When photos emerged of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau trick-or-treating with his family for Halloween this week I held my breath and braced for the backlash.
Unsurprisingly, the world swooned at the way Trudeau prioritised being a dad, not to mention his rather endearing costume of Clark Kent. But what about his son? Was no one thinking about the children?!
We now have photographic evidence that Trudeau allowed his three-year-old son Hadrien to be dressed up as a girl.
More specifically, the toddler dressed up as Skye, the character from Paw Patrol, complete with a pink dress and pink accessories. To the uninitiated, the Nickelodeon TV series is about five male rescue dogs and only one female rescue dog – a gender split not dissimilar to real life. (Skye’s probably paid less than her male co-stars too.)
Recent history tells us that the crime of boys dressing up as girls does not go unpunished when posted on the Internet.
When a mother in the US allowed her five-year-old son to wear a pair of pink zebra-patterned shoes on his first day of preschool it made headlines around the world, and the good citizens of the internet informed the mother that the shoes were “wrong,” would scar the boy for life and might even “turn him gay”.
The internet also struggled to cope when German father Nils Pickert wore a skirt in solidarity with his similarly attired son in 2012.
Closer to home, the idea of a boy wearing a dress is considered so abhorrent by some that the “no” campaign against same-sex marriage thought it would be a persuasive argument to press home their case.
They filmed an advertisement featuring mother Cella White complaining: “The school told my son that he could wear a dress to school next year if he wanted”.
This anecdote turned out to be an “alternative fact”, and it is unclear how a boy being told he could wear a dress relates in any way to the issue of marriage equality. But it does highlight the strong opposition to dressing across gender boundaries.
Then we had the unseemly spectacle of Cory Bernardi unloading on a South Australian school that permitted boys to wear dresses for the day.
“In the hypersensitive time where we’ve got the same-sex marriage debate, we’ve got people concerned about gender ideological training in schools, I think this is entirely inappropriate,” Bernardi said on ABC radio in Adelaide.
Never mind that the “Do It In a Dress Day” was a novel fundraiser to raise money for African girls’ education. As a self-professed Christian, Bernardi might have better spent his air-time criticising the Australian government’s cuts to aid – the OECD found Australia’s aid to Africa fell 0.5 per cent.
Given this history, it seemed inevitable that we’d witness some hand-wringing about the psychological damage being done to little Hadrien Trudeau for being dressed up as a girl, and outrage at his father for allowing it.
But here we are, three days later and there’s been barely a murmur about “irresponsible liberal parenting”, “political correctness gone mad”, or speculation over the sexuality of the three-year-old boy.
Has Trudeau managed the seemingly impossible, and charmed the peddlers of traditional masculinity? Or do they simply shrug their shoulders and mumble “Well, he’s Canadian. What do you expect?”
I’d love to think that we have finally reached the sunny uplands of equality where it is totally unremarkable for a boy to wear a pink dress like his favourite TV character. But I’m not holding my breath.
From our language like “sissy” and “you run like a girl”, to our gendered toys and books, boys are constantly being taught that girls are inferior and therefore not worthy of respect.
It’s this same lack of respect for girls and women that can later manifest into far more sinister and deadly forms of sexism, such as sexual harassment and domestic violence.
This attitude is also harmful to boys – how can they ever have meaningful and emotionally intimate relationships with women if they think women are inferior?
The world needs more little boys dressing up as Skye, and more dads like Trudeau who will proudly take them out in public.