The Very Slippery Totem Pole: The Trashing of Feminism

September 24, 2020 By Shannon Hayes Off

Recently, PTLeena published a controversial article at Associate Content entitled Feminism or FeMANism? This article is one of the latest in this venue of a slew that essentially superficially expresses an implied, assumed, or stated negative and derogatory view of feminism, while subversively expresses ignorance and a near-complete lack of understanding of the actual components, function, and complexities of feminism.

The idea of feminism seems to have become an distant abstraction, an object-it’s a thing. Names of feminists are never mentioned, nor are specific theories, or quotes. Instead, the vaguest and wildly inaccurate, trite deductions are tossed about. For example, PTLeena writes, “We terminate pregnancies to show that ‘we have control over our bodies'” This is a dangerous, dismissive, belief steeped in loaded rhetoric. It’s a perfect example because it makes use of real feminist lingo, yet is so head-bangingly insipid and false. It’s as if the words and phrases themselves have made an impression, yet no real meaning or truth has been gleaned.

When deconstructing the sentence, one finds a very twisty path back to the reality of the situation. Pregnancies are not terminated to ‘prove’ anything-they are terminated to end an unwanted pregnancy. The notion that women have abortions simply to show off control over their bodies is highly offensive and belies all the highly emotional, painful, difficult dynamics associated with it. The idea of ‘showing’ we have control over our bodies is a real one though, and a centerpiece of feminist agenda. The ideas expressed in the sentence are a thoughtless ‘shake-n-bake’ reading of real feminist agenda, and might be key to understanding the phenomenon of trashed feminism.

Feminism seems to somehow now inexplicably and generically stand for ‘man-haters’, or ‘woman-haters’, depending on the argument at hand. The irony is almost painful. That feminists have long sought to end discrimination and hatred of anyone based on gender identity is innate to the cause and inarguable. Early on, modern feminists truly had their work cut out for them. The regulated oppression was pervasive and institued, and the struggles ahead were seemingly insurmountable. Men held the power legally and socially, so men were the ones to which arguments had to be addressed. This created a sense of us vs. them, men vs. women, and it was unavoidable. But never the sole purpose. Feminism has always been about women. It’s about empowering women by paving a clear, even pathway so compulsory social roles are not taken on habitually and mindlessly. It’s about full opportunity and freedom and choice-whatever that may be.

Much has been made about ‘feminism’s devaluing of femininity.’ Simply put, it’s an oxymoron. Feminism seeks to devalue only inequality, injustice, and archaic, ineffective and harmful roles of subordination. But, ‘femininity’ can be defined in a myriad of ways, and if inequality and subordination are chosen or embraced as its signifiers, then it would follow logically that feminism would devalue that brand of supposed ‘femininity.’

In her closing statement, PTLeena states, “we’ve turned feminism into feMANism, completely forgetting what it really means to be a woman. Let us not forget that sometimes it is okay to be lower on the totem pole.” This is a frightening statement, I believe, coming from a young, modern woman. In keeping with the tone and gist of her article, to be ‘lower on the totem pole’ implies men are higher, and hold more innate value than women. Truly, this is the traditional, albeit dysfunctional and archaic, notion of ‘what it really means to be a woman.’ This is ‘femininity,’ at least from a very androcentric point of view. Being less than and ‘underneath’ men is what feminism has sought to overcome. For those who welcome this blatant inequality, feminism will always be an easy enemy.