Everyday sexism

Trudeau’s gender-balanced cabinet is causing a flood of male tears

Panicked calls for ‘meritocracy’ by pundits show sexism is alive and well in Canada
Photo: Todd Smith

Last week we watched our ever-smiling new Prime Minister make true on his promise of gender parity in his cabinet. But we barely had time to bask in the warm glow of new-found hope in this country before the concerned white men came out in droves to ask the important questions.

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“But what about merit?” they asked in sombre tones and rhetorically alarmist column headlines all across the country. “What if we’re choosing gender over competence?” they wondered, deep worry lines forming on their foreheads. There is something astonishing and yet completely predictable about a group of people so unaware of their own privilege suddenly questioning the merit of a 50/50 cabinet, when it never occurred to them to do so when it was once comprised of 80 per cent men. That gender parity (true political representation of this country’s population) should elicit such concern over whether these appointments were merit-based or simply “pandering to feminists” is undeniable proof that, despite many advances, sexism is still deeply entrenched in the way we live our lives.

“But we’re equal. We’ve been equal for decades. Women need to stop playing the victims, constantly complaining about non-existent problems. Men are now at a disadvantage.”

The ones declaring that equality has been achieved and that we should go ahead and pick another fight to focus on are always older, white men, and the occasional older white female, often cherry-picked by conservative newspaper management to agree with them and validate their archaic thinking.

The rest of us see a different reality where women continue to be marginalized, victimized, and constantly questioned as legitimate contenders for anything of value. Don’t believe me? Here’s a quick recap of this week’s news in Canadian media.

A few days ago, the Quebec Liberal MNA for Charlevoix-Côte-de-Beaupré, Caroline Simard, was attending a fundraiser when a local businessman groped her in public, during a photo opp. When she confronted Daniel Guay, vice-president for Tourisme Charlevoix, he laughed it off and told her he knew her mother. Apparently knowing someone’s mom gives you the green light to feel up a woman’s breasts — even if she’s your local MNA.

I supposed I shouldn’t be that surprised. With women in our society being constantly sexualized and infantilized, why would the political world be any different? It’s worth noting that Guay won’t be sanctioned by Tourisme Charlevoix, because when he’s not extolling the beauty of Quebec’s fiords and culinary delights for out-of-province tourists it’s perfectly reasonable that he’s groping random females. “Boys will be boys,” amirite?

Now let’s shift our attention to this country’s most marginalized segment; missing and murdered Indigenous women. It says something about this country’s collective denial when the recent commendable decision by Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose to support a MMIW inquiry feels like cause for celebration and a tremendous step forward. Shouldn’t the question be what took the Conservatives so damn long?

In 2011, RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford, who used to be the face of the Missing Women Task Force, revealed that both RCMP and Vancouver Police Department officers engaged in sexual liaisons and harassment, and referred to the women they were investigating as “f---ing whores.” She said she was constantly sexually harassed and bullied by some RCMP officers.

Four years later, the recent Val d’Or sexual abuse allegations and the police response are enough to make us question whether any progress has been made.

But, wait. There’s more.

Just this morning the Federal Court of Canada barred one of its judges from hearing any cases involving sexual conduct, pending the outcome of a review by a judges’ disciplinary body of his handling of a rape case in 2014. The review could lead to the first recommendation for the removal of a federally-appointed judge since 2009.

While questioning the alleged victim of a washroom rape, a homeless 19-year-old woman whom the accused man outweighed by 100 pounds, Justice Robin Camp asked: “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?”

A young and vulnerable woman finds the courage to file rape charges and publicly speak of being thrown over a sink and sexually assaulted and the judge appointed asks her why she didn’t just… keep her knees together.

Is it too much to expect that federal judges, who, I might add, make $308,600 annually, don’t mock and undermine a rape victim by asking a question that victimizes her all over again?

But let us not forget the fantastic news, provided by multiple commentators in online threads this week, that sexism has finally been eradicated in Canada. Who knew?

Just last week I had an angry radio listener text in to tell me to “stop with the constant victimization talk of women because” (and I quote) “I’m sick of you FemiNazis.” The topic? Workshops in universities that help prevent rape. I can totally understand why he felt threatened by such radical anti-male stuff.

This week, my CJAD radio colleague Robyn Flynn had to contend with an internet troll creating a fake Twitter account just to harass her. He proceeded to call her a “dumb btch”, a “lying cnt”, and a “fat, ugly b*tch.” Her crime? She produces and co-hosts a radio show about hockey. God forbid women enter the traditionally male-occupied territory of sports reporting and not be put in their place.

This is just a typical week in Canada. Nothing extraordinary about it, I’m afraid. Ordinary sexism, ordinary denial. Do what you will with the information. I wouldn’t want to presume it should shock and disturb you, or that it might lead you to pander to a feminist like me.

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