Culture

Actor Mark Ruffalo Tries to Do Some Mansplaining

Mark Ruffalo has a Tumblr post for women who aren’t feminists. It appeared on my Facebook feed earlier this week to cheers. Many loved what he wrote. (Back to the quote marks in a sec.)

The post opens as almost all rebuttals of “I’m not a feminist” arguments often do:

First of all, it’s clear you don’t know what feminism is. But I’m not going to explain it to you. You can google it.

I do know the definitions—there are far more than one—of feminism. I know them without googling them. I’ve read First, Second, and the theoretical Third and Fourth Waves. I’ve got a crumbling copy of Redstockings and a 1967 history of the Pankhursts within arm’s reach of my desk. I know the post refers to the popular “equality for women” trope that pops up on top of a Google search. I know that definition is the preferred definition when they want to shame anyone who dares to disagree with elite feminist dictates. While a few have noted the happy and broad definition’s problems, it is a very useful definition as it makes for good PR for personalities, like actors and singers, who are obviously not very well read. (The happy and broad link is Jessica Valenti in the delightfully titled, “When everyone is a feminist, is anyone?”)

The author, however, is not content with merely lecturing us supposed know-nothings.

You’re insulting every woman who was forcibly restrained in a jail cell with a feeding tube down her throat for your right to vote, less than 100 years ago. [Insert a few paragraphs of mostly First Wave accomplishments prior to the 1960’s]

In short, you know not what you speak of. You reap the rewards of these women’s sacrifices every day of your life. When you grin with your cutsey sign about how you’re not a feminist, you ignorantly spit on the sacred struggle of the past 200 years. You bite the hand that has fed you freedom, safety, and a voice.

In short, kiss my ass, you ignorant little jerks.

Such an example of grace and class for a public debate, no? I, for one, won’t be kissing his ass. Instead I will ask, who insults the sacrifices of feminists past more? Someone like me who actually bothers to read them and advocate for oppressed women? Or the current crop of declared feminists who can hardly be bothered with more than a hashtag for oppressed women, who are reduced to spending their time arguing over what a woman is, who sabotaged women-friendly professional opportunities decades ago, who think activism is about period performance and hairy armpits, who disregard how their positions affect anyone else, who let their sisters die alone, and who spend more time shaming women for calling out the movement’s shortcomings than addressing it themselves. “You just don’t know what feminism is” has been an empty rebuttal for quite some time. It is not the dictionary definition that matters. It is what feminism does that defines the movement. But it is the last thing I noticed that is so choice, as we’ll explore on the next page.

Ruffalo’s mansplainin’ post was written by a woman.  A young  feminist, Libby Anne Bruce, wrote the post last summer at the height of #WomenAgainstFeminism. In March, Ruffalo posted it on his Tumblr. Because of the template he uses, quotes are set off by a ” at the top and the bottom of the text. Since the entire post was a quote of an entire other post, the tiny quote marks look stylistic, not functional. Libby’s name, along with other sharers of her post, appear at the bottom in light grayscale, and one needs to be familiar with the Tumblr format to know that the first listed name under the post might be the author. Attribution is a little more obvious when users add original comment to reblogged material, which Ruffalo did not. The post keeps circulating around other media as his post because Ruffalo did not make the origin obvious—even after months of misattribution—and curated-content writers looking for a quick hook don’t pay close attention to detail.

So there is a outrage to be had here. It just has nothing to do with the education of women against feminism.

Also read: 

‘Manspreading’: A Portent of Things to Come