Tag Archives: Gender

Let’s get physical, and then not: On Justin Trudeau and his cabinet

It’s quite a dance, dealing with our physical attributes. Do we acknowledge them, or not? Or when?

Since Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party won the Canadian federal election, the news, entertainment talk shows and social media have been filled with accounts of how “hot” the new prime minister is. My goodness, people have been suggesting doing some, um, intimate things with him.

It’s completely inappropriate. And can you imagine the uproar if we elected a female prime minister and social media came alive with tweets about how people would like to do unmentionable things to her?

Justin’s physical appearance is irrelevant and has nothing to do with his ability to lead our country. It should not even enter the conversation.

And then, he chose a cabinet, and he chose to make it 50% female. He also chose openly gay representatives, members of our Canadian First Nations, a Sikh and a person with a physical disability.

I trust that every one of them is capable of doing the job and is worthy of the position, but their physical attributes are still part of the conversation and, in some cases, likely swayed the decision toward inclusion in the cabinet in their favour.

There has been a lot of response to this. Most of it concerning “merit.” Something along the lines of, “Why, if we go about loading up the cabinet with women, then people of merit (white males) will be excluded”.

On the extreme flip-side, one letter to the editor in the Ottawa Citizen suggested that the 50% target might have set an artificial glass ceiling for women, as if there was a possibility that there might have been more than 50% women appointed.

Excuse me for a moment.

(HAhahahaHAhaha. HOOO. Hahahahahah. Hoo. Ha. That was a good one.)

Am I comfortable with decisions about cabinet inclusion being based on physical characteristics? No.

But decisions about cabinet inclusion have always been based on physical characteristics: white and male (preferably Christian, or at least not vocally doubtful of deity), and the decisions have always excluded people of merit (women, homosexuals, people of races other than Caucasian).

I prefer this expanded version. I like the sound of “She was appointed because she was a woman” better than “She can’t be a cabinet minister (or an MP, or even vote) because she’s a woman”. I like “He was appointed because he’s openly gay” better than “If he’s appointed it can never become public that he’s gay”. I like “He’s in cabinet because he’s First Nations” better than “No First Nations representatives will ever be elected”.

I hope that some day gender, sexual orientation, race, or physical challenges won’t be noteworthy. I hope that some day we won’t waste our valuable brain power worrying about whether a physical characteristic makes a person automatically worthy or unworthy of a position.

When asked why he appointed a cabinet composed of 50% women, Trudeau replied, “Because it’s 2015.” I would say the same answer applies to why we need to—for now—announce the target and keep it part of the conversation. “Because it’s 2015,” and 2015 still doesn’t look like gender equality. Obviously not, or we wouldn’t even be talking about this.

Keep it part of the conversation, because we still have balancing work to do. For a while longer we have to get physical to conscientiously balance out the equation. And then, I hope that someday we can let all of that go. 


Check out the diverse Canadian cabinet in Maclean’s 

Justin Trudeau’s New Cabinet


The power of girls, or why pink Kinder Eggs?

Photo by John Lypian

Photo by John Lypian Hannah Martensen throws like a girl, which is to say, better than most boys.

My daughter and I went grocery shopping yesterday. At the check-out line she picked up a Kinder Egg. A pink Kinder Egg. For girls. “I do not approve,” she said.

I don’t either. Was that really necessary? Saddest of all, though, the Kinder Egg people just created an egg that 50% (approximately) of the population will not buy. Boys won’t want to be seen eating pink Kinder Eggs. And why is that? Because our society is still broken.

In the eyes of the world, being a girl is still less than being a boy.

In March, Kaspars Daugavins, a former Ottawa Senator hockey player, tried an innovative move during a hockey shoot-out. Some people criticized the way he pushed the puck toward the net under his stick as a “ringette move.” This is harsh criticism, because girls play ringette.

Or should I say gir-uls. Two syllables. In a sing-song tone.

This morning, I saw this poem by Eve Ensler on Upworthy.com. It begins: “I think the world has essentially been brought up not to be a girl.” “What does it mean to be a boy?” she asks. Not a girl.

I, for one, am tired of it. Ti-erd. Two syllables. In an exasperated tone.

In January, a friend’s daughter gave birth to a baby girl. I sent the new parents a blue baby card. Yes, I did. Why should the colour of the card I sent even be an issue? (If anyone I know has a baby boy in future, don’t be surprised if you receive a pink card.) Let’s teach the next generation not to define themselves by a colour.

And the least we can do for the next generation of girls is to let them start life without feeling like a disappointment.

Don’t serve me first – unless I’m closest to the kitchen

I was at a wedding on the weekend. It was a beautiful affair: a traditional ceremony in a heritage church and dinner at a prestigious local hotel. I can’t say enough good things about the day, the setting and the true love that beamed from the couple as they said their vows and celebrated with loved ones.

When we sat down to dinner that evening, the servers began to deliver the soup—women first. “Really?” I thought. “Are we not past that?”

I didn’t say anything, though. Who am I to rock the boat? But by the time the main course arrived, another woman at my table noticed and said, “They’re serving women first.”

“I know,” I said. “Are we not past that?”

I don’t need to be served first.

I appreciate being paid the same as a man if I do the same work, but I don’t need to get my soup before my husband. I appreciate not being passed over for jobs because of my gender, but I don’t care about having the first crack at the salad. I like being able to walk down the street without being harassed, but I can wait for my dessert.

I don’t like discrimination, but I don’t care much for inexplicable privilege either.

They don’t decide the order of plate service by eye colour, waist measurement, the length of fingers or the size of ears. Why should gender be a deciding factor? Wouldn’t it be better if they decided to serve the people who are, oh say, closest to the kitchen?