Our Prime Minister was busy this week, with feminism and firepower

It was all, of course, very middle class

Rex Murphy
More from Rex Murphy

It’s been a busy week for our itinerant celebrity prime minister. It started with an evening of feeble jokes and strong music at the Junos, a chance to mix with that portion of Canada’s music royalty that have not permanently set up shop in L.A. He probably used the occasion, as he does all others, to chat up feminism, offer a few nuggets on diversity and strength, and refresh hosts Bryan Adams and Russell (“a felony waiting to happen”) Peters on intersectionality. All very middle class.

It more or less ended with a star appearance at the Women in the World Global Summit in New York and the opportunity to exchange appreciative gushes with Tina Brown, Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin, Chinese billionaire Zhang Xin, Scarlett Johansson, Queen Latifah, Sarah Jones, Diane von Furstenberg and Arianna Huffington. If the middle class were afforded a glance at that lineup it would have thought it was staring in a mirror.

To say he was a hit is pure understatement. The fashion press – Vogue, Elle, Huffington Post – was in full swoon mode, as were most of the attendees, one of the latter capturing the rapture with this observation: “He’s tailor-made for a conference like this. He checks every box you could want, except for actually being a woman.” And with “gender roles” being revised it seems every minute these days, who’s to say that by next year he (she) won’t be able, even eager, to tick off that box too.

Angela Weiss/Agence-France PressePrime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau speaks with Journalist Tina Brown at the Eighth Annual Women In The World Summit at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on April 6, 2017 in New York City.

Just as a side-note on that very point – how much longer, in a world of porous and mutable gender identities, will a conference like Women in the World conference be tenable? Is “women,” under the new protean understanding of gender, an “exclusionist” label? Then too, if it is only women attending a women’s conference, where is the diversity?  These are deep questions.

The Prime Minister received praise as well for combating the idea “that the feminist movement is female-centric movement,” a proposition which before this week I would have thought the purest tautology. Evidently, as a report in People makes clear, feminism is (also) “beneficial to men and masculinity in itself” and having a “man in power” tell women that was just “great.”

Trudeau had a wonderful sit-down with the woman who colourized the venerable New Yorker, and attenuated the academic turn of Vanity Fair, Tina Brown. Brown, as noted by many, is an “acerbic” interviewer, proof of which came in her very first question to the feminist Prime Minister: “How does it feel to be cast as world’s big new superhero?”  There are not many politicians who could wiggle off a hook that barbed. But Trudeau is a rhetorical Houdini. He responded with a deft verbal shimmy on the “importance of listening,” which won smiles all around while leaving the question about his superhero status entirely unmolested.

Jewel Samad/Agence-France PresseCanada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (L) shakes hands with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres before a meeting at the UN headquarters in New York on April 6, 2017.

Something of a shadow fell over the sweet accord of Women in the World with the intrusion of actual world affairs. The chemical bombing of Syria started to steal from the event. Trudeau responded to question on Syria Thursday afternoon by saying he was in some doubt as to the origins of the attack: “There are continuing questions about who is responsible for these horrible attacks against civilians, and that’s why I’m pressing on the (United Nations Security Council) to pass a strong resolution that allows the international community to determine first of all who was responsible for these attacks before we move forward.”

However, by Friday morning, following President Donald Trump’s strike against Assad, the thirst for investigation over responsibility, and the need to press the Security Council, had evaporated. He supported Trump’s move, plainly saw Assad as the villain, and offered a much invigorated response to the Syrian atrocity: “These gruesome attacks cannot be permitted to continue operating with impunity.”

The Junos, the Women in the World, and Syria – a busy week for the Prime Minister. Feminism and firepower. The only element missing, and the one I’m sure the world would really like to hear about, was whether he had a one-on-one with feminist-in chief, Hillary Clinton, and what he might have had to offer on her most recent complaint that “misogyny” was a primary factor in her last failed smack at the glass ceiling.

Plus, it might be fun to know what changed his stance overnight from restraint until investigation to full endorsement of missiles into Syria.



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