What are soft boys?
It’s a term largely used on Tumblr, but it describes a subset of boys/men that exist on and off Tumblr.
Basically it’s a subgroup of boys/men who believe they differ from “other” men because they don’t conform to or perform masculinity in a typical way, be it because they are more effeminate, or because they are interested in traditionally non-masculine activities, or because their aesthetic preferences are traditionally non-masculine, or because their behavior is traditionally non-masculine.
These boys call themselves “soft boys” and believe that their like of flower crowns or soft-spoken conversation or stuffed animals or sparkly images or hugs and cuddling or whatever “non-masculine” quality in question distances them from being held accountable for male violence/patriarchal violence.
What makes their behavior so egregious and dangerous is that they genuinely think that their straying from typical patterns of gender conformity makes them entitled to being misogynistic. Whether it’s coercing women into sex (”I’m a soft male feminist and I just want to be loved by a big strong woman, uwu”), believing that they have the right to scream at, mock, and hurl slurs against a woman (”women can be horrific bitches and I’m not wrong for saying that!”), or thinking that they can get away with violating a woman’s space or body, these men are equally as bad as men who conform to traditional masculinity, and they are just as culpable in enacting misogyny against women.
The difference between them and traditionally masculine men, besides their gender performance, is how they weaponize their gender against women. Traditionally masculine men assert their dominance over women through stereotypical displays of power and control, whereas these “soft boys” weaponize their gender non-conformity against women, often 1) citing their gender transgressive behaviors as “proof” that they “aren’t the same as other men/aren’t as bad as other men”, 2) citing the fact that they may have been abused or bullied by individual women before and that this thus gives them the right to be misogynistic toward women as a whole, and 3) using identity politics to justify misogyny if they’re marginalized in some way (ex. mlm thinking that it’s okay to police women’s behaviors, harass them, and verbally abuse them because straight women are homophobic, or trans men thinking that it’s okay to be violent because they “need to perform masculinity” and that it’s wrong of any woman to point out their misogyny because they’re trans).
Both traditionally masculine men and “soft boys” may also genuinely believe that “misandry” exists on a systemic level, and that women are capable of oppressing men just as much as men are capable of oppressing women. Again, however, they manifest these beliefs differently. The “soft boys” may weaponize this into identity politics, often claiming that a woman hating men as a class is actually just racist / homophobic / transphobic / ableist because some men are men of color and/or trans and/or gay/bi and/or disabled/neurodivergent.
“Soft boys” are similar to “nice boys”, but “nice boys” weaponize personality traits against women whereas “soft boys” weaponize defiance of traditional masculinity against women.