When Jane Nice married hedge fund manager John Waltz, everything appeared to be fine. But a few years into the marriage, John began to notice that Jane would spend all day doing not much but lounging around or going to the spa and getting her nails done. If she wasn’t at the spa, she’d go shopping, buying tons of shoes that she rarely wore. Long story short, Jane ended up cheating on John with her personal trainer. Later that year they divorced and Jane ended up taking a hefty chunk of John’s salary along with the two-story house. We might be tempted to say that Jane was a horrible person. But she was really just suffering from toxic femininity.

Most people think of femininity as just femininity. But there is a certain type of femininity that is toxic. That is called toxic femininity. It differs from regular femininity because it has the word toxic at the beginning.

Professor of Sociology Adam Adler explains that toxic femininity has had a devastating effect on society. He has documented the rise of toxic femininity in his upcoming book The Rise of Toxic Femininity.

“Some women marry men for their money and then spend the day shopping and doing other frivolous activities,” Dr. Adler says. “But this doesn’t mean that they’re bad people. It just means that they’re displaying the behavior of toxic femininity. Society has taught them to be that way because of the unequal position they have been subjected to for centuries.”

Adler explains that the reason some women cheat or marry men for their money is not that they lack morals or make bad choices. It’s that they have been socialized by toxic femininity. The same is true for men. Men who behave badly are not assholes or jerks or aberrations. They are just examples of toxic masculinity.

Dr. Robin Robinson of Rutgers Bonafide University points out that most women don’t necessarily display these toxic behaviors. Now that doesn’t mean that they have good characters or have adopted solid values. They don’t deserve individual credit for their behavior. It’s just that they have not been brainwashed by society.

Many of the behaviors that men don’t understand about women (in particular, the ones they don’t like) can be ascribed to toxic femininity. It’s not that these women lack values per se– it’s because of the particular brand of femininity that they subscribe to. You know– the toxic kind.

The good news is that this toxic femininity can be overcome through a number of different methods. “Public shaming,” Dr. Robinson says, “is a very effective method for combating this phenomenon.” He also names Twitter hashtags, reading articles, and sharing videos on social media as other good strategies.

“Pretty much anything that uses the phrase toxic femininity is likely to bring about social awareness and make women realize the problem,” says Dr. Adler. “I suggest using any word that simplifies the problem into an easy to understand concept. Toxic womanhood, chronic bitchiness, or unchecked female-ness are also good terms.”

That is exactly what happened to Jane when she ran across some trending tweets about toxic femininity. She started to realize the error of her ways. Last July, she decided to make a change and now she and John are remarried.

She still has an occasional fling, but she is no longer a shopaholic, which is a big step. “I’m so glad I started using Twitter hashtags,” John says. “The fact that Jane saw one of my tweets and decided to change her behavior has saved our relationship and our marriage.”

Featured image by darwin Bell — Flickr.