So it’s recess, and there’s a game going on. A bunch of grinning players on one team are deliberately blocking this other guy from getting past, to delay the game starting up again. The hotheaded captain of the other team pushes through them to clear the way and hurry the guy along by the arm, and accidently elbows someone standing behind him. He comes back a minute later to apologize, but the elbowed party has already left the playground. A shouting match ensues between the captain and the first bunch of players, who are no longer grinning, because the kid that got elbowed was a girl.
Okay, a woman. In fact, it wasn’t a playground at all, but Canada’s august House of Commons; the players were the MPs that we poor sods of the electorate sent to Ottawa to make our laws and budget our tax dollars; the hotheaded captain with the offending elbow was the Prime Minister of Canada. And that’s the essence, but not the end, of Elbowgate, the Battle of Justin’s Elbow. Not since the War of Jenkins’ Ear has a body part raised such strong martial emotions.
Part of the uproar was over the fact that the PM had laid hands on the Conservative Party whip to pull him out of the scrum and get him to his seat so a contentious vote could start, thus breaking up a deliberate delaying tactic on the part of the NDP and the Conservatives. Apparently this kindergarten ploy is common and acceptable among our parliamentarians, along with the time-honoured filibuster and other games—so much for sober and reasoned debate on the taxpayers’ dime. But the major offense was that the MP who was elbowed in the boob happened to be a woman, Ruth Ellen Brosseau, NDP MP for Berthier—Maskinongé. This automatically turned the whole farrago into an gendered issue, and the hothead Prime Minister into an abuser of women.
Here’s the joke: up to this point, Trudeau seemed as close to being a potential feminist saint as any white heternormativecismale could dream of being. When asked about his appointing a cabinet that was 50% female and also ethnically diverse, he delivered the modest, aw-shucks, and now-famous answer that this was 2015. He told the World Economic Forum in Switzerland not to be afraid of the word “feminism.” He proclaimed his feminism at a UN conference in March; he announced that the next round of banknotes would feature at least one iconic Canadian woman. He vowed that he would continue proclaiming his feminism until it was no longer newsworthy, looking to a time when the culture had fully embraced the feminist mindset. A paragon of male feminism. A saint.
But in the immediate aftermath of Elbowgate, he may as well have slipped into a sweat-stained wifebeater, popped a beer, and demanded a sandwich. In a session when our elected representatives should have been debating physician-assisted dying, MP after MP stood up to deliver teary, shaken, or outraged victim-impact statements—for five hours of valuable House time, spilling over into the next day. It did not matter that the elbow was thrown by accident, though everybody knew it was. It did not matter that Trudeau had tried to apologize some thirty seconds after he was made aware of the offence, and had publicly apologized twice since. I’m not sure what more they wanted him to do—replace the damaged bosom? Immolate himself on the floor of the House, in contravention of the no-smoking rule?
In fact, there was clearly nothing the PM could ever do to satisfy his accusers. Instead, he and the rest of us were treated to an embarrassing public display of party politics in bed with—hell, in full coitus with—identity politics and political correctness. Here’s Niki Ashton, NDP MP for Churchill, Manitoba:
I am ashamed to be a witness to the person who holds the highest position in our country do such an act. I want to say that for all of us who witnessed this, this was deeply traumatic. What I will say, if we apply a gendered lens, it is very important that young women in this space feel safe to come here and work here…He made us feel unsafe and we’re deeply troubled by the conduct of the prime minister of this country.
Deepak Obhrai, PC MP for a Calgary riding, tweeted:
“A woman was assaulted in House of Commons by PM we just joined third world unruly parliaments A bad example to our young.”
Elizabeth May provided some welcome sanity, pointing out the “assault” was an accident, and calling for her colleagues to keep a sense of perspective. This was decried by her political colleagues as minimizing the trauma to Ms. Brosseau, and tantamount to condoning violence against women. Lisa Raitt, PC MP for the riding of Milton, took her to task on twitter with a link that obliquely and fallaciously equated Trudeau with the disgraced Jian Ghomeshi:
Disappointed that @ElizabethMay downplayed the event last night. Previously she said this about believing women. https://t.co/LTO9TUXgR2
Well, it’s nearly a week later, and much has been said about this stupid affair. Very, very much. To Canada’s credit, the overwhelming reaction was disgust. Disgust with the shenanigans in the House. Disgust with the hyperinflation of a molehill into a mountain. Disgust with the way the gender card and the victim card were so cynically and shamelessly played. Disgust with the boo-hooing of a bunch of full-grown elected officials. One journalist (but not only he) expressed what many Canadians were feeling about that in particular:
Every single one of these MPs should be completely ashamed of themselves for attempting to equate Wednesday’s nonsense with the brutal and life-destroying assaults experienced by Canadians every bloody day. Every single one of these MPs should go back to their ridings, and take an hour to visit an emergency room, a family court, or a woman’s shelter, and there they should look the victims in the face and try to explain how badly they were traumatized by the Prime Minister. And, assuming they’re not sociopaths, and assuming they are unable to be that shameless, they should then make a donation to the local victim support agency and pray to God their own families never have to deal with real trauma. Then come back to Ottawa and stop being so pathetically sanctimonious, or the next time the Liberals try to sneak through another procedural loophole that undermines Parliament, no one is going to give a single goddamn.
Trudeau claims to be a feminist, and I think he’s telling the truth. But he sounds to me like an equality feminist who has naively borrowed some of the trendy rhetoric of radical identity feminism, and as such he will never be a good enough feminist for the ideologically driven radfems and the SJWs. On the other hand, the OTT reaction of the opposition MPs has served to make rank-and-file Canadians thoroughly pissed off with that brand of political correctness, a negativity that will spill over onto all brands of feminism, including those that actually make life better for people. Nobody comes out of this looking good, except perhaps Elizabeth May.
And meantime—what about that bill on physician-assisted dying?