in at all.

        1. Cathalei

          I think  YAG‘s point was that most dangerous jobs are generally done by men and no one is calling for quotas to make it 50/50. And no matter how one looks at it,  somebody has to do these jobs, be it men or women.  There is a reason these jobs are well-paid and adjacent privileges are given as it would incentivize certain kind of people to apply for these jobs. One of the reasons men dominate these jobs could very well be that they work as the breadwinners.

          As for domestic violence, physical build plays an important part. OTOH it is no barrier to the need to be listened to in a phone call. I was in similar situations described as “intoxicated consent”, the difference being in a same sex context. As someone on the bigger end of the spectrum, should I have been declared a sex offender if they expressed regret later on? That’s not only demeaning to me but them as well, as it implies they can’t make a decision and any time it’s inconvenient the their decision to consent could be arbitrarily revoked. I don’t know if it’s such a radical proposition or not, but I prefer adults not have outside authority to second guess their personal decisions all the time.

    3. 5.3

      She’s not wrong that people suck, and women are people. I tell my boys that all the time: neither gender has the market cornered on shitty behavior! If you are a straight man, you will deal with crazy-ass women in your life; if you are gay, you will deal with crazy-ass men. Be prepared; watch for those people who are not safe and get away as fast as you can.

      But that doesn’t change the fact that the so-called justice system is rigged in favor of male predators and women’s voices are likely to be  silenced when they become victims and come forward to ask for justice. Just look at all the CONVICTED rapists who get off with time served, 3 months probation, no jail time… I’m referring to the very recent news, here. SO MANY. It’s despicable and wide-spread.

      I don’t think all women who cry rape should be believed without question,  automatically –  but #metoo has at least started the conversation that, despite “women’s rights,” there is still a problem. All the movement is asking for, IMO, is the acknowledgment that for too long actual victims have been ignored, vilified, re-victimized, and denied justice. Because that is a very real feature of our patriarchal culture, and yes – #timesup

      1. 5.3.1
        Tron Swanson

        The Time’s Up CEO just had a to resign because of a sexual scandal. Whoops.

        1. Elizabeth

          Yeah she’s a real piece of shit. Doesn’t change a thing about what I wrote though. (“What about her emails?”) LOL

  6. 6
    Tron Swanson

    That was an extremely refreshing read. It makes me feel quite a bit better about the human race, and I say that in all seriousness.

  7. 7

    This article seems to be representative of our times and how people make arguments today.     The author was doing a number of things I find problematic….
    1.           Making hyperbolic statements that just aren’t true.     What credible and reputable people or organizations are saying that ALL men are bad and ALL women are innocent? More importantly, who actually believes that to be statement to be true?   Nobody.   The fact that she is making that argument makes me scratch my head and wonder what is really going on.
    2.         Comparing apples and oranges.     What does toxic femininity have to do with #metoo?   Is she really saying that unless women admit that they can be mean, moody, and manipulative, then they shouldn’t be allowed to speak out against being sexually assaulted or raped?   That makes no sense to me.   Now, if she had just focused on the examples of women sexually assaulting men and then argued that we aren’t paying enough attention to how men are harmed as well, I would be in total agreement.   But she didn’t.   She said that unless women can admit that they can be awful, #metoo is going to lose its steam.    
    3.         Ignoring context and intent.   In isolation, #believewomen, could be as interpreted as women always tell the truth.     However, that is not the intent of those words at all.   Perhaps #don’tdismisswomen would have been closer to the true sentiment.   But, anyone who has done half an ounce of research would know that the intent of that statement is for people to listen and investigate to try to find out what happened.   For far too long, when anyone has had the courage to speak up — especially against rich or powerful people — they are often viewed with suspicion, they are ignored, or silenced.   Oddly enough, the author acknowledges that #believewomen was in response to women immediately being viewed with suspicion or disbelief, but she ignores that fact and attributes a meaning to the # that is false.   Why is she doing that?
    4.         Focusing on one aspect of a definition.   She frames toxic masculinity as something that is only harmful to women.     That’s not the case.   People who speak out against it do so because it harms men too.   It’s what helps keep men from expressing their feelings; it’s what helps keep them silent about their abuse too.  
    5.         Do as I say not as I do.   After she goes through the list of the horrible things that women can do, she warns the reader not to have the knee jerk reaction of rattling off all the horrible things men do.   But, isn’t this exactly what her entire article has done?   The #metoo movement is exposing the stories of men raping and/or assaulting women and she is responding with the knee jerk reaction that women are mean too.   Last I heard rape/sexual assault is a crime; being a bitch isn’t.

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    The last thing I will say is this.   I certify people to be foster parents.   So, I know first-hand that both men AND women are horrible to each other and even worse horrible to their children.   One gender does not have a monopoly on doing unspeakable things to people they are supposed to love.   I also know first-hand that there are both   men AND women who take traumatized children into their homes love them back to health.   One gender does not have a monopoly on being unbelievably generous and kind and loving.     I   wish we could wave the white flag on the battle of the sexes.     There will be no winners in this war.

    1. 7.1

      This, right here, pretty much sums it up.

    2. 7.2

      Kenley, I agree with some parts of your comment above and disagree with others.   But I just wanted to address your 4th point –  that toxic masculinity doesn’t just harm women, it harms men. Have you ever read the book “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown?   Brown is one of the foremost researchers on the topic of shame, and particularly gendered experiences of shame.


      She writes that for the first years of her research, she focused solely on women because while she felt men experienced shame, men’s shame was somehow lesser and only reinforced by notions of toxic masculinity.   That it was the brothers, the coaches, the men who kept men in their emotional boxes.


      And then one day, at a book signing, a man came up to her after she signed the book purchased by his wife and daughters.   He said he wanted to talk to her about shame in men, that men experience deep shame.   And she began to reply that yes, men experience shame, but it is men who reinforce that shame, but he cut her off.   He said “you see my wife and daughters over there, the ones whose book you just signed?   They would rather see me die atop my white horse than watch me fall off of it.”   This affected Brown so deeply that she began research specifically into the topic of shame in men.   She describes being absolutely shocked to find that it is the expectations of women that keep men in their boxes, far more so than those of men.   She describes the experience of driving home from a research workshop and having the idea hit her.   “Holy shit,” she said, “I am the patriarchy.”   I’d recommend her book.   She writes with far more eloquence than I can muster, and has the force of research behind her.


      Toxic masculinity harms men as well as women, I agree.   But to believe that toxic masculinity is the primary thing harming men without acknowledging the overwhelming effects of toxic femininity is to fundamentally miss the point.   It isn’t just about how “people” in general can be assholes.   It’s about how each gender tries to keep the other in its box using a different strategy.

      1. 7.2.1


        Yes, I have read Brene Brown’s work and I remember the passage you are referencing.    I found it eye opening.   I have also explored how when boys are in predominantly female institutions — schools, foster care, women can be unintentionally harmful to boys by labeling their natural behavior as disruptive and undesirable.   As a social worker, I am constantly advocating for boys with my families and my colleagues.    However, I did not say nor do I believe that toxic masculinity is more harmful to men   than toxic femininity is.   I simply said that toxic masculinity is harmful to men as well as women in response to the author who seemed to argue that people who talk about it claim it only hurts women.   As for which type of toxicity is MORE harmful or does more damage,   I don’t have any facts to support that question.   I am sincerely trying to stop asserting that something is fact when the reality is it’s just something I believe/want to believe.

        From reading your posts, it is clear to me   that you and I have very different backgrounds and experiences and live in very different worlds.    Given that assumption, isn’t it possible that what the fundamental point is for you might be different than what it is for me?   Neither of us is “wrong.”   Neither of us is “right.”   We are just attuned to different aspects of a really big and complicated issue.

        One last thing.   In this post you said that the one poster who was trying to shame you by stating that your post was a typical MRA response was demonstrating how women try to shame men.   I didn’t think that when I read her comment, but I can see how   you would.    So, I ask you, what was your intention in stating that I was fundamentally missing the point?   Couldn’t I argue that you are using a tactic that men like to use to control   women   — you just aren’t insightful enough to really understand what the issue is so let me enlighten you.    Just sayin…

        One more last thing.   I have been reading this blog for over 10 years.   The one thing I have learned is that it is rare to change a person’s mind about anything.   So, on the rare occasions that I comment, I really try not to address people directly because people just double   and triple down on their beliefs and don’t even really absorb the points that are being made.      What’s my point?   Well, it’s just a long winded way of saying, let’s just agree to disagree.




        1. Jeremy

          Kenley, you asked, “what was your intention in stating that I was fundamentally missing the point?   Couldn’t I argue that you are using a tactic that men like to use to control   women?    I don’t think so.   There is a big difference between disagreeing with someone (“I think you’re missing the point”) versus lobbing ad hominems at who they are.   The former is an invitation to debate, the second is an end to debate and a personal shaming tactic.


          You wrote, As for which type of toxicity is MORE harmful or does more damage,   I don’t have any facts to support that question.   I am sincerely trying to stop asserting that something is fact when the reality is it’s just something I believe/want to believe.”   LOL, you’re absolutely right.   So instead of a sociological statement, take it as a personal recounting from one man and the men he knows, that the shaming effects of toxic femininity were and are far more detrimental to him and them than the toxic influences of other males. For whatever that might be worth in this discussion.

          Finally, you asked “isn’t it possible that what the fundamental point is for you might be different than what it is for me?   Neither of us is “wrong.”   Neither of us is “right.”   We are just attuned to different aspects of a really big and complicated issue.”   It is not only possible, it is undeniable.  But both sides of that picture exist, and only one side is getting any press at the moment.   The other side exists, and is no less valid.   Just as men have trouble understanding why women are so deeply affected by issues of consent and harassment (for all the reasons we discussed in other posts), women have trouble understanding how their behavior leads to male shame and to coercion….to the point where they believe that because the coercion isn’t done with violence, it doesn’t exist or isn’t as harmful.   It does.   It is.

        2. Evan Marc Katz

          Co-sign onto everything Jeremy is saying. It’s like men aren’t even allowed to acknowledge or talk about their issues because of all the deserved attention being paid to toxic men. Just because these issues don’t involve violence doesn’t mean they’re not real and pervasive. Once you start to minimize someone else’s pain, you’ve lost them as a partner in the discussion. Witness the rise of Trump voters, many of whom feel real pain and are immediately told that they’re idiots because they’re white men. They may be idiots for continuing to support the biggest liar in the world, but not for feeling anger at being dismissed as worthless and opinionless in a newly woke world.

        3. Kenley


          What you are overlooking is that people often view disagreeing with someone as an attack.   This phenomenon is discussed Will Storr’s book Selfie.    We see that view play at all the time on this blog.   People will say that they didn’t attack someone else because they didn’t call them a name or disparage their character.      Yet, the way in which people can disagree with other posters actually makes them feel like they have been attacked personally…especially since what we are often discussing are core values that people hold.   Since I know that disagreeing can feel like a personal attack, I try to say that I have a different experience rather than I disagree with you or your are wrong.

          So, if you say that toxic femininity has hurt you and the men you know more than toxic masculinity, I believe you.   I would just ask that if I say that your disagreeing with me feels like an attack, return the favor and believe me.



        4. jeremy

          I believe you when you describe what you feel, Kenley, and I thank you for believing me too.   But neither you nor I are just asking to be believed, are we?   You are asking me to modify my behavior based on my new understanding of your feelings – that because I now understand that you feel attacked when overtly disagreed with, I should be more subtle and understanding in my conversational disagreement so as to avoid hurting the feelings of those who might feel attacked.   Is that an accurate assessment of what you’re asking of me?   I’ll consider it, though I admit that my gut reaction to your request was overwhelmingly negative, that I almost wrote a long post about subjectivity and objectivity and that we should require no safe spaces for free discourse.   But I refrained because feelings are important, and because communication is best done with consideration of feelings.   So I’m truly mulling over your request and trying to consider your POV.


          And in exchange, I hope you’ll consider my request, though it will likely trigger a negative reaction in your gut.   I know you are well-aware of the myriad ways toxic masculinity harms women and men.   Consider how toxic femininity – the weaponization of female fragility – harms men and women.   Beyond your believing me in an abstract sense that I’ve experienced “harm”, consider how men are systematically harmed by the notion that women can’t do for themselves, that they require men to not only shoulder their own burdens but also those of women.   That the shouldering of this double duty is indeed how “manhood” is defined, and thereby defined as lacking when men don’t shoulder women’s burden.   And if you think about this, you might understand the problem men have with affirmative consent legislation (as just one of many possible topics) – what we are asking men to do and what we aren’t asking women to do.

      2. 7.2.2

        Unilaterally deciding to stop having sex with your partner and then calling them immature for being upset about it seems pretty toxic to me. It happens with both sexes, but my guess is it happens more pervasively across one gender than the other.

        I know there can be biological reasons for it, but I’ve certainly been privy to conversations (on here, in fact) where it’s a choice being made by one partner only. Almost with a shrug, like what’s the big deal. It is a big deal. Unless you’re also giving your partner permission to cheat (which could mess with their sense of self & values anyway).

        That being said, I think Kenley made some good points, although of course I can’t see her points from a male perspective. IMO she did state some interesting ideas & opinions without using toxic tactics.

        Overall, perhaps you can be part of a globally powerful group without necessarily feeling powerful day to day. If I look at all the powerful groups in society, governments, the major religions, corporations, they are overwhelmingly male run. I’m not even necessarily making a call on whether that is good or bad, it just is.  Does that mean that men as a group generally feel powerful in their daily lives (particularly if they have kids and family responsibilities)? My guess is no.

        1. Jeremy

          Who is more powerful, the male CEO or his non-working wife?   Depends how we define power.   If it is the ability to boss people around, he is more powerful.   If it is the ability to do what you want when you want to, the ability to have others do your work so you don’t have to, she is more powerful.

          Who is more powerful, the ex-husband who works for his income or the ex-wife receiving alimony?   Same calculus, same dependence on definitions.

          Who is more powerful, the one who always has to ask to receive what he wants or the one who is the arbiter of yes vs no?

          It isn’t just that individual men don’t necessarily feel powerful, though the world is run by men.   It’s that just because men are the ones doing the work running things doesn’t mean that they are the ones with the power.   Depends how we define power.

        2. Marika

          Yes, that’s true, it depends how we define power Jeremy. You’re the last person who I want to get into a back and forth with, I respect you too much….but I wonder if maybe some of the angst and aggression on this post is to do with the fact that women aren’t (in general globally and at a high level) the rule -makers. I know that a man’s day to day experiences have little to do with what’s happening at a high level, but I think it may help if we at least acknowledge that – which you may already have, I’ve lost track of all that’s been said.

          But rest assured, I do personally think that everything you have said makes sense. And anyone who is familiar with your comments knows that you are about as far from a MRA as it comes! And there’s no doubt that women can be awful too (except me, of course, I’m nothing but a delight 😉 )

        3. shaukat

          Hi Jeremy,

          Jut to add my brief thoughts on this matter, the social science literature does not define power in a manner that would be consistent with declaring the wife of a CEO as possessing more power than her husband. What you described is a certain type of socioeconomic freedom that the housewife holds, but not power as the latter is commonly understood; namely, the ability to influence the actions of others through persuasion or the threat of force.

        4. Adrian

          Hi Jeremy,

          You said, “Who is more powerful, the one who always has to ask to receive what he wants or the one who is the arbiter of yes vs no?

          To me this is the reason for at least 90% of the who has it worst in dating arguments.

          Women feel that men have more power because they can choose who to ask out.

          Men feel that women have more power because they don’t have to risk rejection while having full control of the yes or no.

          And round and round we go.

        5. Jeremy

          Hi Shaukat.   “The ability to influence the actions of others through persuasion or threat of force.”   I like how you put that.   There’s persuasion and there’s threat of force.   Not the same thing, eh?   But both lead to influence of others, to power.   Threat of force is the toxic masculinity that has been described above.   But how do women persuade?   How is it that the wife of the CEO gets to live the lifestyle of the CEO without doing the work?   What manner of persuasion did she use?   To get him to agree not only to support her, but to be legally obligated to continue supporting her even should she divorce him?   Why, whatever manner of persuasion must have been effective indeed to pull off such a feat.   Power, indeed.   How often does it happen when the genders are reversed?


          Adrian, it’s not about who has it worse.   I could write a book about the myriad difficulties women legitimately face.   The only reason I’m focusing on the male side of things here is because no one else is.

        6. Emily, to

          Hi Adrian, BIG DAWG!
          “Women feel that men have more power because they can choose who to ask out. Men feel that women have more power because they don’t have to risk rejection while having full control of the yes or no. And round and round we go.”
          EXACTLY. Just from the female perspective, there’s not a woman on the planet who hasn’t felt utterly powerless as she watches the guy she really likes ask other women out. But, let’s be honest, if you feel powerless, it’s because you gave some of it away. Because that same woman, who has some self-worth, would say, “Ok. He doesn’t like me. Not everyone is going to like me. NEXT!”

        7. Yet Another Guy

          @Emily, to

          But, let’s be honest, if you feel powerless, it’s because you gave some of it away. Because that same woman, who has some self-worth, would say, “Ok. He doesn’t like me. Not everyone is going to like me. NEXT!”

          Or she could ask him out and subject herself to possible active rejection instead of passive rejection!   A woman could claim that a man is settling when he accepts a date from a woman he did not ask out; however, that is the very same dynamic that most men face.     A woman may be kind, sincere, and loving, but only a narcissistic man would believe that he is her first choice.   That is why I started to allow woman to choose me.   The difference between choosing and allowing myself to be chosen is like the difference between night and day.   The reality is that we all want to be our partner’s first choice.

        8. Emily, to


          “but only a narcissistic man would believe that he is her first choice.”    

          Either way, whether she asks him out or accepts his asking her out, only a narcissist would assume he is her first choice. You never know what someone else is thinking. You could be the first choice. You could be the tenth. The last man I set up an FWB with … it went on for months … I initiated everything, made the first physical move. And he was not my first choice. My first choice said no.

        9. Yet Another Guy


          Either way, whether she asks him out or accepts his asking her out, only a narcissist would assume he is her first choice.

          Okay, the use of the phrase “first choice” may have been a little strong, but there is no denying that women tend to treat men who they desire enough to make the first move better than men who ask them out.   Desire is a powerful motivator.   I have seen this dynamic play out to0 many times to ignore it.   If I want a guarantee of being treated well by my date, I let her make the first move.   It beats asking a woman and being her best offer by a large margin.   If more women were willing to make the first move, they would get what they desire more frequently than sitting back and waiting to be approached.   While some men are fixated on Barbie (some women are fixated on Ken), the average guy is far less selective than the average woman.   Men have simple needs.

        10. Emily, to


          Okay, the use of the phrase “first choice” may have been a little strong, but there is no denying that women tend to treat men who they desire enough to make the first move better than men who ask them out.   Desire is a powerful motivator.

          As a general rule I would agree with you. But just as it is for men, sometimes opportunity is the motivator. The man I mentioned was very surprised when I ended the FWB situation. He assumed, wrongly, that I was really into him because I came onto him. Although I have been really into people I’ve come onto, but certainly not all. Another was a friend and I thought it’d be fun. No more or no less. I was actually really into another guy at the time but he had a girlfriend.

  8. 8

    As a woman I have experience both being a victim and an aggressor. Alcohol made both roles more intense-which is one reason I don’t drink anymore. And i don’t blame alcohol for my own mistakes i just know that my really egregious behaviors occurred under the influence.

    In my experience I believe we are all capable of the best and the worst behaviors and when I embrace that reality I am able to get along better with others and myself.   Besides voting I don’t get into the justice system, politics, or social movements anymore (athough i think its important and i admire people who are involved) because its too stressful for me.

    I believe my role here is to heal myself and therefore help the world that way.

    Its a little hokie i know…i like hokie.


    1. 8.1

      You may see yourself as an aggressor but I’d put money on none of the men you were “aggressive” with seeing you that way. That’s the problem at the heart of so many of the “me too’s” that don’t feature actual violence or threats thereof or drugging.

      Virtually no men consider sex with both parties under the influence, even right up until the point of passing out(but not beyond), as wrong, but so many women do(or at least have bad feelings about it).



      1. 8.1.1
        Bridget Boucaud

        Thats a good point Barbecue.   I never thought about it like that.   Thanks.


  9. 9
    Christen Turner

    As a matchmaker, this is a truly interesting take in my eyes. Although I don’t agree with everything stated, I do believe that people are people. No matter what gender, people can be toxic and hurtful to others, period. The key is to just know what you want and not accept anything less. Whenever I work with my clients, I try to steer  them away from ANYONE that’s toxic.

  10. 10

    I wanted to end my comments on this thread on a more positive and conciliatory note, because I’ve been more negative, more triggered, than I intended.   Part of my problem, as several commenters suggested, was my confirmation bias, the “different world” in which I live.   I live in a world where violence against women is unthinkable, where coercion against women is horrifying, does not exist.   It is not the wider world by a long shot, I know.   In the wider world where violence and violent coercion are common, toxic masculinity is the far greater problem, the necessary priority, compared to non-violent forms of coercion (which also exist systematically by gender, and are also very problematic).


    I   would like to believe that the wider world can come to more resemble my world, that it is just a matter of time.

    1. 10.1

      I hope you know how much you are valued, Jeremy.

      1. 10.1.1

        You too, Marika. Your thoughtful and balanced commentary is so often a balm to people’s frayed emotions.

    2. 10.2

      Hi Jeremy,

      I understand your point, but then we need to look at the scale and range of the influence, as well as the control over resources. I still remember a lecture from an excellent prof I had, who stated that conventional definitions of power can be misleading when applied literally, because going by standard conventions, a poor single mother in the inner cities who has complete control over her six month old child possesses more power than the US government by standard power definitions, since the latter never has complete control or influence over citizens. But who’s power has more scope, reach; which entity controls more resources?

      So yes, the wife of a CEO wields influence in her own way, but it is not at all comparable to that of a corporate executive. Also, I think you are depriving her husband of some important agency here–a lot of powerful men will select arm candy wives and then lavish them with a certain lifestyle in exchange for status, sex, etc.

      1. 10.2.1

        Good point, Shaukat. I think that people define power for themselves based on their goals. For some, power is status, influence, because those are their goals. Certainly that is the goal of government when exercising its power. For others   power is freedom,   freedom to live your life as you choose without being hampered by the will of others.   That is the power of the CEO’s wife   because that is her goal. Whether or not she is more powerful than her husband depends on what his goal is, I guess.   Is he working to achieve freedom or to achieve influence? And how well has he achieved his goal in comparison to how well she has achieved hers?


        I guess I am the sort of person who introverts his goals rather that extraverts them. So my personal goals involve my own freedom far more than they involve influence over others. If I had the power to influence millions of people but no free time to live my life as I chose, I would consider myself to be quite powerless.


        Which would you prefer, Shaukat, influence or freedom?

      2. 10.2.2

        “So yes, the wife of a CEO wields influence in her own way, but it is not at all comparable to that of a corporate executive.”
        What should be done then? Should she be named as corporate executive too?

        You are right on the agency part. Part of the problem comes from that; when these women are still portrayed as hard done by victims. They got into a presumedly voluntary transaction and still get to live that lifestyle without having to work. Yet if they cut off their part of the transaction unilaterally, they are somehow hard done by in such a marriage. In some cases there are children involved to facilitate such a lifestyle.

        There are different forms of power and as long as one goes into such a transaction by their own volition they are not victimized. The CEOs in any case are irrelevant to dating in general apart from such relationships. To declare people victims based on their own decisions is insulting at best.

    3. 10.3

      Hi Jeremy

      I was going to post earlier but then couldn’t be bothered but since you have taken such big reconciliatory steps I changed my mind.

      What I picked up in one of your previous comments was your fear of women’s anger. Several men have shared with me about that. And I have experienced it playing out in relationship in several ways.

      In one long relationship my SO was never able to deal with my anger. There was either withdrawal or domination and it basically made my anger worse.

      The truth is a woman will sometimes be angry. It’s basically unavoidable in deep relationships. So I want to share a bit about another significant relationship with a man. This man is also basically scared of women’s anger but he knows it. Perhaps all men are, you allude to that. At the same time he is courageous enough to engage with it. That emerges out of the place of first acknowledging that it is scary. Sometimes it doesn’t resolve quickly or easily but over time I have come to trust that this man is with me and we will work it out. Which simmers me down a lot. I no longer expect betrayal every time I am angry.

      He’s also been able to speak to me about his fear. (The opposite of blaming the angry, unhinged women of your earlier post) Presenting that vulnerability to me has significantly shifted my relationship to my own anger. It’s taught me my anger has more power than I may have believed and gives me a lot of pause in considering how I will present something.

      It was nice to say to him the other day when he said ‘you’re going to be angry about this’ and I could respond, ‘well maybe but you’re really good at dealing with my anger’.

      Hope that’s useful in some way.

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