Toxic femininity in the boardroom – someone has to say something

“The findings here clearly state that even if girls are more harassed in total, they are not more harassed by boys, they are harassed by other girls.” 

First things first: Please do yourself a favour and go read this evidence-based article on female-on-female sexual harassment in schools before we continue.

Now that you’re back, I hope you can understand that despite the claims of new-wave feminist “experts”, toxic femininity is a real thing.

In my personal experience, my own career and self esteem – from primary school, right through to corporate life – have been far more shaped and damaged by female-on-female, sly, insidious, toxic femininity than by Weinsteen-esque #metoo sexual harassment or any other form of male-dominant toxic masculinity.

Toxic behaviour, according to current common wisdom is damaging to both the perpetrator and the the victim. Usually, the perpetrator acts out of some underlying reptilian emotion, such as fear, greed, lust… or jealously. This explains a lot. Including, for instance, why the victims of toxic femininity are usually the very same victims of toxic masculinity – young, attractive females.

Also by definition toxic behaviour is perpetrated by someone in a position of power over someone who holds less power or agency. Toxic femininity is exactly this – it is the pack of popular girls driving a less popular girl to suicide through relentless sexual and emotional harrasment on Snapchat . It is the older female manager undermining a young female colleague by spending rumours about the younger woman’s personal life (I have witnessed this on several occasions in the boardrooms I frequent. One girl I worked with was driven to a nervous breakdown and ended up moving countries to escape her harasser who was systematically sabotaging her career). It is the female boss who wears a skin-tight-see-through-lace-blouse-without-a-bra-on-underneath and then calls younger male employees into her office for private meetings… This is toxic femininity: Power. Jealousy. Control.

(Not so dissimilar to toxic masculinity is it now? – It’s just more emotional less obviously physical in effect.)

Sexual harassment in the work place is a real issue.  This post in no way excuses lecherous old (and not so old) men or the power games powerful men play with younger, more vulnerable women. Highlighting one issue in no way diminishes another. But that is simply not the topic I am writing about today. Enough articles and posts have been written about powerful men already. I have simply chosen to write about a similar, yet distinct, issue that is just as wide-spread, and just as devastating to the victims.

I would like to see a hashtag on toxic femininity trending too.

Hands up ladies. Be honest. Who has been sexually, verbally or emotionally harassed or blackmailed by women more powerful (in terms of money, position or social status) than yourself? Who had to put up with toxic femininity to get ahead in your career?





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