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Did you swoon over Justin Trudeau's 'hot pix'? It's okay, there's no need to feel too guilty

The internet gave us many things. And, occupying a prominent space on it are the many memes, gifs, blogs and dedicated websites to Justin Trudeau, the 43-year-old Prime Minister of Canada. The latest images of a young Trudeau seem to have broken the internet. Bundled next to the Trudeau shaped box on the internet are two more: Barack Obama's and Joe Biden's special internet collection. Of course, there's a special box for Biden's "hot AF" pictures from when he was (much) younger.

Trudeau is a bit of an internet sensation and there are many reasons other than his beautiful face that make him so popular. He is young, open to taking up challenges that millennials find funny on the internet. Remember when he responded to 'haters' on Buzzfeed or the time he was willing to say 'yaaaas'?

While the case has already been made for the merits of the internet, it's also given birth to a shallow reading of feminism and each time, men are appreciated for their looks, a backlash is imminent. Especially on the internet, where Quora readers and Twitter users can ask uninformed rhetorical questions and blame everything on 'pseudo-feminism'.

Does anyone remember the 'hot chaiwala' from Pakistan? Women were sharing the man's photo on social media calling him cute/hot/dateable. And Trudeau's photo has been circulated with the customary "hot AF" description.

(From Left) Joe Biden, Justin Trudeau and Arshad (who shot to fame because of trending on Twitter)

(From Left) Joe Biden, Justin Trudeau and Arshad (who shot to fame because of trending on Twitter)

I can hear a mob ask: "Well, this is reverse sexism. Is this not objectification of men?"

The simple answer to that is: No.

And I am going to explain that simple no: Trudeau's social standing won't be hurt by objectification, not will his political career suffer just because the world considers him to be a good looking man. He is not being considered a 'bimbo' or a 'slut' because he is good looking. Trudeau occupies a prime privilege slot: He is White, a man and a man in power. Humour me, what happens when Trudeau messes up the Canadian economy or behaves inappropriately, do you think his looks will have any part to play in how the world will judge him? In fact, if anything, the continued interest around his pictures only serves to help the young, good looking prime minister.

There's probably not a single female politician who will admit to not being subject to real sexist commentary on their work front. An Inter Parliamentary report says that 65.5 percent female politicians claim to have been subject to humiliating sexist remarks during their parliamentary term.

When you're calling a powerful white man good looking, you're only adding another badge of privilege to his existence. It's different from sexually objectifying female politicians who face rape threats every single day, when casual sexism in their everyday life takes the attention away from their intelligence, leadership potential.

"Look at that face! "Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?" - Donald J Trump about Hillary Clinton 

"Many senators are known for many things .... We in the Senate refer to Senator Gillibrand as the hottest member." - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

"She lectures us on eating right, while she has a large posterior herself." — Senator Jim Sensenbrenner, speaking about first lady Michelle Obama and her dietary initiatives

When Rosy Senanyake, Sri Lanka's opposition United National party member with an experience of 20 years and serving as a UN Goodwill ambassador and Sri Lanka's high commissioner in Malaysia asked a question in the parliament, the respondent said, he was choked by her beauty: "You are such a charming woman. I cannot explain my feelings here. But if you meet me outside Parliament, I will describe them … My thoughts are running riot … I don't want to reveal [them] to the public." Senanayake has talked about how she is never recognised as a person who has achieved good work but as a beauty in the past.

A radio host had asked (about Hillary Clinton during the campaign): "Will this country want to watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?"

What's the common thread in all these comments? All the references to female politicians are made in connection with their professional competence. Hillary Clinton shouldn't be elected because 'Look at that face', Kirsten Gillibrand's only qualification is being the "hottest member," and Michelle Obama can't talk about improving the country's health because "she has a large posterior herself." Objectification is that which takes away from the person, his/her capabilities, competence and virtues. I find it hard to imagine any of Trudeau's colleagues address him differently, influenced by his beautiful, charming Greek-god face in the future. Looking at objectification through a feminist lens tells us that men and women might go through the same thing but the outcome differs drastically for men and women. It is important for us to take into account that the issue of objectification lies in the lopsided institutional power dynamics. Sexualisation of women has been a social ritual that reduces the role of women into being a 1) sexual object — women's bodies are their most important asset, not intelligence of other virtues 2) subordinate — a lesser social, political and economic standing of women benefits men.

That said, there's plenty wrong with gender and how it's understood in society. Men and women suffer greatly because of gender inequality and the pressure men and boys feel to live up to socially acceptable norms of masculinity cannot be ignored. However, the lens of 'equal objectification' cannot be applied and should not be the end goal of pursuing gender equality. We must first understand the systemic inequality that pervades at every level, understand the inequality and its many layers in terms of class, caste and gender. A human being can be sexy (and it's a subjective definition) and still be many other things. Women, unfortunately are not afforded the same luxury. And that's why you must curb your enthusiasm to spout 'reverse sexism'.

Trudeau's objectification isn't leading to victim-shaming/blaming, catcalling and a sudden decrease of majority of men in Parliaments across the world.  I am not saying that men cannot be objectified at all either, but that occurs at an extremely individual level, definitely not at level of becoming a social phenomenon. Saying women objectify men too is as ludicrous as the #NotAllMen hashtag — self-serving, narcissistic and yet another hedonistic attempt to steer the attention away from the very real ingrained misogyny that women have to deal with every second of every minute of every hour of every day.

Updated Date: Mar 03, 2017 12:47 PM

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