Sydney Lee

The ideas of “dark femininity” — “MANipulation” and “ways to make men obsessed with you” — have recently gained traction on TikTok and Instagram reels. Despite its recent popularity and contrary to common belief, “dark femininity” isn’t centered around feminism and is often an excuse to perpetuate sexism.

People who use the term “dark femininity” think of it as an inherent energy inside women that needs to be unlocked. They associate it with sensuality, pleasure, passion, rage and sexual liberation. “Dark femininity” pairs with “light femininity,” which women also supposedly naturally have and is associated with softness, healing, nurturing and community. They have opposite energies, but both are needed for the “sacred feminine principle” for more internal harmony with oneself. “Dark femininity” can be exercised by empowering yourself from a wounded mindset, which focuses on others instead of your own needs and desires, and by practicing shadow work to understand their “shadow” self, which is essentially a darker side of themselves. By understanding this darker, more sultry side, a woman may “overtake” men because she becomes more wild, sensual and desirable.

Dark femininity’s idea of becoming comfortable in your body and desirable to men appeals to many straight women, especially those insecure about themselves and in their heterosexual relationships. Still, much of what dark femininity advocates aligns with the patriarchal view that women ought to instinctively act softer and more nurturing than men instead of being confident and passionate. The idea of “dark femininity” supports the view that women are not innately sex-positive and are unable to openly express their emotions, when the fact is that women just cannot without being criticized or viewed differently by those around them.

Dark femininity ignores societal standards that harm women and implies that women should be blamed for deficiencies in sexual and body confidence. It ignores the reality we live in — where women are shamed for being strippers, prostitutes or generally sexually confident and are frequently called derogatory terms. It ignores the toxic and pervasive stereotypes that women are more emotional and that PMS-ing is the problem. Dark femininity ignores issues that are inherently holding women down and places the locus of blame on women — and pointing to fictional women created through the male gaze as archetypal examples of this energy certainly does help. By shifting the blame for women’s low confidence onto women themselves instead of society at large, issues with our society remain unaddressed.

When influencers and content creators post content about dark femininity, it’s clear that they don’t understand the problematic nature of the term. Content that advocates for dark femininity is centered around women getting men to do what they want by using the excuse of reclaiming their femininity. “Reclaiming femininity,” as used in this context, is an interesting idea, seeing that it does somewhat address societal standards that harm women by arguing that men take from women and it’s time for women to take back from them. However, it is also based on the idea that two wrongs make a right, which isn’t true. Content creators excuse their own manipulation of men, with concepts they don’t even understand, to attain them and get what they want. Influencers and content creators on TikTok should do more research and consider what they create before putting content online and spreading it.

Even though influencers and content creators only seem to understand a fraction of what dark femininity is, the idea itself could still hurt both women and men. Instead, women should be building their confidence in realistic and attainable ways without making comparisons to other people.

Sydney Lee is a junior majoring in English.