Facebook feminism?

Justin Trudeau proudly declares that he is a feminist Prime Minister, and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland argues that Canada has a role to “set a standard for how states should treat women, gays and lesbians, [transgender] people, racial, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious minorities and Indigenous people.” But, are Canadian politicians doing a good job of representing those who haven’t traditionally had a voice in politics? Political Scientist Jeanette Ashe (2020) argues that perhaps Trudeau’s approach to gender equality can best be described as “Facebook feminism” — focused on style over substance. Ashe says that Trudeau’s government has been only slightly better for women than the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. Thus, Ashe writes: “Canada’s Parliament is still very much a male-dominated institution, with Trudeau’s changes merely layered atop the very same structures that had excluded women and other marginalized groups under the Harper regime” (2020, 69). Many MPs and political staff report a climate of harassment in Canadian politics. In 2017, for example Environment Minister Catherine McKenna had to demand that Rebel Media reporters and her House of Commons colleague Conservative MP Gerry Ritz stop calling her “Climate Barbie“. Ashe finds that Gender Based Analysis + (GBA+), a policy tool used to identify how policies impact women and racialized minorities, is not used consistently across all government departments. Budgets continue to favour those who are already in the middle-class. In the September 2020 Speech from the Throne, the Trudeau government promised an intersectional approach to economic recovery. We should all watch closely to see how this manifests in the government’s next budget to decide whether Trudeau’s feminism is all style, no substance.

Discussion Questions

Do you think more women, trans, non-binary, and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of colour) would make a difference in Canadian politics? Use examples from the readings to support your responses.

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