This weekend over breakfast, my life partner said to me: "I am looking forward to your reaction to Rex Murphy's column on feminism." He knew it would make me furrow my brow. Now...I rarely make a deep furrow of my brow...with the bangs it goes unnoticed how rare I furrow. But I furrow now...deeply.
Putting aside the obvious Baby Boomer white male privilege issues raised by Mr. Murphy's analysis, I am struck by the continual expectation of many men that feminists pick the "right" issues to focus on.
Just so us "gals" know, appropriate issues are lecturing to women in developing countries on what is best for them, education of girls and women in developing nations, rape and sexual assault issues of women and girls in developing nations. Oh and feminism should never deviate from its expected representations of the angry, unstlyish and unsexual feminist. How dare women dress provocatively and profess a feminist view point. Hmmm is there a pattern?
Forget issues such as challenging toy makers on gender bias marketing, equal pay for women at home, family leave policies, domestic violence and sexual assault. But keep in mind "ladies" we can talk about sexual assault as long as we stay within our hashtag parameters.
Regarding sexual assault, I found Mr. Murphy's placement of quote marks around "rape" in reference to Lena Dunham's essay on being sexual assaulted insulting. I read Ms. Dunham's book and it was clear she was sexually assaulted. Too many women can relate to that essay in her book. There is no need to place rape in quotes. Unless you are suggesting a blame the victim approach in a sly way. Which I think Mr. Murphy tacitly engages in and it is frankly abhorrent.
As for his "femsplaining", I think that women should appropriate and create a "femsplaining" hashtag. I interpret femsplaining not as a little populist play on Rebecca Solnit's work on "mansplaining" as an attempt to appear relevant by an increasingly irrelevant crotchety columnist, but as an opportunity.
Femsplaining, if we choose to claim such a term and I think we should, is about feminists (of all genders) explaining to the Mr. Murphys of the world what feminism is about.
This is a real opportunity to explain to those who read only the headlines that feminism is not just one view or one definition. The ambit of feminism is as diverse and the range of feminist issues runs the gamut of gender bias marketing to genocidal rape of women globally.
So yes, Mr. Murphy I welcome your #femsplaining and since the#mansplainers of the world only pay attention to feminist issues when their hashtags are trending. I think it's time to #femsplain a few things in the only way you like your "women folk" to talk...in 140 characters or less.
This blog post is in response to Rex Murphy's National Post column "the year in activist feminism" which appeared on December 27, 2014.