Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau made a social media post Tuesday night urging women to celebrate men who promote gender equality- just a few hours before the start of International Women’s Day. Sharing the above photo of herself holding hands with her husband, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, she called for women to celebrate the men in their lives by taking a photo of them holding hands with their male counterparts and sharing it on social media.
Critics are pointing out this completely undermines the whole idea of International Women’s Day.
“I am puzzled,” Facebook user Bibi Ebel wrote, “There are so many things that can be done to celebrate women and yet the call goes out to celebrating men. Allies and unity are crucial, but so is womanhood...364 days a year I am all up to holding hands with my favourite men and creating partnerships and alliances that will support equality. But today I don’t want to celebrate men. I want to remember all the women who protested against not being able to vote, talked about unequal pay, stood up to the society protecting our rights and freedoms.” That is the top comment from Gregoire-Trudeau’s post, with over 1000 likes to show solidarity.
The second top comment, with more than 500 likes, was equally critical.
“Ugh, really!?! Don’t we already celebrate men enough?? Do we really need to make International WOMENS Day about the men in our lives??? This seems to really miss the whole point,” wrote user Kristina Kurth Benoit. Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Michelle Rempel echoed the sentiment, sharing on Twitter: “I’ve never had to have my hand held.”
There has been support for the #TomorrowInHand movement online though, with some genuine posts of women with their sons or husbands amid much of the satire. I actually laughed out loud at a recent post of a young woman made of herself and her vibrator in hand. Late last night, Gregoire-Trudeau responded to the debate generated from her post:
“Well, now we’re having a conversation! Thanks to everyone for your feedback and pics! Love it. Our goal is gender equality, and fighting for it is going to require men and women working together--raising our boys and girls to make a difference, hand-in-hand. This is about recognizing that we should be allies on this journey. I look forward to talking more about this tomorrow at events with Plan International Canada and Equal Voice.”
I can understand where Gregoire-Trudeau is coming from. Women’s rights and the fight for equality can go nowhere without support from all genders. Although her heart is in the right place, International Women’s Day is the one thing that shouldn’t be made about men. The purpose of International Women’s Day is pretty self-explanatory; it’s right there in the title. It’s a day to celebrate women, women’s rights, and all the strong and brave women from all over the world who fought to get us where we are. It’s not that complicated. The fact that Gregoire-Trudeau still wants to make sure men don’t feel left out is pretty insulting.Sophie, we love your husband, we really do. We know Justin Trudeau is a feminist; it’s great. In a world where people are still arguing about what feminism is about, it’s refreshing and downright amazing that a country’s leader is willing to take a stand on such a crucial issue. But you could have done so much better. We should be taking pictures holding hands with a woman who has inspired us. There are plenty of choices, whether they be figures in history or personal heroes. Everyone I know has a woman in their life who has encouraged them to be who they are, to speak their thoughts without fear. We should be sharing pictures with female role models who teach others to treat girls and women with respect, someone who isn’t afraid to stand up for women everywhere. It’s awesome that Justin Trudeau meets those requirements, but today isn’t about men. It’s supposed to be about women.
As an ambassador for Plan Canada’s Because I Am a Girl, a campaign aimed at empowering youth to stand up for girls’ rights and gender equality, I expected more from Gregoire-Trudeau. Her call to action demonstrates an internalized misogyny from which so many women still suffer.
Society has taught us that we shouldn’t sing our own praises and focus on what’s good for women, but that we need to ensure we appear humble and include everyone. That’s fine. Graciousness and acknowledgment of others’ involvement and work should not only be encouraged, but should be mandatory in many aspects of society. But specifically International Women’s Day? We get ONE day a year, and you want to bring focus to the men in our lives? Gregoire-Trudeau basically “All Lives Matter”-ed the one day a year that is supposed to be completely about the thousands of kick-ass women who have fought and continue to fight for equality. As one user online pointed out: Nothing says celebrating women, like celebrating men.
Women do this sort of thing all the time: trying to “have it all” and not complain; not putting themselves up for raises or promotion; trying to compromise everything to make sure all team members get the spotlight; even their own holidays. This kind of thinking is detrimental to the women’s movement. Equality matters, but women all over the world still don’t have the same rights as men. We’re still experiencing the gender wage gap, women still do the majority of housework and childcare, there is a disparity in insurance coverage, or even debates on reproductive rights. We should absolutely appreciate and love our allies, but by centering a Women’s Day campaign around thanking men implies that women need men in order to achieve the same social status or success. Reality check: they don’t. Sending a message that men should be thanked just for believing that women are equal and deserve basic rights and autonomy is pretty insulting. Men don’t deserve extra love for believing that women are just as capable as men. If anything, we should be giving those gold stars to the young girls who are forced to navigate a world with a million rules for how they should look, behave, and think.
Men have 364 days a year, and, I don’t know, something like the past 2,000 years of patriarchy from which to celebrate. Do we really need to be celebrating them on International Women’s Day too?