TikTok's 'Divine Feminine' Trend Is Just Repackaged Patriarchy

If you know what soft living means, chances are, you're probably also familiar with the divine feminine. The aspiration for a soft life, typically expressed online as a TikTok trend, reflects a growing desire among users to reject the pressures of hustle culture and embrace a life free from constant struggle and stress. While this trend advocates for a shift in mindset that prioritizes self-care and finding joy in simple pleasures, it is important to examine how it coincides with the divine feminine, as well as other TikTok trends, to unassumingly reinforce patriarchal values.

While seemingly empowering on the surface, divine femininity promotes regressive ideas about gender and attributes certain characteristics, such as submission and inaction, as essential to embodying femininity. As TikTok users scroll through an endless stream of bite-sized content, it becomes all too easy to accept the groupthink status quo and internalize these ideas without questioning their underlying messages — whether it's TikTok's trendy micro fashion or social movements.

The emergence of other concerning trends, such as tradwife — the glorification of a 1950s, "traditional" housewife ideal — and old money — the romanticization of luxury goods and lifestyle aspects belonging to society's elite who most likely garnered generational wealth through unambiguously exploitative means — only bolsters the divine feminine's impact on idealizing misogynistic ideologies online.

What is divine feminine and masculine energy?

What exactly is "divinely" feminine or masculine energy within humans? Feminine energy, in this context, is commonly attributed to just being, feeling, expressing, receiving, and following — or simply put, passivity. Masculine energy, on the other hand, is defined by doing, thinking, analyzing, decision-making, and leading. There's nothing divine about this notion that to truly be a woman is to defer to men to make all the decisions, especially when studies have shown that women are more effective leaders than men.

Oftentimes it is Evangelical doctrine about Biblical manhood and womanhood that pervades the rhetoric of divine femininity, encouraging women's subordination and submission to men. Evangelicalism as a wider cultural movement in the United States has seen its influence extend beyond religious circles and into policymaking; it's been most apparent in the religious right's vindictive pursuit of outlawing abortion across the country due to its cultural connection with feminism and women's autonomy at large. Just as the concept of the divine feminine masks regressive expectations of women, so does the notion of "protecting" life when abortion and other women's rights enter the discourse. Viewing these issues as culturally isolated from one another not only minimizes the harm caused by them but also helps further the self-enabling misogynistic cycle to which they belong.

Why these trends are harmful

Regardless of how enticing and trendy its repurposing may seem, any patriarchal rhetoric that nullifies women's agency deserves no favored place in the culture. Pride in womanhood and feminine energy cannot be attained by reviving past iterations of oppression that generations of women endured, hoping future generations wouldn't have to. Thinking, decision-making, and leading should not only belong to a select few based on social hierarchical constructs; this type of reasoning alone has justified centuries of violence against countless groups of people, and its rebrand within online subcultures has only exacerbated the genuine danger it presents.

These trends successfully serve as distractions designed to make women complacent and even grateful for their own subjugation. They only seem attractive because of the status women already have today, whether it's legal rights pertaining to opening a bank account without requiring a male co-signer or simply being able to wear a swimsuit without warranting arrest. The nostalgic romanticizing of an imaginary past is a manipulative propaganda tool that history has seen flourish all too well with the oppressive likes of Nazis and fascists. 

When there is an attack on human rights, there is often a culture war behind it, as the latter informs and permits the former. In our current digital landscape, where genuine content and insidious propaganda are difficult to distinguish, the true intentions behind these messages don't matter as much as questioning narratives that put human rights at risk.