Sophie Gregoire Trudeau: Too Confident, Would Be More Likable If She Had No Self-Esteem

Dislcaimer: This was originally going to be a handful of tweets, but there ended up being too many. I’ve literally done zero research, so it’s all a combination of opinion and things I remember from recent media hullabaloos about SGT. 

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau seems to possess the ability that all wives of famous-for-being-handsome powerful political figures seem to possess*. The ability to unfailingly piss off a large portion of the general public by trying her best to survive the barbed and gendered targeting of the media against her.

There’s nothing like being the wife of a political leader to bring out the internalized (and explicit) misogyny in CBC Facebook commenters.

Since before the election of Justin Trudeau in October 2015, Sophie has been in the media’s spotlight–at first largely for her fashion choices. It seemed like the media was looking for a Canadian Kate Middleton; they wanted to fondly envy/critique her clothes and make little jealous jabs about her heartthrob husband. There was some buzz about her charity work and her feminism, but it mostly about how hot a couple her and Justin make.

Of course, as soon as SGT started doing things other than wearing nice clothes, the good ole internet commenters popped up to remind everyone that wives of political figures ought to be policed for their every action.

Using nannies, requiring more staff, singing at certain events are all things that can be critiqued, and those critiques can be critiqued.

SGT is by no means perfect, and no one is letting her forget that.

Heaven forbid that a public female figure think she’s capable of anything other than mistakes.

So when Sophie stood up at the Press Gallery dinner and sang a tongue-in-cheek song about those things that the media and public won’t let her forget–nannies, extra staff, singing, and attention-seeking–at the same event where Justin Trudeau implied Obama gives him wedgies and Tom Mulcair gave zero fucks, you can guess whose joke received the least online appreciation.

People are generally unforgiving when women attempt humour at public events. Humour is for men. Women who attempt to be funny (especially about themselves) are just desperate and want to be perceived as likable. Obviously.

What did surprise me was this comment, posted by a woman on the above Facebook post of a CBC article about the Press Gallery dinner, paired with a video of Sophie’s singing:

This one has too much confidence & someone please cut those puppet strings. I remember the P Trudeau days & Margaret [**] was all about getting attention as well. Need to tone things down a bit…

Justin Trudeau, Sophie Gregoire
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang via the Star

If you scroll through the comments, a fair share of them lean on the side of “oh look what an annoying, attention-seeking emotional lady human ugh get her out of my royal sight.”

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau is a person with a lot of traits. Because she’s a human. She makes mistakes and has flaws and can be thoughtfully critiqued from political/feminist standpoints.

Being a woman who is “too confident” is not a flaw. I’m not even sure it’s possible for a woman to be too confident. I’m not even confident posting this on my teeny corner of the internet.

Thanks to our friend the patriarchy and its super fun binary gender system, there’s a lot of things one has to have/do/be to be accepted by ~*society*~ as a Successful Woman.

You have to be beautiful, intelligent, composed (no one like a hysterical woman), friendly (to everyone including the media), socially aware wives and mothers who make the best decisions to personally and independently care for their husband and children while maintaining some sort of career.

It’s easier when you’re a middle/upper class able-bodied white cis lady who’s married to the most politically powerful dude in Canada, of course, but there’s still a lot on that list you gotta fulfill to be a Successful Woman.

When you’re also the wife of an important white dude, if the patriarchy thinks you messed up, you get a nice big spread in some national newspaper/newscast/news oulet for evverrrryyoonnneee to see and weigh in on.

Being a woman is hard enough in a system that devalues femininity, and it’s a bajillion times harder for many marginalized women in ways that it isn’t for people like Sophie Grégoire Trudeau.

Anyone who either is a woman, knows a woman, or has watched a Dove commercial knows that confidence and self-esteem in girls plummets when she hits puberty and enters into the arena of patriarchy-policed expectations of womanhood.

Confidence in women is often construed as bossy, bitchy, attention-seeking, shrill, or fake. SGT and other women who are public political figures–the women who appear to have the most confidence–face criticism for their actions and words in ways that imply that confidence in women is impossible without doing it wrong.

So Sophie Grégoire Trudeau has confidence. That’s worth something. She’s setting an example for girls and young women that confidence is strength and humour and that it can be used to mock the patriarchal and capitalist media that devalues women on a daily basis.

She is able to use her confidence to survive the public, political life she shares with her husband and children. The fact that she sung a song about the media making fun of her singing is not only funny, but super gutsy.

sophie-1.jpg.size.custom.crop.850x567
Cliff Owen via the Star

Like the laughter of women is hugely political and important, the confidence of women is political and important.

SGT is not perfect in her role as a human. She is not a perfect feminist. She is not a perfect anything, because that’s how our horrifying species works.

But she is confident, and confidence is one of the many, many things women should not be tearing down each other over. Women have yet to receive the gift of too much confidence, so in the meantime, appreciate her sassy-ass parody of the version of herself that the media/CBC Facebook commenters believe her to be.

Justin Trudeau, Sophie Greogire Trudeau
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang via Huffington Post

*Margaret Trudeau, Princess Diana, Kate Middleton, Sarah Ferguson, ’90s Hilary Clinton

**I’m super interested in the constant comparisons between the mothers and wives of political figures (Margaret Trudeau/Sophie Grégoire Trudeau; Princess Diana/Kate Middleton) in terms of their relationship with the media. SGT has received a lot of “like mother-in-law like daughter-in-law” comments for being attention-seeking, vain, embarrassing, much like the comments Margaret Trudeau received during and after her marriage to Pierre Eliot Trudeau. If you find any articles about this, please send them to me!

An open letter to Anastasia Steele (and others)

Dear Ana,

dear anaYou don’t know me, but I met you recently. And I realized I’ve been surrounded by girls like you for my entire life.

I haven’t read the entirety of your story yet. I read 370 pages of a book written about you, called Fifty Shades of Grey. I’m going to read the rest of it soon, but by the time one a.m. rolled around, your story was making me a little nauseous and upset. I spent my mostly-sleepless night thinking about you, with a knot of worry churning in my stomach. And I realized that since I’m not your friend, that I can’t text you or call you, I needed to write you a letter. There’s a lot of things I want to tell you, Ana.

We have a lot in common. We’re close to the same age, we both love classic British novels, don’t have enormous amounts of money, and live quite simply. We both have the ability to trip over empty air and we both blush when confronted.

We both have never been in love or a relationship, and we both don’t really see it in our near future. We, along with millions of other women, have succumbed to society’s unwritten rule that to be desired we have to be as beautiful as a twentysomething A-list Hollywood actress.

On page 24, you say “I wonder if there’s something wrong with me.” When Christian Grey leaves after you have coffee together, you think “What was I thinking?” assuming that someone good looking and upper class wouldn’t be attracted to you. On page 92 you say, “God, I hope I don’t let him down. He’ll find me lacking in some way.” Page 188: “Could I feel any more inadequate?” These are just some of the many, many, many instances, Ana, where you express your insecurities about your worth as a woman in the first 370 pages of the book about you.

Like you, there are millions of girls who think they aren’t good enough based on their appearance and/or their previous sexual/romantic experience. Modern culture has constructed a timeline of milestones that need to be followed in order to be considered normal: first boyfriend(s) in middle school, first broken heart(s) in high school, lost virginity before/during/after prom, first one-night stand during frosh week. These are basically designed to make us feel left out if none of these happen to us.

By the time we reach our age, Ana, without having a significant other, we are faced with the horror of the next ten years’ worth of our friends’ Facebook engagement announcements. Judging from popular movies, TV shows, and books, our reaction is supposed to be distraught, bitter, alcohol-induced, and followed by a series of one-night stands.

Being single in our society is portrayed as a terrible omen. And you’re not the first, or the last, to wonder if there’s something wrong with you because you aren’t being chased by mobs of Colin Firths and George Clooneys–or anyone at all.

fiftyshades-gallery_0 copy
They made a movie about your book, Ana. I wish your story had warranted THIS tagline.

Ana, just because you’ve never had a boyfriend doesn’t mean you’re not worthy. Of course you are. From what I know about you, you’re nice, generous, smart, and it’s relatively fun to be your friend.

Please don’t validate, or invalidate yourself, based on your relationship status, Ana. You are an individual, not an extension of someone who wants to have sex with you.

Regardless of whether people flirt with you, want to date you, want to have a one-night stand with you, you are a person. One entire human being. You are not less of a person because you are single.

It’s okay to be single and happy. It’s okay to be single and lonely. It’s okay to fall anywhere in between, with happy days and lonely days tossed together like trail mix. It’s okay and normal to be insecure, but this does not mean you are unworthy of good things.

Like many young women, Ana, I’m worried you fell for the first man you are insanely attracted to regardless of his personality. I’m worried that movies, TV shows, and books have too greatly romanticized the idea of a young woman falling for a broody, hot-and-cold-mannered, rich man who inexplicably turns out to be marriage material. We’ve grown up in a world of Mr. Darcys and boys who pinch you in class because they “like you” but this doesn’t mean falling for a now-rude, now-polite person is healthy for us.

Of course there’s something magnetic about a man who is charming and warm one day and cold and distant the next. He’s dangerous to like because you never know if he’ll like you back–and when he does like you, oh, that’s the best feeling, isn’t it Ana?

But he’s not always the healthiest man to love, especially for women who have never been in love before.

This is what I’m worried about, Ana. Unlike most young women, you are the main character in a franchise that has (for some reason) become incredibly popular. It seems as though you jumped into a rocky relationship with a man based on sexual desire, and his behaviour on nearly every page is very, very, questionable. I’m not talking about his sexual tastes–honestly, the healthiest times you two interact is when you’re getting it on. It also seems like it’s the only time you actually like him. Maybe this will change over the course of the books about you, but even if your relationship does get healthier it doesn’t change the fact that it’s unhealthy in the first 370 pages. This is why I’m writing this letter.

I really hope you learn to love yourself, Ana, and make healthy choices for yourself.

Elizabeth_I_in_coronation_robes copyYou aren’t worth any more or less by being single or being in a relationship. Need I remind you that Elizabeth I, Jane Austen, and according to their Wikipedia pages, Anne and Emily Brontë (whom you mention you enjoy), never married? They remain some of the most famous women in history. They’re totally valid and worthy, right? So why do you think you’re not?

I think that more emphasis needs to be put on female strength rather than the apparent innate need for a significant other to validate our very existence. I love that you get to have lots of orgasms, because let’s face it, the media doesn’t really show female orgasms as a real thing, just an elusive myth.

But no offense, Ana, you’re kind of a disappointing role model. I wish you were’t, because there are so many women who feel the same way as you. I really want you to be strong, autonomous, independent, and healthy. And I want you to know what is good for you and what’s not, and when to walk away from something that is unhealthy and harmful. These are the kinds of women we need to be spotlighting in “romance” novels/movies.

It’s important to be your own best friend. Think of your closest friend. You know how beautiful and kind and smart they are from your perspective? I want you to learn to see yourself this way. I want you and women (and everyone else), to be content with yourself, to know you are more than your relationship status, and to be able to look at yourself naked in the mirror and think yes, I am pretty dang beautiful, and I am totally a human being worthy of happiness, whether or not that means being in love or in bed with someone or being single.

I don’t need someone to tell me I’m beautiful to know it. Yes, it’s nice to hear it, especially on days I’m feeling sad or lonely, but most days, most days I already know I’m beautiful–not to mention awesome.

So, dear Ana, and all of the women like you, I hope you grow to love yourself as you are, and not wait until your Colin Firth (or Jamie Dornan) comes along to sweep you off your feet. He might never show up, anyway, due to lost connections or unfortunate coincidences, so it’s best to love yourself as you are now. And if you don’t, maybe it’s time to start.

Thanks so much for reading this, Ana. I’ll be thinking of you. And when I meet the Anastasia Steeles of the world, I’ll be trying my best to show them what I have tried to show you in this letter.

Love,

Libby

Sorry for the personal content, but on behalf of small-breasted women…

Speaking as a member of the “flat chested” population of young women, I’m used to jokes about being smaller than the average B cup. (Or A cup, for that matter.) I participate in these jokes, too, because I’m confident enough in my own body to make fun of it. I make fun of my knees, too, all in jest*.

Society has it in our heads that women need breasts, preferably medium-sized to large ones. This is why $1.1 BILLION is spent on breast augmentation every year. Sure. That’s great. I have no opinion, positive or negative, on breast implants or the reasons women decide to get them. It’s not something I’ll ever do, but I am totally respecting any other ladies out there who want to enlarge their…ladies.

But here’s my issue. Being someone who is far from top-heavy, this happens a couple of times a year, usually by people who are an easy C or D cup — they express their feelings of sympathy for my “unfortunate” breast size. Things like, it’s okay, or don’t feel bad, or (my favourite) I’m sure you’ll find someone who loves you for you.

One, I’m sad that people think I’m sad about being “small.” They seem more sad about it than I do. Two, why would I feel bad? I love my body, as everyone should. And three, I really hope someone out there, in a world of 7 billion people, will love me for me and not how much my chest sticks out.

Why feel bad for small-breasted women? Expressing your sympathy about their bra size is not only unfounded (we carry less weight around, can run with more ease, and I’m sure we’ll have an easier time in our older years) but also could be detrimental to a young woman’s self image and self esteem. For me, that’s not the case, but there are thousands of other young women out there who would take a simple, careless comment like, “It’s okay you’re only a 32A, someone will love you for you” and interpret it as not being “good enough.”

The main purpose of breasts is to feed our young. Small breasted women can still perform this biological function with just as much efficiency as larger women. I know many males (and females) would argue the intrigue of the breast is much more than nourishing a hungry infant, but that’s a post for another time.

So don’t tell a woman who might be considered “flat chested” that it’s okay, or that someone will love them anyway. Of course it’s okay, and of course someone will love them! Sharing these feelings from a D perspective could make them feel undesirable, not to mention uncomfortable. There are a select group of people a woman will tolerate talking about the size of her breasts (normally restricted to mothers, embarrassing aunts, close friends, and romantic partners), and it might not be you.

On behalf of small breasted women, stop feeling bad for us. We’re fine. We’re better than fine. We can get away with things like running without having to change into a sports bra. Or maybe not wear bras at all. Aren’t we lucky?

And to quote an old saying in my family, “More than a handful is a waste.”**

*(Note the difference of poking fun at yourself and putting  yourself down.)

**That was not an invitation. Keep your hands to yourself.

Her breasts are pretty small. I don’t hear anyone expressing their sympathy for her being a beautiful piece of art.