Elbowgate: It’s About Male Entitlement

Full contact manspreading on the house floor

I don’t think I’m alone when I rolled my eyes at the drama of Ruth Ellen Brosseau’s reaction to evidently being pushed by Justin Trudeau. Had there been an NHL ref on the floor of the House, she’d have drawn a penalty for the most obvious dive of the season. Or session, as it were.

It’s unfortunate, because she didn’t have to add the melodrama. It is egregious for the PM to shove past another person as though they don’t exist to get what he wants. His lack of notice of her very existence is what is at issue, not where he hit her, or how hard, or whether it was an accident.

If Nikki Ashton wanted to, as she put it, “view it through a gendered lens” she did it in a hamfisted way. It’s almost insulting to insinuate that female members are at risk in the House of Commons at the hands of their colleagues, when less than two years ago one of our brave soldiers was murdered by a crazed gunman down the street.

Let’s relax the hyperbole, shall we?

Particularly because there is indeed a gendered lens through which to view this, one Ms. Ashton missed entirely. It’s one of male entitlement.

Yesterday’s ugly actions by Justin Trudeau are what it looks like when someone so entrenched in lifelong privilege doesn’t get what they want.

They lose it. “It” being the willingness to see those around them as actual humans, each with their own desires and decisions to make. They become so laser-focused in pressing their own agenda they strip others of their personal agency. It didn’t necessarily look to me like Ruth Ellen Brosseau was a victim of assault. I can’t even completely disagree with the boors who felt the need to point out that as a former bartender, she had probably experienced worse in the workplace. That may be true, but I’m a former bartender too, and I don’t think we want to import the cultural mores of a tavern onto the house floor, do we?

She is an elected member of our parliament shoved aside as though invisible, when her presence proved inconvenient to the man in charge. That is a glimpse into the psyche of Justin Trudeau, and it is a problem.


Manspreading” is some men’s rationale that they are entitled to more space because they would be more comfortable if they had it. It presupposes that their needs supersede a woman’s. Justin Trudeau has taken full-contact manspreading to the House of Commons. He needed to get through, and his needs superseded Ruth Ellen Brosseau’s. When his PR brain wasn’t engaged, he didn’t even consider her existence.

Is it really a “man” thing? Well, there is an argument that it isn’t necessarily attached to gender, I grant that. While I don’t know too many women who would have stomped across a room and shoved their way into a crowd to enforce their will, I do know one woman who might have. Me. That’s not something I’m proud of at all. It’s a symptom of the fact that at times, I can be an entitled little brat, who needs to get my way. I chalk it up to my parents telling me I was a special snowflake one too many times.

Now, consider how many times Justin Trudeau has been told he was a special snowflake. He was born with every possible advantage. Genetically blessed with good looks, especially in the House of Commons crowd. Smart, or smart enough. Wealthy. And a crowd of sycophants surrounding him from birth, telling him his is the chosen one. Justin Trudeau doesn’t have the proverbial invisible knapsack, Justin Trudeau has a matching set of invisible Louis Vuitton luggage, full of privilege and elite entitlements. It’s no wonder he loses his mind when he doesn’t get his way.

The question then becomes, when will it happen again, and how badly will Canada be embarrassed?

The last time I wrote about systemic male elitism in Canadian politics, it was 2005. Scott Reid had just made his comment about Canadians (subtext women, subtext mothers) spending the proposed Conservative daycare credit on beer and popcorn. Canadians frothed. Liberals lost. I wrote about it on my MySpace blog, and I remember noting that if there’s one thing Canadians can’t abide, it’s an “I’m better than you” attitude. Before that time and since, it has contributed to the downfall of every $16 orange juice drinking, sexist epithet-hurling, minor league football team funding, high flying senate seat abusing politician in recent memory, male or female. Shoving folks out of the way to get your way is a new level of “I’m better than you”-ness that Canadians are unlikely to accept.

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