By now you have likely seen the video.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is standing at a podium in front of his newly minted Cabinet, which is for the first time, made up of over 50% women. A woman journalist asks our new Prime Minster why it was important to have a cabinet that is “more gender balanced”.
He pauses, smirks and delivers a supposed mic-drop of an answer “Because it’s 2015”.
His cabinet cheers. The Internet fawns.
I am left feeling angry.
As a young feminist, and woman working in journalism, I didn’t find Trudeau’s answer particularly funny, or clever. It had a “well, duh lady” tone. As if a woman reporter, who covers politics and is likely outnumbered by men on the daily, needs Justin Trudeau to mansplain why gender parity should be the norm in 2015. She is a journalist, and it is her job to ask these types of questions; especially given how much the Liberals have hyped up this particular campaign promise. Instead of giving her a serious answer he made her the butt of the joke, and (yet again) came off looking like the hero. (I actually saw a mock-up of a shirt featuring Trudeau riding in on a horse on my newsfeed yesterday.)
These are the type of questions that women politicians get all, of, the, time. Women politicians are constantly answering some variation of “why is it important for women to get involved in politics?” But when a woman asks a man (in this case the newly sworn in Prime Minister) a similar question, it’s a joke.
Yes, it’s 2015. It was also 2015 when then Liberal Leader Trudeau, and his party ran only one woman in Nova Scotia, out of a possible 11. To make it worse, they didn’t seem to notice and/or care: I saw several billboards featuring Trudeau with Fillmore and Dartmouth candidate (now MP) Darren Fisher emblazoned with the slogan “Real Change”.
It was 2015 as well when, during that same election, Trudeau and his Liberals ran Andy Filmore against Megan Leslie, one our the country’s most prominent women MPs.
As I wrote on my Facebook on election day “I think it’s audacious (as in “showing an impudent lack of respect“) to even run a dude against one of our most outspoken women/feminist MPs. It’s hypocritical to wax poetic about wanting women in politics while attempting to replace a Megan Leslie with another (white) man.” Then Liberal Leader Trudeau even flew to Halifax during the end days of the campaign in an effort to make sure that Leslie didn’t win. It wasn’t just any riding either, until Filmore’s election in October Halifax had been a federal feminist strong hold (starting with Alexa McDonough’s election in 1997) for nearly 20 years.
I know that Trudeau’s smug answer was only one aspect of an otherwise historic day for (some) women in Canadian politics. (As many pointed out, there were no black women, or black people at all, included in Cabinet). As a feminist, I am excited to see how this might translate into better and more pro-women policies (and how these women are supported in their new roles, ahem, Trudeau).
The Internet was quick to dub Trudeau’s response the “perfect answer.” I guess I just wish that our bar was a little bit higher for our new, supposedly feminist, Prime Minister.