“Answering Back” is a new column on North Shore responding to local newspapers and websites across the region. Got a story that needs a response? Get in touch by email or in the comments.
While Justin Trudeau was in Hamilton yesterday (April 20) handing out free lunches at St-Patrick’s church, notorious for its anti-abortion activity, our beloved local paper The Hamilton Spectator decided to republish a long article from the New York Times entitled “What’s a Feminist Government? Canada, and Trudeau Grapple With the Question”. I was reading the morning paper with six or seven friends, and over waffles we read the article out loud and had a go at the questions it raised with a fair bit less bullshit than its author.
It quotes Penny Collenette as saying, “The world needed a man to stand up and say that he was a feminist, and Trudeau did that”. This is backwards and ridiculous – people have been doing feminist struggle forever and have made countless gains. None of these gains have anything to do with Justin Trudeau. Fuck that guy.
The article repeatedly draws attention to the gender-parity of Trudeau’s cabinet, but what does this actually represent? Those women continue to operate within a confining structure, and they are selected by virtue of their ability to fit themselves into a fundamentally patriarchal institution. That we can have a bunch of well-off women influencing the direction of colonial and capitalist development in the territory is a victory for no one but those specific individuals. Nothing about someone’s gender makes their presence feminist – women prison guards, cops, and border agents have obviously done nothing to make those institutions less violent, why should it be any different at the top?
Collenette continues, asking, “if he can make people understand that he knows he’s made some errors and has honestly apologized – will that be enough to reassure everyone?” But is the issue here simply one of personal trust? Or is it a broader political issue about the meaning of important terms like feminism? Journalist Elizabeth Renzetti is quoted as saying Trudeau will “live by the f-word, die by the f-word” – she means fuckwad, right?
The government is hoping that women’s faces will convince us that things that make our lives worse are in fact making them better. The article asks, “How is a feminist government supposed to operate? … Should negotiations be any different if one or both of the participants is a woman?” These are the kinds of questions that matter in our own lives, because it affects the ways power is taken from us everyday. But when it occurs in politics, in the realm of representation, those “negotiations” are being done on our behalf, in spite of us, no matter who is carrying them out. The power has already been lost. My friend finishes her coffee, saying, “It’s not that I hate them because they’re women or want to use misogyny to advance my struggle by tearing them down, but I don’t care about their experience of governing, because it doesn’t matter to me if my oppressor is a woman.”
Feminism is about looking at the way power is constructed in society and challenging oppression in order to build forms of equality. A feminist government is a contradiction, unless we take the most boring, garbage definition of feminism, in which case we should all care deeply about how many women billionaires and CEOs there are as well.
While washing up, the conversation shifted towards former attorney general Jodie Wilson-Raybould who sparked the current public kerfuffle about feminist government. How disgusting is it that a former crown prosecutor who spent years pulling down six-figures for filling up prisons with women and indigenous people is now supposed to be some kind of role model as an indigenous woman? But that will be for another day…
Need more smack talk about Justin Trudeau, while making the connection to the construction of the Canadian identity in the 70’s? Check out What’s a Justin Trudeau? On social peace and Canadian nationalism