Sophie Grégoire Trudeau's off-brand, out-of-touch message -

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau’s off-brand, out-of-touch message

It’s Grégoire Trudeau’s prerogative to play the good wife in need of male affirmation—just as it’s women’s prerogative to assail her for it

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (R) and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau wave upon their arrival at the Jose Marti airport in Havana, Cuba, November 15, 2016. (Reuters)

Grégoire Trudeau and her husband in Havana last November. (Reuters)

It’s 2017. So if Sophie Grégoire Trudeau wants to post on Instagram on the eve of International Women’s Day, that’s her prerogative. It’s her right to present herself holding hands with her husband, gazing up at him adoringly, alongside a message that extolls women to post similar photos with the men in their lives as part of a new hashtag movement to “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.” It’s totally her prerogative, just as it was Emma Watson’s right to pose in any manner of dress or undress she wants in the pages of Vanity Fair to promote her new Disney film.

Of course, this being 2017, it’s also women’s prerogative to disagree, to question, even to scold, as tiresome as it may be. Thus we saw Watson lambasted for being an avowed feminist who dared exercise her choice by posing in a scant, crocheted bolero that raised unrelenting discussion about nipple air-brushing.

Similarly, Grégoire Trudeau been excoriated and defended for a stance that’s generated such Onion-worthy headlines as “For International Women’s Day, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau Wants You to Celebrate Men.”  It’s tempting to see it all as a piece of high-concept performance art on Grégoire-Trudeau’s part: a parody of Stepford-wife dependence intended to  incite discussion. Or, even stealthier: a send-up of the mercantile branding exploitation often seen on IWD, that sacred 24-hour period in which more than half of the population is given the same accord as donuts (June 2) or Hobbits (Sept. 22). In the weeks leading up to IWD, I’ve seen a flurry of PR pitches on everything from “empowering” hair extensions to offers for interviews with “feminist” wedding planners.

What actually is going on here is trickier to unbundle. Certainly Grégoire Trudeau’s assertion that sexual equality will not be achieved without full societal buy-in, both men and women, is unassailable.  It’s the same sentiment behind HeForShe, an organization Watson supports. Fittingly, Grégoire Trudeau and Watson, a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, are celebrated “BFFs”;  when the actor visited Ottawa in 2016 to attend the One Young World Summit, the two women were photographed free as the breeze on a Vespa.

(Emma Watson/Facebook)

(Emma Watson/Facebook)

Inviting men to photo-bomb IWD, however, is one bridge too far. But it’s also Grégoire Trudeau playing a long-established female role: the good wife. Decades ago, that meant greeting hubby with a martini at the end of his long work day. Now it’s collaborating on the family brand—in this case, thrusting a husband not exactly averse to Klieg lights, front and centre on a day devoted to estrogen empowerment. Certainly IWD is “feminist” PM Christmas. Yesterday, Trudeau was in the middle of a photo celebrating female chiefs of staff on the Hill. Today, he tweeted an image of in which he stood before 338 young women in the House of Commons, an event organized by Equal Voice, a group committed to advancement of women in politics. At a time female politicians comprise less than one-third of Parliament and routinely receive death threats and harassment, the incentive is vital; this week, the advocacy group released a poll that found Canadians believe we have more than enough women in politics.

In the process, Grégoire Trudeau is buttressing her husband’s feminist bona fides at the very moment they’re under attack. Only two days ago, Oxfam Canada criticized the Trudeau government for being more talk than action on women’s issues. Trudeau received heat for leveraging his feminist identity by making a roundtable about female entrepreneurship the centrepiece of his first visit to Washington, which in turn helped burnish a misogynist president as a champion of female advancement. (Today,  in a seeming rebuttal to Trump’s global aid abortion ban the PM earmarked $650 million for women’s healthcare globally.) Discontent with Trudeau “feminist” label was rumbling as long ago as last year, prompting me to write this for Maclean’s.

What makes Grégoire Trudeau’s Instagram post most perplexing, and distracting, is that it’s so off-brand: though clearly well-intended, the message comes off as smug, privileged, out-of-touch. It presumes all women have a man or men in their lives who offer support. It raises the notion that women need male affirmation to be “who we truly are.” It also makes the men the heroes of the story, as seen elsewhere this week when the manager of a trillion-dollar index fund was given props for temporarily placing a bronze statue of a defiant girl facing off against Wall Street’s famous bronze bull. His intent was noble: to highlight the corporate gender gap and make it clear he wouldn’t invest in companies that didn’t encourage female advancement. The symbolism of a young woman confronting a goring animal alone speaks for itself.

There’s no question women who have supportive men—fathers, brothers, partners, bosses—in their lives are fortunate. Yet it’s also true that many women haven’t and don’t—and become valued role models and leaders nonetheless. Recently, Sheryl Sandberg of Lean In fame acknowledged that as a happily married mother she couldn’t understand why single mothers couldn’t “lean in.” Now a widow, raising children alone, she understands (and she’s a millionaire).

So, on the one day officially sanctioned as “Women’s Day,” women on their own deserve the spotlight too. As do the many, many women who choose not to agree or to play nice or to buy into a request from a political wife to support yet one more hashtag movement. That too is our goddamned prerogative.


Sophie Grégoire Trudeau’s off-brand, out-of-touch message

  1. How be women find something useful to do rather than attack each other

    • I don’y quite grasp why you would think Kingston’s analysis is an attack. Women don’t need to agree with one another like stepford robots pre-programmed to all think alike. Critical thinking is not reductable to an attack.

      • It is Sophie’s opinion and she’s entitled to it

        Men who are concerned that Feminism means hating men, are now reassured.

        • So you are saying that Sophie is entitled to her opinion but Kingston is out of line? Some of us agree with what this article is saying. Your “tunnel vision” is upfront and center.Some one has a different opinion so they must be wrong.

          • Emily feels just like Donald Trump. The press has no right to critique the actions of Trudeau or his wife. Somehow the concept of a free press doesn’t extend to that privilege in her mind. I think she might be related to him given the way she defends everything about him.

          • Only Cons could confuse an opinion with an attack

            Get a grip

            And shame on you Gage for turning into an ass again.


          • Shame on me? Hahahaha EmilyOne. Your lack of insight into how often you turn into an ass is legendary on this site, even amongst the journalists. Man I miss Paul Wells. At least he used to put you into your place on a regular basis.

  2. Sophie Trudeau may be a “political wife”. If that is indeed the case then, like her politician husband, she has broken the mold and very much developed her own ‘style’.

    In a male that might be complimented, almost certainly in a fashionista. Trudeau displays some values of feminity that may be more ‘out of fashion’, to-day, but are nonetheless still aspects of a glorious female whole. She makes a good role model for maturing young women.

    • Typical of the Laurentian Elite. Gregoire-Trudeau knows nothing about this issue. She was born, like her entitled husband, with a silver spoon in her mouth, never worked for a $ in her life. She will never know the plight of the poor, I dare her to move out of her elite kingdom and live one month, with her just as entitled children, in the same environment as the poor people of this county. She would not last a day. I am, sick to death of her and her ilk.

      • Why would you want a poverty stricken leader?

        You NDP?

        PS Sophie is a TV host.

        • Sophie was a tv personality. As for people who aren’t used to having money, they have a lot attributes that make for good politicians. They tend to cope well as they have had practice with problems. They are financially careful. They don’t take money for granted. They can empathize with their citizens. They know how to work hard. They don’t feel entitled to waste the taxpayer’s money.

          • Poor people are poor people because they’re not that bright.

            Much like youl

          • My goodness Gage, I think you just described Donald Trump. Finally you see what he’s really about!!

          • I did not know that people who suffer illness or tragedies that can bankrupt them, are just not “bright”. People who do not have the advantage of being born to the “upper class” are not “bright”.I don’t know who or what you are but so glad I cannot relate to your beliefs.Emilyone you are truly ignorant.


            No Jerome, Trump inherited his money. He was never poor. I was talking about the fellow who started Second Cup. According to Emily he isn’t bright because he was poor and homeless but obviously he is pretty bloody bright, tenacious, hardworking and has great business sense. Emily is a snob. Given a chance, many poor people can get rich. Canada has quite a few of self-made rich people.

          • Gage,
            That’s the second time I’ve heard you call Sophie a celebrity. She was an entertainment interviewer on a non-descript Quebec based TV show like “e-talk”. Before that, she was a “personal shopper” at Holt Renfrew. Sure no celebrity by any definition I know.

    • Sophie has broken the mould…..yes….she has travelled back in time. She acts like a pretty doll on the arm of her husband. Hiliary Clinton and Michelle Obama were intelligent and didn’t try to hide it. Sophie is quite a bit like Laura Bush.

  3. By making a big deal out of Mrs. Trudeau’s eminently forgettable comment, Maclean’s magazine is indulging in trivial pursuit.

    • If I see one more picture of Sophie with her hand over her heart staring at the surfer dude, I’m going to puke!!

  4. Not all women have a ‘male ally’. What are they supposed to do?

    • Do it themselves.

      • Great idea. Too bad Sophie ignored them in her essay. That is Ms. Kingston’s entire point. This was about women. Not women with men to help them. It is International Women’s Day. It isn’t an opportunity to plug the great guy in your life because most women don’t have one and most don’t need one and we need to raise our daughters to understand they can’t count on having one.

        • Bitch, whine, complain.

          Off you go.

          • (EmilyOne, can we be friends?) Some of these comments are so obviously partisan, it is embarrassing. What if Laureen Harper had tweeted this? And if Sophie is looking adoringly at her husband, he is returning that look regularly. Kind of refreshing. It IS sad that some women do not have any strong men in their lives, so yes, they will have to buck up and do it themselves with help from their women friends and family. Anne Kingston’s blurb, was in fact, (and I quote) tiresome. Pissing and moaning……

          • You want to be friends with Emily? Hahahahahahahhahhahahahhahhahahahahhahahahahahahhahahahahahhahhahahaha. You are new here, aren’t ya?

          • Aw, Em….you dish it out but you can’t take it. I can’t believe you seriously think you can take on Anne Kingston. You are sooo out of your league.

        • Gage, some women may not have a strong man in their life but many do. Some of us actually live in partnerships where we support each other in life – that may be a partnership with a man or a woman. Some of us aren’t in a partnership but have other strong men in our lives – brothers, fathers, sons, friends.
          Sophie never said you have to have a male ally in your life but that, if you do, you should celebrate it and them.

          • Thank you for the lecture. I have been married for 31 plus years to a fabulous man but that isn’t what International Women’s Day is about. It is about the woman that Jian Ghomeshi bent over a desk at work at the CBC and ground his pelvis into her backside and got away with it for years. It is about the fact that women make far less than what men make because what women do isn’t valued. It is about the fact that only 5 out of 1000 sexual assaults that are prosecuted have a positive outcome. It is about the fact that women are outperforming men in university so some idiots are actually proposing having a special lower entrance requirement for men. It is about the fact that the POTUS admitted to grabbing attractive women by the pu&&y and still got votes from women who didn’t think it mattered that he admitted to inappropriate sexual misconduct. It is about in Russia they have made it legal to beat your wife. I am really glad you and Sophie have a great husband to hold hands with but International Womens’ Day is about the 3 million women who had the balls to march against a sexual predator leading the USA. END of story. It isn’t about what any man does. It is about empowering women so they don’t have to count on any man or anybody because they might be in it alone.

    • That male ally doesn’t have to be a husband – it can be anyone you know who supports equal rights for women. Most women without a partner still know other men.
      Sophie’s point was that we should give kudos to people who help women get ahead no matter what their gender. When a man ensures that qualified women get appointed to a board of directors he sits on, that should be noted as an example for others to follow. When a woman is hired in a company to do a job that she’s qualified for, the man who hired her should step forward and let others know it’s a positive move.
      Yes, women can stand up for themselves in a lot of situations but isn’t it better, when you get to a closed door, to have someone help you open it? If that ‘someone’ is male, that should be acknowledged and shown to others, male and female, so they can help open doors too. You can try to break down the door or wait until there’s a woman on the other side to help you open it but wouldn’t it be better if whoever’s on the other side helps you get through?

      • Okay…it’s great to have a male ally but this is about International Women’s Day….celebrating Women…celebrating your female ally or allies…the day isn’t about celebrating men in any way, shape or form. Do you know why? Men get celebrated every damm day because there is no gender equality. So let women have their one lousy day. That is the point. If Sophie can’t celebrate her daughter or her mother or the other women who have helped her and whom she will help….then that is truly sad because this day happens once a year and she gets a voice. Most women don’t.

        • Gage,
          I can’t believe that you said, “It is about the fact that women make far less than what men make because what women do isn’t valued.” The recent study which showed that for every $1.00 Canadian males made, Canadian females made $0.87. And it clearly said that was because women were over represented in lower paying jobs while men were over represented in higher paying jobs. But, also that the gap had narrowed by 10% since last measured. The most understandable example they could give was that while this was continuing to shift, in the medical profession, women still dominated nursing and men dominated doctoring. And I think you’d have to agree that a doctor is required to put in many more years in school and in residency that a nurse does. This has nothing to do with not not valuing what a nurse does, but their role carries with it less education and risk. I hope you also don’t believe that a woman performing the same job at the same level of performance, gets paid less than a man doing that job. That would be B.S. as well-that’s a Human Rights’ Commission violation!

    • DS Barcclay

      You say, not all women have a male ally. What are they supposed to do? The answer is, Borrow one!

      “There’s no question women who have supportive men—fathers, brothers, partners, bosses—in their lives are fortunate. Yet it’s also true that many women haven’t and don’t—and become valued role models and leaders nonetheless.” (Anne Kingston)

      Not that I’ve noticed (that women can be successful without men). It’s a vicious circle that women get into, whereby if they manage to get ahead, with the support of men, they will expect the same of other women coming up through the ranks. In other words, jumping through the hoops becomes a necessity.

      Sophie recognizes the value of men, though I’m not sure she chose the right place to endorse them.

      As for DS Barclay’s question, I guess the answer is that one has to reconcile with not making it to an advanced position in life, but trying in other ways to use one’s knowledge and talents and skills to find meaning in life. Not great, but an alternative path.

  5. The Muslim loving husband of Sophie’s has just set women’s equality back about 40 years!! She should have talked to us strong women who are proud to not have to have a man validate us who have worked damned hard to get where we are and don’t take crap, but then again she would probably have to ask permission from blunder boy Iman Justin Trudeau!! And what is with that high school hair and actions!! OMG!!

    • Sophie’s comment was warm and inclusive. Why wouldn’t men want to also celebrate the women in their life? They have partners, mothers, daughters, friends who are women.

      Maybe she did say it to help her husband’s falling ratings. So what? They love each other, and I believe Justin would do the same if the show was on the other foot. I like that fact that Sophie doesn’t easily fit into people’s preconceived little boxes of what a woman should say or do, She’s her own woman, and isn’t that what women’s day is all about?

      • Saving your husband’s political ass is another day…Election Day. It isn’t International Women’s Day. Now we know the difference between Sophie and Michelle Obama. Michelle was Barrack’s mentor in a law firm. Sophie is a dipsh*t display doll. No wonder Sophie needs more assistants and nannies. They need to be on hand to tell her what to do.

        • Gage G

          What’s with the anti-feminist diatribe? Women who choose to stay home (or end there anyway) raising a family, shouldn’t be treated as inferior or stupid. that’s one thing that’s wrong with feminism. Or perhaps IWD is only for celebrating a certain kind of woman.

          In an earlier post you mentioned Ghomeshi and Donald Trump – their attitudes towards women. But the truth is, whether men are obvious about their hostility or preferences, or whether they use more subtle means to keep women under their thumb, doing what men like to do best, women still have to find a way through it all. For some, being married may be the answer. For others, forming relationships with men outside of marriage, temporary or longterm, suits them best. Others would just as soon do without, all their lives or after a time of living with the various options available to them.

          Good for Sophie for doing her bit for IWD, the ways she sees it, and has experienced it. What a shame more Canadian women haven’t done as much as Sophie has, raising a new generation.

  6. This article is an egregious miscasting of Sophie’s comments. Those not prone to be mean-spirited would realize she was promoting gender equality — which is what it’s all about, now isn’t it?

    • OKJ01

      Yes, she appeared to be treating men as the same as women. People are right, though. Her experience of life is probably not the same as most. For women to get ahead in their careers, it takes more than holding hands with a helpful man.

      Women like to pretend they are independent even when they know their luck has depended on their relationships with men. So siding with other women who have experienced the same makes sense on this day, even though underlying it is a lot of frustration, hiding the truths of the relationships and having to tolerate men’s bad behaviour – up to a certain point, as we learned from the story of Trump and the gal on the airplane.

  7. The problem with being an icon of Canada’s political left is that it has become impossible to be politically correct enough.

    The left spends so much misguided energy in pursuit defining their view of moral perfection that no human can navigate their way through all the expectations, pronouns and obligations.