You’ve probably heard by now about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s fall from parliamentary grace yesterday. I accept the general criticism that he was brazen in his behaviours. However, I think the criticism was inflamed by his own feminist philosophy. I’d like to focus here on how his principles boomeranged on him.
THE THEORETICAL BACKSTORY:
In DEFINE YOUR WAY TO INFALLIBILITY, I described the distinction between Definition Feminism (the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes) and Action Feminism (the advocacy work of those who call themselves Definition Feminists). Given that we humans are fallible, we cannot be surprised that Action Feminists sometimes make mistakes and advocate for policies that are beyond the purview of Definition Feminism, and sometimes even contradict it.
Nevertheless, Action Feminists who call for sexist and/or Orwellian policies in the name of gender equality are able to shield themselves from critics by calling themselves Definition Feminists. This invariably frightens away mainstream critics, as nobody wants to disagree with a Feminist who insists they’re doing gender equality’s work.
One such Action Feminist is Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He calls himself a Feminist, but he is known for non-egalitarian policies in the name of gender equality.
For instance, before he was Prime Minister, and two of his male MPs were accused of personal misconduct towards two female MPs, Trudeau suspended his team members before the investigation, explaining that “I am aware of how difficult it is for people to come forward.” This aligns with the Action Feminist philosophy of “Believe Women” (which is both sexist, in that it treats one sex as specially worthy of consideration, and Orwellian as it dismisses due process).
For additional instance, Trudeau promised and delivered a gender balanced cabinet by promoting one in three of his female MPs (compared to one in 9 of his male MPs). Trudeau’s policies and procedures to achieve that result were once again consistent with Action Feminism, but not Definition Feminism. That is, he treated women differently from men (in a speech to the UN, he described how he actively recruited women in particular to join his party), and he utilized an evidence-free assumption of systemic sexism in Canadian politics to justify his discrimination against men.
But yesterday, in the House of Commons, Mr. Trudeau felt the wrath of the Action Feminism for which has been advocating.
[Note: all of the quotes and descriptions I provide below are taken from the CBC The National report on it, and so are not necessarily exhaustive.]
As described on CBC’s The National, it all began with MPs gathered and talking before a vote regarding Canada’s “physician assisted dying” laws. Members of the NDP were in the way of Conservative whip, Gord Brown, who seemed to be struggling to get past them to go to his station.
Whether or not the NDP were trying to physically filibuster or not, Prime Minister Trudeau apparently thought they were, and so he walked at a fast clip into the NDP assemblage to retrieve the Whip from the blockade.
Now, this is where all Feminism broke loose. In his process of taking the Conservative Whip’s arm, the back of Trudeau’s elbow seemed to bump into one of the female NDP MPs, and she reacted with an expression of pain.
It appears that Trudeau’s first action upon hearing the accusation was to attempt to go directly to the “elbowed” MP and to apologize to her, but before he could get to her, she left the room because, she says, “[she] was overwhelmed.”
If Trudeau had merely taken a male politician by the arm, he might have survived his brash actions in this case, but accidentally bumping into a women was not to be stood for by the other Action Feminist sympathizers in the room.
Once parliament came to order, Prime Minister Trudeau received the following accusations:
Peter Julian (House Leader for the NDP): “He elbowed [Brosseau], and he manhandled [Brown]. Physical force in this house is never permitted, is never welcome, and it is entirely inappropriate.”
Peter Van Loan (Conservative MP): “…the Prime Minister physically grabbing people, elbowing people…”
Niki Ashton (NDP MP): “…not only was this the furthest thing from a feminist act…”
Ruth Ellen Brosseau (NDP MP): “I was elbowed in the chest by the Prime Minister. And then I had to leave. It was very overwhelming. And so I left the chamber to go and sit in the lobby. I missed the vote because of this.”
And later (after Trudeau apologized):
Peter Van Loan: “I will move that the physical molestation of [Brosseau] be referred to the standing committee on procedure and House Affairs.”
As you can see, many of these accusations were laced with Action Feminist philosophy. For instances:
(1) LANGUAGE RECONSTRUCTION:
In keeping with George Orwell’s imaginings in Nineteen Eighty-Four, Action Feminists often like to change language to suit their political purposes. (For instance, whereas “assault” used to be a physical crime, Action Feminists now describe trolls on the internet who say obnoxious, sexual things to women as guilty of “sexual assault.”)
Similarly, notice here how the Trudeau accusers have used words such as “manhandled,” “elbowed,” and “molested” to exaggerate his actions.
Action Feminists are known for their faith in women’s testimony regardless of evidence. In this case, despite the video footage that shows that Trudeau did not raise his elbow towards Brosseau, Action Feminists still cheered on the silly implication that he threw his elbow towards her.
Action Feminism is ever celebrated for its ability to illuminate female victims while ignoring male ones. In this case, Trudeau intentionally took a male MP by the arm, but the Action Feminists in the room (including Trudeau, himself, in his apology) focussed their rage on him accidentally bumping into a woman.
In spite of Feminists’ insistence that they just want equality, it’s clear by their greater concern for female victims over male victims that they actually want special equality. In this case, accidentally bumping into a woman is worse than intentionally handling a man.
When Action Feminists are criticized, their favourite response is to accuse their critic of misogyny. That is, they presumptuously argue that anything negative that happens to an individual woman, must have been done to her because she’s a women. In this case, Trudeau bumped into a women, and so he was accused of being a failed feminist. It doesn’t matter that it was an accident: his micro-aggressive misogyny is showing.
(5) SAFE SPACE NEEDS:
Action Feminist philosophy teaches women to celebrate any perceived victimization, and to demand and make use of “safe spaces” to help them cope no matter how minor the alleged offence.
In this case, the NDP member left the room after the incident because, she says, she was “overwhelmed” by it. While I’m skeptical that she was as traumatized as she implies, I can understand why one would feel out of sorts after being bumped into by an aggressively-moving Prime Minister, and then being the subject of a political shouting competition.
However, I think it is hard to excuse Brosseau’s willingness to miss the vote because of what happened. For a member of parliament to abstain from such an important duty so that they could tend to their emotional needs strikes me as the entitled inactivity of someone who believes with all their heart in safe space culture.
Now, even though Justin Trudeau has supported the very Action Feminism that attempted to destroy him yesterday, I still feel sorry for him. He apologized twice for his actions (and again twice today). To Brosseau he said:
“I want to take the opportunity, now that the member is okay to return to the House right now, to be able to express directly to her my apologies for my behaviour and my actions, unreservedly.”
And one can understand why Trudeau would be so contrite. As an Action Feminist, Justin Trudeau has given up his right to defend himself. By his own philosophy, arguing in his own defense would have been sexist and victim-blaming.
But Trudeau’s unequivocal apology is also scary. If Action Feminists are able to shame a politician into doing what is antithetical to their soul (providing a spin-free apology), what else can it do?
MAY THERE BE HOPE?
However, I did see one reason for hope that Nineteen Eighty-Four is not in our future. Confessed Feminist and Green Party Leader, Elizabeth May, defended Trudeau.
“I have to say that I saw the Prime Minister approaching and following [Brosseau], trying to reach her and saying how very sorry he was. He had not seen her behind him. That is the truth.”
So maybe May’s testimony, and the silliness it undermined, will persuade other feminists that Action Feminism isn’t the perfect, egalitarian movement that they’ve been promised. It’s a long shot, but it’s all I’ve got.