By Charlotte Anderson
Justin Trudeau – the Prime Minister of Canada, self-declared feminist, boxing champion and the socialist wet dream for many young ‘bleeding heart liberals’, as my dad likes to call me. It seems the internet is more interested in his piercing blue eyes, luscious hair and anomalistic tattoos than his politics, and many bloggers and reporters have been accused of sexualizing him for his looks. Yes, I will admit that his face was the lock screen on my iPhone for two weeks after the election, but it isn’t his near-Grecian nose that gets my juices flowing.
His social policies are very sexy. Other than consent, what’s sexier than mutual respect, compassion and interest in another persons needs and desires? Not much, if you ask me. So for reasons other than his chiseled good looks, why should Canadian women be all hot and bothered for our new Prime Minister? The answer’s simple – because he genuinely cares about us.
Firstly, he’s a feminist. In a campaign interview Trudeau said: “Yes, Yes. I am a feminist. Proud to be a feminist. My mom raised me to be a feminist. My father raised me, he was a different generation, but he raised me to respect and defend everyone’s rights, and I deeply grounded my own identity in that, and I am proud to say that I am a feminist.” Not only is he not ashamed of feminism, in a time when many people in the spotlight shy away from being labeled as a feminist, he knows what it means – the belief in the social, economic and political equality of the sexes. ***Flawless.
Much like Jay Z, he’s also been married to a feminist for ten years. Sophie-Grégoire Trudeau is a public speaker, journalist and an active supporter of several Canadian charities and non-profits primarily focused on women’s issues. In 2013, she won the United Nations Women National Committee Canada award for her contribution to Human Rights, so I think it’s safe to say that Trudeau isn’t intimidated by women who get it done.
He’s only been in office for less than a day, and has already ensured that women will have an equal voice in his governmental inner circle by appointing 15 female members to his 30-member Cabinet. When asked why this was an important decision, Trudeau replied with a cool: “because it’s 2015.”
Essentially this means that fifty percent of the governmental body possessing almost total control over the legislative agenda of the House of Commons is made up of women. This is the first time in the history of the Canadian government that the Cabinet has been equal between men and women, and is an appointment that has pushed Canada from 20th to 3rd in the world rankings of governmental gender equality. Did I mention it’s only his first day in office?
Electing a gender equal cabinet was one of the first promises Trudeau made upon his election, and the fact that he’s made good on it makes me believe that he’ll follow through with his other campaign promises. Promises that include the abolishment of the Universal Child Care Benefit adopted under Harper, which generally gave families a taxed benefit of $100 each month to assist with childcare costs.
The proposed Liberal Canada Child Benefit will provide nine out of ten Canadian families with tax-free, income determined benefits, and Trudeau has repeatedly said that the plan will help raise 315,000 children out of poverty. This hits close to home for me personally. I was raised by a single parent in near poverty, and my mother relied on various social benefit programs while she was earning a master’s degree. You know, to get a better job to provide me with a better life and all that good stuff.
Trudeau is also staunchly and adamantly pro-choice when it comes to reproductive rights. During his election campaign, he stirred a lot of feathers when he asserted that all future Liberal MP’s will have to vote against limiting abortion rights if the topic is ever re-introduced in parliament. Trudeau said: “I am perfectly comfortable with Canadians knowing that the Liberal Party is unequivocal in its defense of women’s rights. We are the party of the Charter. We are the party that stands up for people’s rights. We will continue to do so.” So I think he made himself clear.
Which stands in stark contrast to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who when asked about conducting a formal inquest into missing and murdered indigenous women infamously quipped “it isn’t really high on our radar, to be honest”. #Priorities. Wasting no time, Trudeau said a $40 million inquiry will be launched ‘immediately’ after he takes office.
There are currently nearly 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada who are unaccounted for, and Trudeau has said that “there is a need for a national public inquiry to bring justice for the victims, healing for the families, and to put an end to this tragedy.” While an inquiry may not immediately solve the problem, understanding why indigenous women are so highly victimized is the first necessary step to inciting action. And knowing that the leader of my country would care if I was abducted and murdered helps me sleep a little better at night.
While there is no way to tell exactly how much of Trudeau’s victory is due to women’s votes, I believe that young women especially played a large role in the election outcome. The social media campaign Votes4Nudes, or ‘Sluts Against Harper’, is an excellent example of the frustration felt by many young women in the country towards Harper’s apathetical approach to women’s issues, and their desire for change.
A 24-year-old artist and university student living in Montreal, working under the alias Jessica Simps, created an Instagram account called @VOTES4NUDES and promised to send nude pictures to anyone who proved they voted. Anyone was free to send nude photos to the account, which would then be sent as a reward to voters. While Jessica didn’t directly endorse Trudeau, she did hope that voters would vote for “anyone but Harper”. She said that all the photos were created by the person in the photo, and that it was not intended as an exploitation of women’s bodies, but as a sex-positive way for women to take action and use their bodies as a resource.
The account has since been deactivated, but the last time I checked it had over 19,000 followers. There may be no correlation between social media campaigns such as that one and the fact that this election had the highest voter turnout rate since 1993 at 68.5%, but maybe there is. All we really need to know is that Canada is ready for change.
When I was asked by my staunchly Conservative father why I wasn’t voting for Stephen Harper, I said it’s because I don’t believe he cares about women, and that I don’t want to vote for someone who doesn’t care about me. This may or may not be true, but one thing that is absolutely without doubt is the fact that Justin Trudeau is a politician who cares very much about women. He wants to give us the tools and opportunities to ensure our children are properly taken care of and live above poverty.
He has promised to do his best to understand why our indigenous women are missing, and ensure that our murdered women are brought to justice. He believes it is our fundamental right to be able to make our own decisions regarding our bodies and our reproductive health. And for the first time in our modern history as Canadians, he has ensured that the voices of women will be heard equally to those of men at the highest level of government. Trudeau cares about women, and we should care about him.
Charlotte Anderson has a BAH in Film, Media, Cultural Studies and Theatre from Queen’s University in Canada, and studied at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. She currently lives in Los Angeles, and one time at work someone caught her crying while watching a YouTube video of Sarah McLachlan singing the Canadian national anthem at a hockey game.