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Gregoire Trudeau.

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and the Pernicious Male Ally

By Mar 22, 2017

Image credits: The Toronto Star

For International Women’s Day on March 8th, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau published a post rallying women to post pictures with their male allies under the hashtag “Tomorrow In Hand” to inspire other men to believe in equality. The implications of her post are questionable; she assumes that all women have men who respect them, that men need to be inspired to support women, and that men should be celebrated for not committing injustices towards women. On a day meant to celebrate the successes of women in a patriarchal society, a call to celebrate our oppressors is undoubtedly insensitive.

Yet, the problematic nature of Gregoire Trudeau’s post is not universally agreed upon. In the context of a post that calls for equal rights and opportunities for everyone, it may seem backwards to not support the celebration of men’s existence along with women. After all, denying the right of men to participate may be considered discrimination, and that is one of the evils women are fighting against on this day.

Perhaps this is an opportunity to reconsider the neoliberal brand of feminism espoused by Trudeau and Gregoire Trudeau alike.

These claims ignore the fundamental basis of International Women’s Day. The implications behind the necessity of such a widely-acknowledged holiday are that women are not celebrated daily. It assumes that women need to designate a certain day for their achievements to be viewed quasi-equally to their male peers. To call the exclusion of men “discrimination” would be to falsely place women in a position of power; to usurp this celebration is to mask the reality of women being excluded daily from their society. It would only serve to further contribute to gender inequality.

Moreover, Gregoire Trudeau is suggesting that celebrating men for showing basic respect to women will assist the struggle for gender equality by encouraging other men to join the feminist movement. Aside from this suspiciously low standard for male allies, she is also suggesting that women need men to affect change. While there are certainly disagreements on this issue within feminist discourse, the indisputable fact remains that all progress achieved for women has been affected by women. In fact, International Women’s Day originated from a women's strike concerning poor working conditions.

But isn’t this exactly the brand of feminism Justin Trudeau has always endorsed? Sophie could have made the day about herself. She could have promoted the numerous charity organizations that champion women’s rights. Instead, she chose to post a picture of her husband, conspicuously celebrating his own contributions. On a day with the utmost significance to the feminist movement, she instead decides to reinforce Trudeau’s image as the perfect male ally.

Feminism should not be constantly deferring to men for guidance, especially since it is their privilege which perpetuates sexism.

This reinforcement comes after a report that the Trudeau government continues to neglect matter of gender equality in various areas. Most notably, Trudeau has fallen short on his promise to substantively address the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women. He often sells his persona as the radical male: he appointed the first gender-balanced cabinet and frequently proclaims that he is a feminist. It appears that Gregoire Trudeau wants to remind future voters that, as a woman, she approves of the progress her husband has made in the name of women, despite his shortcomings. This obscure new hashtag movement, called “Tomorrow In Hand,” serves to glaze over the reality of Trudeau’s shortcomings concerning his campaign promises to women.

Hopefully, this was only a publicity stunt. It would be quite insulting to the many women who have suffered in the pursuit of gender equality if Gregoire Trudeau genuinely wanted women to spend March 8th celebrating male allies. Perhaps this is an opportunity to reconsider the neoliberal brand of feminism espoused by Trudeau and Gregoire Trudeau alike.

Feminism should not be constantly deferring to men for guidance, especially since it is their privilege which perpetuates sexism. Gender inequality does not always appear as sexual assault and domestic violence and it is certainly not limited to glass ceilings and wage gaps. It is simply the effect of holding male privilege and not being privy to the fear and shame that girls feel as a product of their gender. We do not need to appease men by promoting a palatable brand of feminism by featuring them as our spokespersons. It is our own initiatives that will achieve lasting change. After years of silence, it should be our voice that is heard.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the McGill Left Review or its editors.

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