Justin Trudeau, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, has been surfing on a wave of popularity.He seems to be the leader that the Liberal Party has been waiting for, bringing the party back from the brink of irrelevance.
Dynamic, strong and friendly, he has come to embody the whole party in media coverage. Trudeau’s mistakes have become the party’s mistakes, and his monopoly on the party’s image backfired several times, as with the poorly-timed jokes on ISIS, and, more recently, an article in Chatelaine magazine.
Chatelaine is a lifestyle magazine primarily targeting women and features healthy recipes, home décor, beauty tips, and fashion. On Oct. 16, Carol Toller met Trudeau at his house and interviewed him. The article, featuring numerous lovely pictures of the Trudeau’s family, is sweet and bright, extensively describing the joyful atmosphere—photos on the fridge—and women’s “ideal” candidate. “An article so sweet and delicious you could put it on the end of a stick and roast it over a campfire,” as pundit Rex Murphy described.
What this article actually ends up doing is confusing an attractive candidate with a good one. But, most importantly, it is implying that somehow women are ready to vote for a man whose main quality seems to be fatherhood—a conclusion as poorly-timed as Trudeau’s jokes on ISIS.
Trudeau’s strong stance on abortion policy and the right of women’s choice over their bodies was certainly a powerful message, and portrayed the candidate as women-friendly. But is he? The previous November “Justin Unplugged” fundraiser happened in an atmosphere of a patronizing, stereotypical ladies’ night. “Who are your real life heroes?” seemed to be the kind of question women would ask their favourite candidate. And, no matter how powerful his stance on abortion is, emphasis on it can also be seen as treating women as a uniform voting block. But the Chatelaine’s article was the icing on the cake. A woman’s grievances are not limited to her grievances as a mother, sister, or daughter—they extend far beyond. What about the economy, domestic issues and Canada’s foreign policy? “Is Justin Trudeau the candidate women have been waiting for?” unfortunately seems to portray women as superficial voters, overly concerned with family issues and prone to easily forget Trudeau’s recent mistakes. It infantilizes them, and looks overly demagogic and blends with other Liberal failures to look like a women-friendly party.
Canada is still struggling to achieve gender equity in politics. In July 2013, it ranked 46th worldwide on gender equality in politics. An ideal candidate would try to address these issues. Trudeau should probably be careful in his choice of interviews and avoid magazines like Chatelaine, which would certainly deliver a pretty, but substance-less portrayal. The mistake is both on the magazine and on Trudeau. Women’s votes are plural, opinionated, diverse, and complex. They are as serious as men’s votes, and certainly not so easily influenced by a sugary article. Now, more than ever, is the time to address both the gender gap in politics the issues with media representation of women as voters. In the wake of recent campaigns, featuring #Consent-McGill, Emma Watson’s speech at the United Nations, and Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Prize, the Chatelaine article does not serve to seek gender equity for women.