He was the guest of honour at the Toronto all-women event that promised, according to its poster, “Cocktails, candid conversation and curiosity-inducing ideas.” The poster also promised to address issues “facing women today.” Critics took to Twitter using the hashtag #askjustin to condemn the event as “patronizing.”
One tweet by Conservative MP Wai Young read, “Trudeau Liberal ‘ladies’ fundraiser is disgraceful. ‘Ladies’ want real policies like all Canadians, not to be patronized and put in a box.”
Lindsey MacKay, a third-year STU student and Trudeau fan, said the backlash was unreasonable.
“Being in the public eye, especially as a political figure, is hard because no matter what you do, no matter what you say, it’s always going to be taken in a different context,” said MacKay. “This was probably all in good fun.”
Hannah Gray said there’s a line between having fun and being dismissive. The fourth-year sociology student thinks efforts should be made to include women in politics, but not by separating them from the rest of the population.
“Somehow women’s issues have become separate from issues in general and issues that affect all of us,” said Gray. “When you have this idea of women’s issues, you’re taking over 50 per cent of the population and you’re saying that what matters to them doesn’t matter to all of us.”
Trudeau himself said the ad for the “ladies’ night” was supposed to be interpreted as “tongue-in-cheek,” as reported by The Toronto Star. He said negative feedback is the necessary by-product of creative campaigning. The two women who organized the event had to defend it before it even started.
One organizer, Amanda Alvaro, tweeted, “Get a grip, people. It’s an evite, not a platform. Reading WAY too far into it. Truly curious about the content? Join us tonight #askjustin.”
MacKay thought Trudeau was just targeting the female audience as a smart political move. She thinks he’s cultivating his popular image as a heartthrob for votes.
“He’s looking at what his largest audience is that he’ll get the most votes from, which is ladies,” said MacKay. “Women like an attractive guy.”
However, political campaigning aside, some felt the implications in the poster and the event itself trivialized the needs of women as gender-specific and negligible in the face of larger political issues. Gray said problems affecting women affect everyone.
“These issues are not women’s issues. These issues are human rights issues. These issues are human issues. These are issues that affect all Canadians, just not all Canadians recognize them,” said Gray.
Many thought the ladies night implied women are more interested in cocktails than the economy.
One tweeter said, “Will women be allowed to vote with a pink pen in the next election?”