Because it’s 2018: A critique of Justin Trudeau’s feminism in 2017

By in Opinions

Since he was elected to office in 2015, Justin Trudeau has made sure the world knows that he is a feminist. It all started when he appointed a gender-equal cabinet, but have our prime minister’s actions and policies since then reflected what he says he believes?

On the individual level, Trudeau has definitely been an advocate for feminism in 2017. In September, he attended a United Nations youth empowerment campaign in New York City and delivered a speech in which he declared that he believes feminism means that men and women ought to be equal.

“How we treat our sisters, our girlfriends, our cousins, our mothers and the world around us matters — we need to take back what it is to be a man, and that means being open, compassionate, respectful and brave about standing up,” Trudeau said, in his speech.

In October, Trudeau wrote an essay that was published by Marie Claire about how he and his wife are raising their sons to be feminists in order to instill values of empathy, compassion, self-love and justice in them. He wrote in the essay that it is important for sons to escape the masculine culture that boys are pressured into.

“That world doesn’t exist yet. But it can be built — by people who have a strong sense of justice and empathy, who stand up for the rights of others,” Trudeau wrote in his essay, referring to a world in which gender equality exists.

Advocacy like this is great for any person to take part in. I commend Trudeau for using his platform to speak about feminism in this way, but I cannot help feeling like it is not enough.

At the UN event in September, Trudeau claimed that there is still a lot of work to be done to achieve equality among men and women, but his government does not seem to be taking much action in terms of their policies and legislations.

According to the Women Leaders Index 2016-17, which measures the proportion of women in leadership positions in the public sectors of G20 countries, Canada is at the top of the list with 46.4 per cent of our publ i c – s e c tor leaders being female. This is undoubtedly a good thing, and with Trudeau as a leader, we may get even closer to equality by next year.

However, there is still the looming pay gap. In Canada, women still make 73.5 cents for every dollar men make, according to Statistics Canada income data from 2016. This number drops even lower for Indigenous women and other women of colour. The current government has done nothing to create gender-pay equity in the workplace, despite the equality rhetoric that we often hear from our prime minister.

Another issue that has not been properly addressed is the ongoing national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Although Trudeau is the first prime minister to take a step forward to end violence against Indigenous women, the inquiry has proved unorganized and chaotic. Despite desperate pleas from the affected families, Trudeau has made no indication that he plans to revamp the inquiry anytime soon.

Since he became prime minister, Trudeau has promised to provide over $10 million to women’s rights on a global level, which is also a step in the right direction. As it stands, this funding for women’s rights and Trudeau’s gender-equal cabinet may be the only real action that the prime minister has taken to back up his feminist rhetoric, but that is still better than nothing.

I am not one to critique other people’s perceptions of feminism — if Trudeau considers himself a feminist, then I consider him a feminist — but part of me is skeptical about his feminist rhetoric when there has been so little action to back it up.

Lynsday Afseth / Staff Writer

Graphic: Jaymie Stachyruk