Tina Brown, founder and CEO of Tina Brown Live Media, brings the Women in the World Summit to Toronto on Sept. 11.
Canadian feminist friends tell me not to fall into the trap of Justin-mania when we in the U.S. look wistfully north across the border. Yes, we know gender parity in Prime Minister Trudeau's cabinet doesn't solve daycare problems; that women may be on equal footing there, but are still underrepresented in Parliament. Yes, we appreciate that attempting a "feminist foreign policy" can be a little tricky when Canadian-made armoured vehicles are used by the deeply repressive Saudi Arabian regime against its own citizens.
Yet even as we pay due deference to skepticism about Mr. Trudeau, consider the players in our global horror show: Trump, Putin, Venezuela's Maduro, the Philippines' Duterte, Turkey's Erdogan, the ever-jovial Kim Jong-un ogling his phallic warheads. Toxic testosterone has been unleashed on the world with a vengeance, where along with the new authoritarianism we also have, thanks to U.S. President Donald Trump, a celebration of the coarsest notion of virility: bullying, bragging, belittling, anything to claim a "win." Sometimes that's useful. This week, in his desperation to announce a deal – any deal – macho man gave the finger to his own side by striking a deal with the Democrats to extend the debt ceiling for three months, then tweeted friendly words that gave hope for the Dream Act. No student of Mr. Trump's cruel capriciousness sees this as anything more than bait-and-switch.
President Trump's loutish modus operandi is not an aberration, but a choice. We should have seen it coming. Social progress is never linear or inexorable. The creation of the modern liberal order provoked the retorts of communism and fascism and the deaths of 120 million people. After the abolition of slavery, blacks in the U.S. endured the savage reprisals of post-Reconstruction. One of the things that American liberals were guilty of in 2016, after eight years of Barack Obama, is that they were surprised. Mr. Trump's crude interpretation of what manhood looks like is a direct reaction to the progressive gains made in the past decade by women, minorities and the LGBTQ community.
But if the world's stage is dominated by the battle of the dinosaurs, the rise of Mr. Trudeau and of French President Emmanuel Macron proves that a different, more evolved paradigm of masculinity can win. The smart, engaged women they have married are true thought-partners, not trophies. Mr. Macron is even happy to be turned into arm candy by the charismatic Brigitte, who's 24 years older than him. For proof positive that it's time gender stereotyping expired, look no further than Angela Merkel, Germany's mighty Chancellor. Women too emotional? Just the sight of Ms. Merkel's purpose-built cherry jacket and roomy grey trousers in an ocean of self-congratulatory power neckties at a G20 summit affords us some relief: Thank God for one sure-footed professional with moral clarity at the centre of the chaos. "With Merkel," says historian Margaret MacMillan, "it's never about her."
As the founder of the Women in the World summits, I am not about to argue that if women ruled the world, we would see more kumbaya. A civilized man saved France from the vicious dogmas of Marine Le Pen. And Britain's Theresa May has proved disconcertingly inept at politics. (In fairness, she's the classic "glass cliff" incumbent, inheriting 10 Downing Street only after the array of feckless upper-class Tory men had bollixed up the vote on Brexit.)
But I will contend that in America's long trudge toward gender equality, the new political brutalism has triggered a tipping point. Since the Women's March on Washington, the largest single-day protest in U.S. history, women in record numbers have been signing up to run for office. They now fight back against bullies and harassers with a clenched fist in the velvet glove. The busting of the bro culture at Uber and the revolt against sexual harassment permeating Fox News forced reform by rattling board rooms and shaming advertisers. Dubious male statues are noisily being torn down, but a startling new female sculpture has gained permanence in the nation's hearts: the small bronze figure of Fearless Girl facing down the bull representing the iconic firms of Wall Street.
So after seven months of Trump macro-aggression can we not celebrate the Trudeau government's steady if imperfect progress in gender equality? Credit the PM's judgment and recruitment energy that some of the top players in his cabinet are women he's trusted with big meaty jobs – Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott. They have power, not just " influence."
If inserting the word "feminist" before "foreign policy" means that 95 per cent of bilateral foreign aid by 2022 will benefit women (or for that matter giving refuge to 31 terrified gay and bisexual men fleeing Chechnya's cruel homosexual purge), I say bring it on.