Actor Meryl Streep recently said that women can be as toxic as men, and it wasn’t fair to our boys, to put the two words toxic and masculinity together. Taking part in a Q and A for the upcoming second season of the television show Big Little Lies, which will see Streep as a new cast member, when the conversation veered towards toxic masculinity, Streep said, “Sometimes I think we’re hurt. We hurt our boys by calling something toxic masculinity. I do,” adding, “And I don’t find (that) putting those two words together … because women can be pretty f***ing toxic. It’s toxic people,” the Suffragette star said. “We have our good angles and we have our bad ones.”

SOME TAKEAWAYS:

  • Actor Maryl Streep has said that women can be pretty toxic as well.
  • While we must call out toxic masculinity, let us address why some women turn on their own kind.
  • Women internalise anger, fear and insecurity which makes them see other women as competition.
  • By pulling other women down one doesn’t emerge on top of the ladder though.

While a lot of male toxic behaviour finds its roots in patriarchal conditioning, to no conscious fault of men themselves, what Streep says holds true too.

She further added that she thinks labels can be “less helpful” than direct communication when calling out detrimental behaviour, reports The Independent. The term toxic masculinity has found innumerable takers among those who endorse gender equality, even me. While a lot of male toxic behaviour finds its roots in patriarchal conditioning, to no conscious fault of men themselves, what Streep says holds true too. Women can be toxic towards other women too.

As the conversation about women forming a sisterhood for themselves across all walks of lives gains strength, we also need to address what keeps us from having that. Do all women root for each other? Aren’t there some who would rather pull you down and experience schadenfreude from your sufferings? Rivalry among women at workplace or homes isn’t just the stuff commercials or soap operas are made of. It happens.

Patriarchy breaks us apart by conditioning us to see each other as rivals to gain male attention and privilege. It is its way of preserving male dominance.

Just like toxic masculinity, toxic behaviour among women finds its roots in conditioning. While men are taught to dominate and express anger and entitlement with force, women are taught to internalise rage, pain and frustration. We must chew on our insecurities, aches and fears, and let it steep in the dark corners of our heart. What brews up is hatred and self-centred attitude, which makes us see our own kind as rivals. Saas and bahu, sister-in-laws, female colleagues. Patriarchy breaks us apart by conditioning us to see each other as rivals to gain male attention and privilege. It is its way of preserving male dominance.

Thus we do not want to conquer the hierarchy, but overstep other women to emerge on top at the rung where we have been placed. It is important for women to see this internalisation of toxic hatred, because it keeps us from rooting for each other. We fail to put up a collective stand against problems like sexism, harassment etc. because there are chinks in our armour of unity.

Who is victorious here? The ones who think they have conquered the system which oppresses them, or the system itself?

At the end of the day those who turn against other women, do not emerge on top of the staircase of privilege and success, they are standing right where they started, with deserving women pushed further down the ladder than they already were. Who is victorious here? The ones who think they have conquered the system which oppresses them, or the system itself?

But with the change in conversation round bias and inequality, one can see how women have now begun to have each other’s back. We can see this trend in female superstars on top of their game rooting for their so-called rivals, to women forming each other’s support system, instead of trying to pull each other down or being judgemental. The change is here, although just through the cracks of our insecurities. It’ll be a long time before all women stop seeing other women as rivals, but victims of the same system. However, it is then they’ll finally realise that no woman’s empowerment should come at the cost of another women’s progress or well-being.

Picture Credit: Mirror.co.uk

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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