In the feminist literature, one of the features of toxic masculinity is stoicism with respect to your emotions. The idea is that controlling, regulating, or moderating your emotions is a form of freudian repression that somehow hurts men. As an aside, having anger is also considered a form of toxic masculinity. I’ll agree that outbursts of uncontrolled anger are bad, but most authors who ever wrote about masculinity or virtue have only ever said that anger, even when justified, is dangerous to allow to grow uninhibited by reason.
All of this to say, it appears that a lack of stoicism (toxic masculinity) is harming women and their relationships in the UK. In an article posted at the Daily Mail, Antonia Hoyle observes that women seem to be exhibiting significantly less self-control with respect to anger:
‘We are treating more women than ever who are struggling to regulate their emotions and express themselves appropriately,’ says Dr Monica Cain, a counselling psychologist at London’s Nightingale Hospital.
So what is causing the red mist to descend for so many women? And why is this anger afflicting so many upstanding women, the sort you might hope would be immune to, or too ashamed of, having outbursts?
Some experts suggest women believe that such outward displays of aggression allow them to seize the initiative from traditionally dominant men. Whether it’s in the workplace or around the dining table, shouting, swearing or throwing things are increasingly viewed as valid methods for women to assert themselves.
Dr Elle Boag, social psychologist at Birmingham City University, says: ‘Women feel aggression is a form of empowerment. It has become so commonplace that it’s not even shameful.’
Indeed, Jo insists it’s her right to shout at family and strangers alike. ‘When I’ve calmed down, I apologise if I’m in the wrong. But if someone has been rude or disrespectful, I feel my temper is justified,’ she says.
‘Lashing out is just a way of expressing myself.’
As well as this sense of entitlement, there’s the ever-present, age-old pressure to ‘have it all’. With competitive streaks accentuated by demanding careers and the seemingly perfect lifestyles displayed by celebrities, women are cracking under the pressure.
‘There is a perception that women have to have the perfect home, raise children and have a career that’s fulfilling and brings in an enviable lifestyle and income,’ says Dr Cain.
If someone has been rude or disrespectful, I feel my temper is justified. Lashing out is just a way of expressing myself
‘We are driving ourselves to the limit and a build-up of internal pressure over time can lead to us getting very frustrated over issues that would normally cause no more than a niggle.’
Such outbursts can also become addictive, a form of almost animalistic release. The burden mounts, tension builds and the almost exquisite joy of letting it all out becomes almost compulsive for some women.
It’s a feeling that Jo, who lives in Brighton with her partner Steven, 50, and his two children Jane, 21, and Tommy, 17, can identify with.
‘While I don’t feel proud of myself there is a cathartic release in letting my emotions out,’ says Jo.
Also, one can see an example of non-toxic femininity from the paragon of sensibility and reason, Jezebel:
One of your editors heard her boyfriend flirting on the phone with another girl, so she slapped the phone out of his hands and hit him in the face and neck…
According to feminists of this sort, an example of a toxic male in ancient literature would be Marcus Aurelius’ friend Sextus:
[A]nd he had the faculty both of discovering and ordering, in an intelligent and methodical way, the principles necessary for life; and he never showed anger or any other passion, but was entirely free from passion, and also most affectionate; and he could express approbation without noisy display, and he possessed much knowledge without ostentation.
Marcus Aurelius, “The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus,” in The Harvard Classics 2: Plato, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, ed. Charles W. Eliot, trans. George Long (New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1917), 195.
Instead of showing displays of uncontrollable passion, Sextus was known instead for affection, intelligence, knowledge, humility, and praise of others. Interestingly, accumulated research tells us that acting out on anger without deliberation leads to further irrational displays of anger:
Psychological research has shown virtually no support for the beneficial effects of venting, and instead suggests that venting increases the likelihood of anger expression and its negative consequences.
In other words, the women discussed in the articles above need to absorb the lessons of toxic masculinity (self-control) rather than buying into the idea that angry displays are empowering or worse, the idea that controlling your emotions is a failure to “express yourself.” Stoicism would also be helpful with respect to food.