In her amusing, no-holds-barred, polemic on modern womanhood, the journalist and author, Caitlin Moran, offers an instant guide to interpreting whether or not you are a feminist.
“Look inside your pants,” she counsels.
“Do you have a vagina? And do you want to be in charge of it?”
If you answered yes, she suggests, then you’re a feminist.
The book, How to Be A Woman, offers a useful navigation tool through all the big questions facing modern feminists: Burkhas, bitching, having children, hair removal, hiring domestic cleaners, pornography and £600 handbags.
It’s just a shame it went to press before she could offer an insight into the latest conundrum that tearing the feminist world asunder.
Were it to appear on a Leaving Cert History paper (and, at this juncture, that’s not entirely outside the bounds of possibility), it might be expressed as follows: Wendi Deng: Shameless trophy wife or laudable feminist icon? Discuss.
Tiger-wife Wendi roars to the defence of her husband, Rupert Murdoch
In the early days, of course, the evidence pointed incontrovertibly to the former.
When it was announced in 1999 that the ageing media tycoon, Rupert Murdoch, was about to marry a young Chinese executive - a mere 17 days after his divorce from the wife some sections of the British media had dubbed ‘Saint Anna’ - I was commissioned to write something about it for this newspaper.
The article has been lost in the archives, but it’s likely to have contained around 850 words, which could probably have been more succinctly expressed as follows: “Wendi Deng. Trophy wife.”
In my defence, even Murdoch himself didn’t seem to expect too much more from his new bride at that stage. In a 1999 interview with Vanity Fair magazine, he emphatically ruled out her working for News Corp, insisting she was too "busy working on decorating the new apartment”.
It’s possible, of course, that he was just trying to mollify his children – Prudence, James, Elisabeth and Lachlan – who were understandably alarmed at the speed at which their mother had been replaced in their 68-year-old father’s affections.
But it’s equally conceivable that Murdoch himself had spectacularly underestimated Deng. When the Wall Street Journal published details of her epic rise from her humble beginnings as the daughter of a mid-ranking factory manager, Murdoch is said to have remarked: ‘I didn’t know half of that.’
The article recounted how, as a teenager, she was studying medicine and aching for a passport out of China, when she encountered an American couple, Jake and Joyce Cherry.
Deng persuaded the couple to agree to sponsor a student visa for her to the USA. No sooner had Joyce had got all the paperwork out of the way and made up a bed in her house for the then 19-year-old than Deng rewarded her by running off with her husband – a man 30 years her senior.
Jake Cherry’s marriage to Wendi Deng lasted just long enough for her to get her green card, before he discovered she was having an affair with someone else.
Armed with a divorce cert and an MBA from Yale University, Deng got a job with Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV in 1996. Two years later, she was assigned to act as his interpreter during a trip to China. A year after that, they were married.
Admittedly, she’s not the most obvious candidate for feminist iconhood. But long before the pie-throwing incident two weeks ago, observers had been speculating that there was more to Wendi Deng than mere trophy wife.
Far from spending her time wrapped up in soft furnishings, the now mother-of-two is chief strategist for MySpace in China, and co-founder and chief executive of the film company, Big Feet Productions.
In his biography of Murdoch, Michael Wolff wrote: "Let's recast this story as a triumphal, even uplifting tale of pluck and achievement. She's not [the cynical social-climbing heroine of Vanity Fair] Becky Sharp, she's Pip in Great Expectations."
But it was at the House of Commons hearing into the phone hacking scandal earlier this month that Deng pulled off the swiftest rehabilitation of a public figure ever seen outside the doors of the Priory.
Leaping to her feet, like a tiger launching herself at her kill, she managed to land a loud slap on the head of Jonnie Marbles, the pie-throwing comedian who had targeted her husband, while Murdoch’s security staff were still sitting around wondering what they’d have for lunch.
The transformation in the public perception of her was instant. Newspapers – including even a few not owned by her husband - praised her “dignity and self-discipline” and her “genuine affection” for Murdoch. The Channel 4 news anchor Jon Snow tweeted: "Wendi heroic protector of fading old genius”, while journalist John Hildebrand added: "At last the News of the World enquiry has exposed News Corps deepest darkest secret. Wendi Deng is a Power Ranger."
Chinese commentators were even more effusive: the woman who had once been portrayed as a distinctly unChinese, marriage-wrecking gold-digger became a "tiger woman"; a "Charlie's Angel".
In a Sina Weibo poll, about 70 per cent of respondents said they cheered for her, 20 per cent said the incident had completely changed their mind about her, and just 10 per cent said they still believed she is a manipulative woman whom they "dislike".
Feminism, of course, is not about bravely standing by your man, Tammy Wynette style, nor is it necessarily about being able to land a swift right hook on the man attempting to cover your ageing husband in synthetic custard foam.
But if it is essentially about the credo that, as Caitlin Moran says, “women should be as free as men” – as free to marry whomever they like for whatever reason they like; as free to ruthlessly climb the career and social ladders; as free to choose whether to be an obedient Stepford spouse or an ambitious executive; as free to land a slap on the head of annoying would-be comedians - then Deng ticks all the boxes.
And somehow – as James Murdoch becomes deeper and deeper emmeshed in the phone hacking scandal – I have the feeling she’s only getting started.
If she can go from trophy wife to feminist icon in one swift uppercut, who knows what’s next for Wendi Deng?
This column first appeared in The Sunday Business Post on July 31, 2011