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.
They’re talented Canadians from all walks of life, ready to bring Real Change to this country. Meet the new Cabinet: https://t.co/47uyrNvB1v
— Liberal Party (@liberal_party) November 4, 2015
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