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Sunday, June 16
The Indiana Daily Student


OPINION: Toxic femininity and its effects on women’s fashion


Toxic femininity is a term I’ve heard quite a bit, but never understood just how much it affects women today, including me. Toxic femininity refers to the idea that women should adopt feminine behaviors in order to appease men and appeal to gender norms. This concept is especially prominent when it comes to the way women dress and are expected to dress in modern society. Toxic femininity acknowledges the ways in which centuries of fashion expectations for women still linger, despite being severely outdated in this advanced world.  

There seems to be a paradox when it comes to fashion and toxic femininity in today's age. When women wear dresses, skirts and other clothes that are historically attributed as feminine, they are considered to be doing it in order to please men and fit the mold of women that society has created. When women choose to wear more masculine clothes, they are criticized for not meeting the expectations of how a woman is supposed to dress. Wear the dress, don’t wear the dress — the criticism is fuming either way. 

The ideals of women's fashion are also problematic because people assume the way women dress is always related to how they want men to view them. But it’s entirely possible there are women that feel most able to enjoy and express themselves when they wear more modest clothes. Likewise, there are also women who might dress in more form-fitting or revealing clothing, because those are the sorts of clothes, they feel their best selves in. The way women dress is not for the sake of men, but it’s often assumed to be. 

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Billie Eilish, a popular singer who rose to fame in the last few years with her unique songwriting style, receives much criticism about the way she dresses. Her signature looks often involve baggy, oversized clothing and bright colors. Her strong individuality in the way she dresses and her refusal to adhere to women's fashion norms has caused backlash from the critics.

In 2021, Eilish was on the cover of British Vogue with blonde hair, wearing a pink corset and a tight-fitting skirt, which deviated from her usual style. Despite all the critics supposedly loving this show of femininity, she was criticized for conforming to beauty standards. After the shoot was published, people claimed she was “boring” and “mainstream,” for now wearing more feminine clothing. Eilish expressed her feelings on these comments, saying she had spent so long being criticized for her style and told she’d be “hotter” if she dressed more feminine, and now that she has, she is thought of as a “sellout.” Eilish is a prime example of the reproval women get regardless of how they choose to dress themselves.  

This toxic feminine attitude when it comes to women's fashion has not only pressured women into dressing a certain way, but has completely restricted women when it comes to choosing how they want to present themselves. The problem here is the underlying belief that how women dress is a constant testament to the way they want men to view them. These internalized misogynistic views are leaking through society — even if it’s subconsciously — and polluting the ideas of women's fashion in the minds of more than just women.  

The way a woman chooses to dress is not a reflection on how they want men to see them, but rather how they wish to express themselves. Having this idea in mind can help the world have more appreciation for fashion as a whole, and help others praise those who are able to find their own style instead of putting them down because they don’t conform to the norms. Because let’s be honest, enforcing outdated style norms is so out of fashion.  


Caitlyn Kulczycki is a sophomore studying media advertising with minors in psychology and creative writing.  

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