The "Masculinity" of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

by Carte Blanche on October 23, 2015 - 12:00am

On October 19th, Justin Trudeau, age 43, got elected as prime minister of Canada and formed a majority liberal government. Like many other politicians and public figures, he too has faced many gender stereotypes and responded with other gender stereotypes. Soon after his win, the National Observer posted an article titled Justin Trudeau’s Fight For The Top online which highlighted Trudeau’s strategies and struggles throughout his campaign. The most important thing I noted here was that throughout his whole campaign, Justin Trudeau was fighting a constant battle of living up to his feminist identity while still appearing “masculine” enough to appear credible for the job of prime minister.  

 

The article begins by discussing the Conservative party’s anti-Trudeau ad campaign which seemed to be targeting Trudeau for having no other qualities other than nice hair. Having nice hair and taking care of it is not a negative thing. Yet, Harper specifically targeted his hair, bringing it up almost to question Trudeau’s masculinity. As Jackson Katz says in the documentary Touch Guise 2.0, “The day-to-day humiliation boys and young men are subject to on a daily basis in our schools borders on criminal, their every move relentlessly and brutally scrutinized for anything with even a whiff of femininity or weakness by peers who take it upon themselves to serve as gender cops,” (Katz, 11). In Trudeau’s case, Harper is being a gender cop. By commenting on his hair, Stephen attempts to make Trudeau look less masculine, questioning his credibility and insinuating that his hair is the only thing he has to win him votes. Therefore there is a suggestion that Harper is more masculine than Trudeau and that the latter is not manly enough to hold a position of power and lead a country.

 

It is important to look at how “as socially constructed identities, boys and men learn appropriate gender roles in accordance to the masculine expectations of society (“Men and Masculinities," Colorado State University). Trudeau is a publicly known feminist and was only one of the three major candidates who agreed to go to the cancelled women's issues debate that was supposed to be held by Oxfam Canada. The Conservative government may have felt threatened by the popularity of Justin’s feminist identity and felt they felt like a personal attack would be more useful to bring him down. It is through the nature of this attack on masculinity and Trudeau's response to it that we see the extent of how much masculinity is policed in our society.

 

Just as women are being judged based on unachievable beauty standards, men too are being forced to adhere to a strict body standard of having a fit and tall body so they may properly assert themselves in society. It was therefore by no coincidence that Trudeau’s boxing hobby was much talked about throughout the campaign, and his political career so much compared to a boxing match. With his opponents using his hair as a tactic to make him look feminine, it is no surprise to see that Trudeau’s boxing history was brought to public eye, to show off his masculinity and maintain his credibility, allowing him to assert his dominance in society.

 

Our society has come to a sad reality, and as much as we try deny it, men are forced into gender roles just as much as women are. We live in a society where masculinity has become a social construct that encloses men into a box which demands of them to conform to strict “masculine” behaviours such as being stoic, violent and dominant. In fact, they have been so cornered into a masculine identity that they often respond violently to any situation in order to reassert themselves. If we even just look at Harper’s case alone, we can see this. With Trudeau also running for prime minister, Harper felt threatened and responded by highlighting a conservative government standing that represents violence. His party tried to convince the population that they very much needed the laws that the conservative party was upholding in order to defend the country against terrorists and Harper was very supportive of investing in war, thus embodying a stereotypical masculine gender role to appear more credible.  

 

Regardless of the fact that Harper used Justin Trudeau’s hair to try to defame him or either of them used a typical masculine identity to help with their political popularity, there is another point of view to examine here. It is no secret that Trudeau’s good looks and hair have garnered him votes as his looks have been at the centre of discussion on social media. This brings in another facet of modern masculinity; the sexual objectification of men. Just as women are reduced to looks, such as Belinda Stronach during years 2004 to 2008, whose looks were more important to the population than the work she was doing in the parliament as Minister of Human Resources, Trudeau in this case is also being reduced to looks. Instead of appreciating the work Trudeau put into his campaign, people are focusing on his beauty.

 

To sum it up, the fact of the matter is that, masculinity is just as powerfully constructed in society as femininity and we often forget to acknowledge this when we talk about gender. Masculinity is defined by rigid standards that strongly affect men’s actions towards the world, people and politics as well as affecting the population’s understanding of the ideal male figure. It is therefore, just as important to study the male gender as the female gender if we wish to understand gender equality and it is also necessary for feminists and men’s rights advocates to work together towards a common goal of gender equality.

 

Works Cited

 

Katz,  Jackson, and Jeremy Earp. "Manhood & American Culture." TOUGH GUISE 2.0 (2013): n. pag. Media Education Foundation. 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2015. <http://www.mediaed.org/assets/products/237/transcript_237.pdf>.

Mandel, Charles. "Justin Trudeau's Fight for the Top." National Observer. National Observer, 25 Aug. 2015. Web. 22 Oct. 2015. <http://www.nationalobserver.com/2015/08/25/news/justin-trudeaus-fight-top>.

"Men and Masculinities." Women and Gender Advocacy Center. Colorado State University, n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2015. <http://www.wps.colostate.edu/men-and-masculinities>.

Comments

I chose to respond to this article because I am a big Justin Trudeau fan and with his recent victory he’s been a popular topic of conversation in the media. As mentioned in the article, Harpers campaign specifically targeted Trudeau’s hair, bringing it up almost to question his masculinity. I agree that the conservative government probably felt threatened by the Trudeau’s popularity and felt like a personal attack would have been more useful to bring him down. The attack to me is quite insulting, whether Trudeau is feminine or not, would it be a disadvantage or so bad to have a feminine prime minister? Or even a woman as a prime minister? Attacking someone based off of their gender is the same as attacking them based off of their race – irrelevant and unreflective of what they are capable of. The only thing that should come into play in politics is what a person has to offer, but unfortunately our world doesn’t work like this. Take America for example; there has never been a female president, and the first President with any racial minority, Barack Obama, was only elected in 2009. There is no way that this is just by coincidence. And even once Obama was elected, it was a huge breakthrough and was news all around the world and all this attention was because he was “America’s first black president”. This is a huge mark in history, no doubt, but my question is why should it be. This is a white privilege some of us benefit from, being able to accomplish something and do something great without being credited to our race. Was Obama elected primarily for his race? Did America feel it was finally time to make history? Were there other possible presidents who could have done a better job but were not elected because of race or gender minorities? Is our first judgment of someone really based off of who they are as a person, or factors that should be more or less irrelevant, including race and gender? Harper had no right bringing in Trudeau’s possible “femininity”, but he was highlighting it because he knows this has an effect on what himself, and others think of the person as a leader.