By Isabelle Khoo | The Huffington Post Canada | 17 March 2017
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau continues to emphasize the need for men to be involved in the fight for gender equality.
On Wednesday, the 41-year-old mom, activist and wife of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended a reception for United Nations’ 61st Commission on the Status of Women.
Grégoire Trudeau was announced as one of five influencers by Women Deliver, Deliver for Good, a global organization that advocates for the health, rights and wellbeing of girls and women. She gave a speech where she emphasized the importance of good role models for boys.
“I was talking to a group of teenagers on International Women’s Day. When I asked the group, ‘Raise your hands, who has somebody in the room that they can tell their suffering to, share their struggles, and be vulnerable with?’ Almost every girl. And then I asked the boys. What do you think happened?” she said.
“Our boys don’t have a lot of mentors out there. There are so many great, amazing, wise men in our societies. We need you. We need you on this quest for more equality because it means a more just world for everybody.”
Boys often have a harder time expressing themselves due to the stereotype that men don’t cry or show emotions. According to parenting expert Alyson Schafer, “[Boys] are socialized to pack away their emotions and not to reveal their authentic selves. This is problematic because human beings need to feel a sense of connection and belonging.”
This isn’t the first time the mom-of-three (who has two sons) has called out the need for men to help fight for gender equality. On International Women’s Day, Grégoire Trudeau encouraged women to embrace their male allies to “ignite change.”
“Let’s celebrate the boys and men in our lives who encourage us to be who we truly are, who treat girls & women with respect, and who aren’t afraid to speak up in front of others,” she wrote on Instagram. “Together, we can create a movement that inspires more men to join the fight to build a better tomorrow with equal rights & opportunities for everyone … because #EqualityMatters.”
The 41-year-old was criticized for putting the focus on men on a day that celebrates women. Calgary MP Michelle Rempel called out Grégoire Trudeau on Twitter, writing, “I've never had to have my hand held. #equalitymatters.”
Grégoire Trudeau followed up her initial response to the backlash and explained why she thinks men and boys are so important in the fight for equality in her speech Wednesday.
“This is why, a week ago, on International Women’s Day, I wrote a joint op-ed with the CEO of PLAN Canada, Caroline Riseboro, and we were talking about the importance, through Champion of Change – that’s their program – to educate young boys and men on the fact that not only do we have to treat women as our equals, but because they are our equals,” she said.
“They give us life. These life-givers, through our bodies, through our genetics, we foster a type of democracy. Any kind of disrespect towards that means a high price to pay for everybody.”
Last week, she emphasized the need to do away with gender roles.
“True equality for women comes when we break down gender stereotypes and have frank discussions about what boys and girls ‘should’ be, and ‘should’ do,” she wrote.