Feminism has become toxic to healthy relationships

Today people are considered to be walking poison-throwers - which is what the buzzword "toxic" says about our society

In the past, you found certain people annoying or pushy. In the meantime, people who are unpleasant are referred to as “toxic” - thus stylizing themselves as the epitome of good and healthy.

The word “toxic” has become an indispensable part of debates about discrimination and hate speech, but also about friendship and relationships. In a figurative sense, it describes behavior or appearance that is toxic and unpleasant for others and has achieved notoriety largely for its “toxic masculinity”, which in net feminist jargon is used to describe an intrusive macho mentality. Whether the toxic is an inherent characteristic of the male or just a particularly annoying habit of a few men remains to be seen: the only important thing is the marking of the enemy.

The rise of the term is not surprising, however. The word “toxic” even fits perfectly into a political imagery in which debates have been “brutalized” for years, the climate of discourse has been “poisoned” and society has been “divided” for so long that one wonders what there is still to be divided .

Inflationary poison

Similar to the vague talk that something is “problematic”, the use of the attribute “toxic” to substantiate a statement or behavior primarily has a signal effect: what is toxic is somehow disreputable and dodgy. It goes without saying that one should be on the lookout for “toxic masculinity”, “toxic conversational behavior”, “toxic relationships” or even “toxic personalities”, even without knowing exactly what should be considered toxic.

The toxic seems to occur primarily in interpersonal relationships - in the area that, in times of the corona pandemic and identity-centered politics of the first person, is for many only a hub for virus spread and hate speech. To classify all possible phenomena indiscriminately as toxic is contrary to the tendency to suspect unregulated interpersonal interaction. The warning is now the archetype of zeitgeist-oriented ideology.

From antipathy to stigma

When something is toxic, you always have to deal with a negative term, which on the other hand is opposed to an ideal bursting with purity. Biologistic dichotomies between flawlessness and abnormality run through every reference to the toxic: the toxic masculinity can be replaced by the enlightened, considerate masculinity, the toxic discussion behavior can be converted into objective-communicative chatter, the toxic relationship is countered by the healthy, balanced picture-book relationship , and even the toxic personality can be detoxified back to normal levels with sufficient effort.

In the past, “toxic personalities” might have been described simply as penetrative or exhausting. These formulations would have left open whether the annoying nature of the respective person actually arises from their character or simply from an impulse from the other person. If, on the other hand, you classify a person as toxic, it always means that you have to consistently stay away from them. What was originally rooted in a personal antipathy may quickly turn into a general stigma.

There are countless forums and advice texts on the Internet in which laypeople and experts outbid each other in working out meticulous plans on how to recognize toxic people. With all the long lists of characteristics of toxic personalities in the form of bad character traits (manipulative, no awareness of mistakes, unteachable, notoriously lying, narcissistic, attention-seeking), the question inevitably arises whether the constant searching of the other person for characteristics of the toxic is not just as " problematic »is like the behavior that one would like to expose.

Where the vulgar psychological diagnosis is as comprehensive as it is indeterminate, there is a tendency to hasty judgment: a lie quickly appears as a systematic lie, persuasion based on the situation is regarded as permanent tactical manipulation. If the person confronted with the accusation of being toxic tries to defend himself, it can be countered again that this only confirms his or her toxic and opinionated character. The prosecution is thus immunized against the defense from the outset.

An endless trip to hell

The feminist literary scholar Silvia Bovenschen once wrote that political correctness was tantamount to an “attack on nuance”. The inflationary use of the term “toxic”, which has its home in the very new left political correctness milieu, seems to confirm the topicality of their thesis: the condemnation of the toxic is also based on the loathing of contradictions and the desire for disambiguation.

By postulating toxic behaviors, an unrealistic idea of ​​interpersonal purity is established. The imperative that one should get rid of the toxic immediately leads to the assumption that there is a clear dividing line between good-natured and toxic behavior - you don't have to read a lot of Freud to know that reality is much more paradoxical: love and hate Fascination and disgust, lust and fear can seldom be separated. The concept of the toxic liquidates interpersonal contradictions where they first have to be dealt with.

Strictly speaking, the entire public is a single toxic place: there can be potentially unpleasant or annoying things lurking around every corner. The contradicting attraction of the public lies precisely in the fact that it always means risk and opportunity at the same time, and so it can never be a pure comfort zone. But since many people only perceive this stimulus as a violently triggering impertinence, the increasing regulation of both the real and the virtual public - smoking bans, language regulations or the obsessive search for “discriminatory language” - not only on the Internet - hardly arouses resistance.

However, once you have started trying to banish the toxic, you embark on an eternal odyssey: If you are interested in looking for the toxic, you will always find it in the end. The total safe space has to remain a pipe dream forever, which makes the endless path to it even hell.