On Wednesday, March 8, the world celebrated another International Women’s Day. The theme for this year was #BeBoldForChange, calling on the masses to create a more inclusive, gender-equal world for everyone. Controversy arose however, when the Prime Minister of Canada’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, suggested on social media that women celebrate their male allies. The Facebook post read:
Are you ready to ignite change? This week, as we mark International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate the boys and men in our lives who encourage us to be who we truly are, who treat girls & women with respect, and who aren’t afraid to speak up in front of others. Take a picture holding hands with your male ally & share it on social media using the hashtag #TomorrowInHand. Together, we can create a movement that inspires more men to join the fight to build a better tomorrow with equal rights & opportunities for everyone… because #EqualityMatters.
In response to the backlash she received over the post, Sophie said to media that the post was intended to encourage men, women and boys to “hold hands in the fight for equality”. Read the story here.
I’m not so narrow-minded as to have missed the point Sophie was trying to make but I have to respectfully disagree with her post. I encourage male allies to engage in conversation concerning feminism but as an influential woman, Sophie suggesting a “celebration” of male allies on International Women’s Day, was in bad taste at the very least.
If Sophie wanted to encourage men and women to hold hands in the fight, perhaps a better approach would have been to address the male audience and suggest that they hold their significant other’s hand and celebrate her accomplishments, rather than celebrate that there are men who agree with treating women like human beings.
Active users of popular social media platforms will have bore witness to the trending hashtag, #ShePersisted over the last few days. The hashtag is dubbed to be just the most recent feminist rally cry following an incident where Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced by a Republican majority Senate on Feb. 9.
Senator Warren read a letter written by Coretta Scott King during the confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, rebuked Warren’s statement and found her in violation of “Rule 19” which bars any senator from impugning the motives of any other or imputing “any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming of a senator,” according to an article in the Globe and Mail. You can watch the incident take place below.
While Senator Warren may well have been in violation of the decorum rule, it is difficult to deny that the GOP Majority Senate was being selective in who they were enforcing the rule upon as the Senate’s historian’s office was unable to say when the rule was last invoked. Even more troubling is that male senators were later reading from the same speech by Mrs. King without interference from opposing party members.
The incident begs the question: are female politicians respected in positions of power when they threaten the interests of the opposition? In this case, absolutely not.
If a male senator can read from Mrs. King’s letterwithout being in violation of “proper decorum”, but a female senator cannot, the issue becomes less about the content of the message and more about who it’s coming from. It also questions if the words of Mrs. King are taken more seriously when spoken by a man.
The silencing of Senator Warren has since resulted in an outpouring of Democratic support.
“She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” It’s doubtful that Senator McConnell would have imagined that it would be these eight words that would give rise to silenced voices everywhere and create an even stronger movement of even more persistent women.