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‘Feminist’ PM Justin Trudeau Schools The World On How To Raise Boys In A Patriarchal World

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By Shambhavi Saxena

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks about a Saskatchewan school shooting during a news conference in Davos, January 22, 2016. At least five people were killed and two people were injured in a school shooting in La Loche, Saskatchewan, on Friday, Trudeau said. A student was in custody, the aboriginal chief in the remote area told Canadian media. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich - RTX23M5A
Source: REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

“We shouldn’t be afraid of the word ‘feminist’. Men and women should use it to describe themselves anytime they want,” said Justin Trudeau, as the audience at Davos World Economic Forum broke into hoots and applause. We’ve heard this before, from Malala Yousafzai, from Emma Watson, Beyoncé, Ellen Page, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Louise Brealy, and John Legend. Every time someone, as well-known as they are, has made this point, there’s a sizeable dent in the patriarchy-sized wall we’ve been trying to smash so long. But if I had a dollar – or a British Pound, I hear it’s doing better – for every time a politician made this statement, well, let’s say I’d be eating a cheap breakfast, because feminist politicians are hard to come by.

Justin Trudeau on feminism

"We shouldn't be afraid of the word feminist. Men and women should use that to describe themselves, any time they want."Justin Trudeau gives his thoughts on feminism in 2016.

Posted by Channel 4 News on Friday, January 22, 2016

Trudeau’s election was a special one from the beginning. He kicked off his campaign at the Vancouver Pride Parade. And when he did win, he brought in an ethnically diverse and gender-balanced cabinet of ministers. And last Friday, he boldly embraced feminism, personally and politically. But what’s most important about his Davos speech is what came before that.

He talks about how he wants to raise his sons “to be feminists like dad,” and that it was his wife Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, who brought up the issue in the first place. Feminist parent duo to raise feminist daughter and sons? Yes, please!

But can we just talk about feminist dads for a second. These are guys who are taking ‘fatherhood’ (which has stood at the helm of patriarchy for so long) by the lapels and saying “no, we won’t do it the old way anymore.” Male feminists (I use the prefix ‘male’ only to highlight an identity and experience that is different from women’s) recognize the privileges they hold over women as a violation of the principle of equality and justice, and who won’t stand for it. And feminist dads? Well, they’ll show their kids that another type of man is possible, another type of fatherhood is possible. They also show their kids how to be decent human beings, not because you’ll get a cookie for it, but because that’s who you should be.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt spoke to Ellen DeGeneres once about how his mother’s feminist parenting had taught him to look more critically at the way gender inequality operates in this world. Those of us with feminist parents will certainly relate to the experience as more connected and organic than seeking information out of books. Our parents have always been our first windows to the world, and for them to be politically conscious about equality for all genders, for all people, well that can only do us a world of good.

One always feels like feminists are doomed to minority status, that we were greatly outnumbered by all the misogynist creeps of the world. And maybe we still are. But just as one may find comfort in the massive history of our struggle, it’s also comforting to know that our comrades in arms include public figures like Terry Crews, Mark Ruffalo, Patrick Stewart and now, Canada’s Prime Minister.

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  1. Jigsaw

    I find it funny when feminists talk about male privilege, when all the political, social, and legal privileges have been handed to women. Below are just a few of them.

    1. Women are rescued first from sinking ships and burning buildings.
    2. Seats are reserved for women on buses.
    3. The media only focuses on women’s issues.
    4. World’s most dangerous jobs are worked by men, safest by women.
    5. News channels announce deaths of ‘women’ and children.
    6. Juries discriminate against men in domestic violence disputes.
    7. Women have special quotas in the political scenario and corporate world.
    8. Women receive lighter sentences for the same crimes committed by men.
    9. Child custody is given to women is divorce courts, in the majority of cases.
    10. Men have to earn for women, but women are not under any obligation to earn for men.
    11. Domestic violence and dowry are seen as women’s issues, while men are the prime victims.
    12. Men are forced to pay alimony to women. Women don't give alimony to men.
    13. Men are used as ATMs. Women always marry men who are richer, earn more, ‘well-settled’, and better educated.
    14. Men die on jobs daily. 97% of work related deaths are of men.
    15. Draconian laws where women land men in jail through lies.
    16. Men have to propose, buy roses, flowers, chocolates.
    17. Separate compartment and reserved seats for women in metros.
    18. Women are released first in hostage situations.
    19. Most teachers hired in schools are women.
    20. Men have to pay child support, not women.

  2. Guru

    Discriminatory policies are pervasive in schools, aimed at enriching girls education at the expense of boys, feminist institutions mandate school policy, boys are failed by feminis teachers, schools witness a surplus of female staff, sexist and harsh attitude of female teachers towards male students, and a heinous attempt to emasculate boys – misandry prevails in schools.

  3. KMFDM99

    With all due respect to Mr. Trudeau, my wife and I will decide how to best raise our son.

  4. rabel

    I think Justin may need to look at feminist theory again. There are no positive attributes in the feminist construct of masculinity. Masculinity is just the drop bucket for negative human characteristics, the infamous villain in the feminist drama. So men dressing up as feminists are a joke. The assumption that men can only be good people, parents and partners if they shed their masculinity is nothing more than political sophistry. It strongly suggests that Justin has no respect for men generally, and has no vision or understanding of positive male attributes.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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