• SETHICS 19.05.2016

    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 a previous essay, 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 gender 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.

    THE INCIDENT:

    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 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 get 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.

    The bumped-into MP, Ruth Ellen Brosseau, reported Trudeau’s contact with her to her colleagues, who—led by Thomas Muclair’s “What kind of a man elbows a woman?”—began shouting at the Prime Minister.

    It appears that Trudeau’s first action upon hearing the accusation was to attempt to go directly to the MP and to apologize to her, but before he could get to her, she left the room because, she says, she “was overwhelmed.”

    THE REACTION:

    If Trudeau had merely taken a male politician by the arm, he might have survived his brash actions in this case, but his 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 1984, Action Feminists often like to change language to suit their political purposes. (For instance, whereas “assault” used 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. 

    (2) FAITH:

    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.

    (3) SEXISM, Style A:

    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.

    (4) SEXISM, Style B:

    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.

    (5) ASSUMPTION:

    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.

    (6) 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.

    THE APOLOGIES:

    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 1984 is not in our future. Confessed Feminist, 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.

    Posted by SethBlog @ 8:33 PM

  • 8 Responses

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    • Tom Durrie Says:

      My sentiments exactly. This is a very minor incident. If it had happened anywhere but in Parliament and had involved anyone but the Prime Minister, no notice would have been taken. Far more reprehensible than anything the Prime Minister may have done are the opportunistic statements and actions by the NDP and Conservative leaders, not to mention Ms. Brosseau. Thank goodness there is someone like Elizabeth May to shed a bit of the light of reality on this nonsense. Enough already!
      Incidentally I am unclear about what you mean by “Orwellian”. Having read “1984” as well as a number of his other writings, I would like you to cite specific passages to support your use of his name in what seems like a pejorative sense.
      Tom

    • SethBlog Says:

      Thanks Tom. Yes, it’s refreshing to see Ms. May avoiding the lure of partisan exaggeration here.

      Good point re my use of the word “Orwellian.” In the world of criticizing Action Feminism, Mr. Orwell is celebrated so often that I may have taken for granted that the similarity is unmistakable. As it happens, I am building a glossary of terms to illustrate what I perceived to be an eerie overlap between Orwell’s “Big Brother” and feminism’s Big Sister. For now, here are a few points from Orwell that map onto Trudeau’s version of feminism:

      (1) Contempt for due process. As you know, in Orwell’s dystopian future, those deemed to have failed Big Brother, are imprisoned without due process and/or are “vaporized” (i.e. killed, and removed from existence).

      This matches Action Feminism’s “believe women” in general, and in the particular case I referred to in this post, Trudeau showed no respect for the rights of the accused and instead suspended them automatically on the basis of a complaint, and implied that by definition they were guilty by saying he knew how difficult it was for people to come forward.

      (2) “Thought crime.” In 1984, any hint that one does not conform to “The Party” policies justifies vaporization. Recall, that it was pre-PM Justin Trudeau who called for the leader of the military, General Lawson, to be fired for wrong think when Lawson suggested that nature, and not nurture, created bad people in the military (modern day Action Feminism has decided that it’s the other way around, and therefore anyone who thinks differently is “offensive” and must be neutralized).

      (3) Also, I think Trudeau’s justification of discrimination against men via his quota system (while providing no evidence that women are disadvantaged in today’s national political system) was a lovely example of Orwell’s famous “double think.”

      To go along with Big Brother’s,

      “War is Peace
      Freedom is Slavery
      Ignorance is Strength”

      surely, Trudeau could add,

      “Discrimination is Equality.”

    • v Says:

      The whole “elbowgate” scandal is hilarious. How silly we must look to other countries.

    • SethBlog Says:

      Well put, V. Watching the MP’s emotional description of the incident, neutral observers would surely think she’d been attacked by the PM.

    • Julie Says:

      I find it strange that you feel so threatened by the reactions surrounding this incident, when most of the public-including feminists- see “elbogate” for what it is- a relatively trivial incident of hotheaded politicians behaving badly, and an ugly attempt by the ndp to politicize a minor incident. This was not an example of ‘all feminism breaking lose”, it is merely an opportunistic political move.

    • SethBlog Says:

      Thanks Julie. I don’t necessarily disagree that the furor over this is much ado about politics. However, the point I was attempting to make was that Trudeau’s own political rivals were using common feminist tactics in that political gamesmanship, and that, because Trudeau has used those same tactics himself, he was powerless to defend himself. And that’s scary. He is beholden to the ideology that brought him, no matter how silly the situation.

    • Julie Says:

      Trudeau wasn’t powerless to defend himself. He apologized for having gotten physical and for the accidental elbowing, and his apology was accepted. The public got annoyed with the ndp and conservatives- their attempts to politicize a minor incident backfired. Where’s the scary part?
      I would argue with you as well about what you are assuming to be “feminist tactics” but don’t have the energy right now.

    • SethBlog Says:

      Thanks Julie. My contention is that Trudeau’s unabashed contrition was particularly unusual and immediate for a politician (and that that was because he could see no other option for himself – i.e., he was powerless to defend himself). Even if you’re right that the public thinks the NDP and Conservatives over-politicized a minor incident, Trudeau did not know that that would be the public reaction when he first “unreservedly” apologized in Parliament looking frazzled and unscripted. And my suggestion is that that’s likely because he realized he’d made a blunder against his feminist beliefs (he was certainly accused of it at the time, and directed the bulk of his apology towards the so-called “[anti]feminist act”).

      (Also, a side note, while Brosseau “accepted” the apology the next day – how could she not, if you’re right about the public reaction? – she still complained that the Prime Minister didn’t contact her personally. So it seems like a somewhat hollow acceptance.)

      Regardless, you may be right that I’m making a large mountain out of a mountain that was made out of a molehill. However, for me this is still an interesting example of how taking on an ideology so faithfully has the potential to backfire when one’s own behaviours cross it (even if inadvertently). Trudeau may survive without too much damage this time, but what’s “scary” to me is that the Prime Minister of Canada might retreat even further into his feminist faith to avoid a next time.

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