Canadian Politics

No Offense, Ladies, But…

Five qualified women are going to moderate the English federal Leader’s Debate in October. Yes, there are five, yes, they are qualified and yes, they are women. So, of course, some people feel the need to dissect that.

One person was Rex Murphy. His opinion piece seeks to answer the question on every Canadian’s mind as we head into the next federal election: who else would have the empathy to interrogate our feminist PM?

Certainly every other moderator or panel of journalists of debates gone by has been held to such standards. Notwithstanding of course that this is a debate between the federal leaders and the Moderators are there to set the questions and guide the conversation; not “interrogate” the participants.

Murphy attributes the choice to use this “stellar cast of Central Canadian journalists” as a process that likely began in the sheltered and nurtured nucleus of feminism and assuredly culminated in cheers both of and for female empowerment. In other words, he seems to say, they were not chosen for their professionalism or merit, it’s merely the result of our flawed belief that through manipulation and exclusion we can be fairer to people who would not have been chosen otherwise.

This “milestone”, as Murphy calls it, is rooted in disdain for the “journalistic patriarchy”; a single event that erases the careers of the “Primates” who dare to have more testosterone than hand moisturizer. Because in case one should think otherwise, Murphy wants to relay the notion that the core of feminism is a deep-seated hatred of successful, hardworking, masculine, men.

“Some Neanderthal journalists”, he called them, like SUN columnists Lorrie Goldstein or Vaughn Palmer would better suit his sensibilities. After all, the moderators are why people bother to watch a leadership debate in the first place.

If not strapping chaps like those who have a Y chromosome, then why not ask more feminist women, he deigns to argue, who have both time and an affinity for Trudeau if not his Party? Why, indeed? While it seems as if he’s lost the plot, it only becomes clearer that the problem for Murphy is “feminism”; the unfortunate result of such a plague, is female moderators.

But feminism is not just causing difficulties for men like Murphy who have taken no notice of the 5:1 representation of men to women in those vying for the country’s top position. Feminism, he explains, has failed to benefit women who are not already “fairly well-off”.

At this point I’d like to ask that you not discount the extensive effort it is taking to respond to this as if it were a reasonable argument. Moving on.

If the opinion piece is to be read logically, as if there is a beginning, middle and end, Murphy takes a giant leap from the fact that there are five female journalists to be moderators to the possibility that one could find a “rich, ripe source for the panel” of women in the nation’s service industry. “The sales clerks, the housekeepers at hotels, the immigrant women in corner stores and fast food chains…”.

Murphy seems to believe if one truly practices feminism, then professional designation, experience and merit mean much less than the genitalia one purports to have. Aside from the very obvious fact that he doesn’t understand what feminism is, his next claim that he has “nothing derogatory to say about the individuals who have been picked”, suggests he doesn’t understand what he’s written up to this point; not even a little bit.

Apparently, the fact that these women are all journalists has, likely for the first time in Murphy’s life, drawn him to conclude that having only journalists as moderators is not fair to people who have different careers. I say it is likely the first time in his life because journalists have always asked the questions at the debates but this is the first time he’s presented an argument for service workers to do it instead.

His final thought is that this move is “a great moment for feminism in journalism”; his only regret is that it is not starting at the editorial boards and in small town papers of rural Canada. Unlike meaningful change, Murphy laments that it “starts at the very top, where is almost certainly least needed.”

This post is an opinion and I spent enough time with Rex Murphy’s words that a shower is definitely in order.

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean

contact: dmaclean@countersign.ca; hello@politicalrnd.ca

Twitter: @Mitchell_AB for all the commentary; @thisweekinAB for posts; @politicalRnD to wonder “who tweeted that?”

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