Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau missed the point of International Women’s Day, but so did the people attacking her

Graphic by Kelly Campbell.

Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau sparked controversy when she posted an Instagram photo of her and her husband, Justin Trudeau, holding hands on the eve of International Women’s Day. In the caption she asked her female followers to take a picture holding hands with a male ally with the hashtag “tomorrow in hand” – a call for us women to “celebrate the boys and men in our lives who encourage us to be who we truly are, who treat girls and women with respect, and who aren’t afraid to speak in front of others.”

That’s because, as many have wryly pointed out, men should be handsomely and publicly acknowledged for doing the bare minimum: believing that women are human beings worthy of respect and celebration.

But Grégoire-Trudeau makes a fair point, and her heart’s clearly in the right place. Feminism is about gender equality, including the advocacy of women’s rights. This inevitably entails that men, women, and others need to stand together at the forefront in support for equal rights.

But like other holidays recognizing important people in our lives that have made tremendous change, International Women’s Day should be a day about women. Just read the name. It should be a day where we remember all women suffragists who fought tenaciously to expedite their agency in the world. It should be a day where we remember the women who stood up and continue to stand up against a patriarchal society that continues to find ways to infringe upon women’s rights and freedoms. It should be a day to celebrate that womanhood comes in all shapes and forms, and that each is a beautiful ode to the mosaic of expression.

International Women’s Day marks all the progress that women have made in the battle for equal rights and acknowledges how far they have yet to go, so, let’s hold hands with the women in our lives who have inspired, encouraged, and continue to motivate us throughout our struggles. And let’s also recognize that women are in no need of having their hands held.

Gregoire-Trudeau’s message may be infuriating to some, coming across as explicit faux-feminism. But International Women’s Day is also about making room for dialogue and achieving progress. This means that instead of bashing and slamming those we disagree with, we must react to the dissenters and obstacles we face with a prioritization of respectful dialogue. That is the ideal representation of what International Women’s Day is all about: equality, inclusion, and respect.