I’ll be honest, I used to be a Sophie Grégoire Trudeau fangirl. I coveted her wardrobe (hit me up Jessica Mulroney!), her yogi lifestyle, her activism… to be honest pretty much everything about her (minus that India debacle). I was a fan, that is, until I took a long, hard look at one important thing: her feminism.
I recently had the chance to hear Grégoire Trudeau talk on that very subject at Women’s Forum Canada, an annual summit that draws female leaders from across the world to tackle issues such as gender equality and women’s empowerment, and to discuss ways women can influence global issues—including the agenda of the upcoming G7 summit. But, instead of talking about what women can do to empower each other, Grégoire Trudeau spent most of her time talking about… men.
Rather than talking about the importance of female leadership, she talked about toxic masculinity and its harmful effects on boys. While girls are free to be vulnerable, she said, men don’t have the same emotional outlets as women. “When you ask the boys if they have someone they can be that raw and real with, do you think they raise their hands?” Grégoire Trudeau asked. “Not a lot of them do.”
“We have to acknowledge that a lot of boys and men on this planet are living in a toxic bubble [of masculinity],” Grégoire Trudeau said. “If we teach the men in our lives that it’s okay to be vulnerable, and that we actually invite that… when [do] they ever hear this kind of language in their daily lives?”
Here’s the thing: Grégoire Trudeau isn’t wrong. Toxic masculinity does hurt boys. But the event was supposed to be about #girlpower, and to me, her comments felt seriously out of place.
Her idea of “girl power” means taking care of men
All I heard was Grégoire Trudeau telling women that it’s our responsibility to lift men up. While I agree that in order to attain gender equality, men and women have to work together, according to Grégoire Trudeau’s comments, it’s women who are expected to do the heavy lifting. And this isn’t the first time she shared this problematic view.
Are you ready to ignite change? This week, as we mark International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate the boys and men in our lives who encourage us to be who we truly are, who treat girls & women with respect, and who aren’t afraid to speak up in front of others. Take a picture holding hands with your male ally & share it on social media using the hashtag #TomorrowInHand. Together, we can create a movement that inspires more men to join the fight to build a better tomorrow with equal rights & opportunities for everyone… because #EqualityMatters. Êtes-vous prêtes à faire des étincelles pour allumer un changement ? Cette semaine, à l’occasion de la Journée internationale des femmes, célébrons les garçons et les hommes qui nous encouragent à être qui nous sommes vraiment, qui traitent les filles et les femmes avec respect et qui n’ont pas peur de parler haut devant les autres. Prenez une photo main dans la main avec votre allié et diffusez-la dans les médias sociaux avec le mot-clic #DemainEnMains. Ensemble, nous pouvons susciter un mouvement qui incitera davantage d’hommes à lutter avec nous pour des lendemains meilleurs, l’égalité des droits et des chances pour tous … parce que l’#Égalitécompte.
For International Women’s Day last year, Grégoire Trudeau shared an Instagram post of her holding hands and smiling up at her husband. “This week as we mark International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate the boys and men in our lives who encourage us to be who we truly are, who treat girls & women with respect, & who aren’t afraid to speak up in front of others,” she captioned the pic. Grégoire Trudeau then encouraged her followers to post a photo with their male allies—and people were not happy. She received immediate pushback for her message, with many saying she’d missed the point of the day entirely by detracting from a celebration of womanhood to acknowledge men for something they should be doing anyway: supporting women.
She has a voice, but she doesn’t really use it
Grégoire Trudeau is a powerful force within Canada, and a woman that others—including myself—look up to. Her words carry weight; she has a platform where she can help change conversations around gender inequality and sexism. As someone who can speak out for women on a world stage (and be taken seriously), what she says matters.
At the Women’s Forum, her appearance was one of the event’s biggest draws, and she had a real chance to start an important feminist conversation, but in my opinion, she missed the mark. Yes, like she said, boys do deserve better, and there’s no doubt that society needs to address toxic masculinity. The recent Toronto van attack, which left 10 people dead and 16 injured, introduced many to incels—a misogynistic movement that believes women are to blame for men’s involuntary celibacy. But there’s a time and a place to discuss how women can help men, and an important event dedicated to empowering women is not it. Women already have such limited access to space: in academia, the business world, the political sphere, essentially any realm. To have Grégoire Trudeau—a self-proclaimed feminist with a husband who has made feminism a defining aspect of his government—use events meant to celebrate female leadership as a platform to discuss fragile masculinity is disappointing, to say the least. Hearing her talk about how women can support men instead of each other perpetuates an old-fashioned idea about women’s roles as caregivers, and doesn’t feel true to the spirit of these events—or the spirit of Grégoire Trudeau’s own work.
There are moments in life that are heart altering. Yesterday in India, I stopped by Sophia College for Women to talk about how we can empower more women and girls to succeed. I also visited with the Dasra group on the Prevention of Violence and Abuse, and heard stories that touched me profoundly. It was truly moving to meet these amazing young women, who are pushing forward, overcoming challenges and finding hope with such courage and kindness. Certains moments de la vie nous touchent droit au cœur. Hier, en Inde, je me suis arrêtée au Sophia College for Women pour discuter des façons d’aider plus de femmes et de filles à réussir. J’ai aussi visité le groupe Dasra, voué à la prévention de la violence et des abus, et j’y ai entendu des histoires qui m’ont bouleversée. Ce fut vraiment émouvant de rencontrer ces jeunes femmes incroyables qui vont de l’avant, surmontent les obstacles et trouvent de l’espoir avec tant de courage et de bonté.
I wish she would talk more about the work she *actually* does
Grégoire Trudeau’s brand of feminism is even more frustrating because it completely contradicts the work she actually does—work that largely does focus on empowering women. In addition to her role as national ambassador for PLAN Canada’s “Because I Am A Girl” initiative, she’s a spokesperson for Shield of Athena, a non-profit organization that helps women and children dealing with domestic violence. A self-declared “advocate for change” for the betterment of women globally, Grégoire Trudeau should be commended for her work. But, it’s hard to celebrate her good deeds when there’s such a discrepancy between her real-life activism and her seemingly anti-feminist comments. Her remarks overshadow her activism, and that’s a problem.
Instead, I wish Grégoire Trudeau would use her platform to actually celebrate women, and to talk more about our accomplishments and strength—and less about how it’s our job to uplift men.
FLARE Was There: Canada’s First-Ever Women in the World Summit
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau’s Message for Men on International Women’s Day
All the Times Ivanka Trump, ‘Supporter of Women in Science,’ Has Tried to Play Us