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Trudeau’s missed opportunities to call out misogyny | Naomi Sayers

Thursday, September 16, 2021 @ 1:12 PM | By Naomi Sayers

Naomi Sayers %>
Naomi Sayers
When I was in grade 10, I remember a group of white girls would whisper certain words under their breath whenever I walked past them. And, I had to walk past them; I was the only Indigenous female student in these academic classes, mostly science and math. They liked to sit in the front rows or on the side aisles near the doors. I sat in the back. Anything to make myself less noticeable to them, others and the teacher.

The words? Whore. Slut.

Sometimes, they tried to disguise the words with a cough before announcing it and after saying it. Cough, slut, cough. I never talked to them, and I never hung out with them. I eventually dropped out of those classes, however, and switched, on the advice of guidance counsellors, to college stream math classes (since the counsellors said, I wasn’t really that good at math). Not that it mattered but I never even dated anyone in high school.

The slut and whore narrative are powerful enough to control a young girl’s body enough to force her to change her habits to accommodate others.

Most recently, Prime Minister Trudeau was on the campaign trail and an alleged anti-vaccine protester shouted, calling his wife, a whore.

With the power of social media, the whore and slut narrative become omnipresent in my daily life as an Indigenous woman online, especially one who is out about her sex working experiences.

This election has forced these narratives that racialized and Indigenous women know so well into the spotlight. One reason being that many individuals are persuaded to join “freedom movements” or “bodily autonomy” movements. But freedom and bodily autonomy for whom? And at what costs? The questions remain when I watch and observe the protests at the campaign stops. Funny, though, a woman can choose to do what she wants with her body but only if it accords with society’s expectation about that body. White, abled women are deemed more suitable because of their closeness to conventional western feminine beauty expectations: thin or reasonably thin, abled-bodied, fair-skinned (white), youthful and fun!

This election, for some, is a welcomed process. For some, it is another unnecessary evil: The wheels in the democracy cog that keep turning.

I think that the prime minister missed an opportunity to call out the misogyny that many of his colleagues face including his opponents and his own cabinet. His own minister was called Climate Barbie one time. It is so easy to demean and dehumanize women, from young girls in high school to cabinet ministers. For an alleged feminist leader, I don’t think it was very feminist of him to ignore these indisputable facts. A better response would have been one that called out the misogyny in that moment. Perhaps, this was one public moment that he interacted with the whore or slut narrative, and perhaps, we can’t fault him for his lack of experience with feminism after all.

Naomi Sayers is an Indigenous lawyer from the Garden River First Nation with her own public law practice. She sometimes teaches primarily on Indigenous rights and governance issues. She tweets under the moniker @kwetoday.

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