Last week, I'm sure you know, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was annoyed when the opposition parties — using a time-honoured strategy — had deliberately delayed a vote by 42 seconds. The Conservative whip, Gord Brown, was behind a group of NDP MPs. Trudeau, in an unprecedented move, stormed across the aisle of the House of Commons, said "Get the f**k out of my way," grabbed MP Brown by the arm and dragged him out of the group.
Enough with the blather about "he placed his hand on the whip's arm and led him to his seat." The Speaker himself used the word "manhandled" in describing the incident — as in, "It is not appropriate to manhandle other members." Brown reported later that he'd said to Trudeau, "Let go of my arm — now!"
During the scuffle that ensued, Trudeau inadvertently elbowed NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the breast.
And here is where women must refrain from speaking our experience.
Ruth Ellen Brosseau was upset by the incident. "It was very overwhelming and so I left the chamber to go and sit in the lobby. I missed the vote because of this."
Her fellow MP, Niki Ashton, spoke quickly, in the heat of the moment about the nature of the altercation. She referred to it as "gendered violence" and suggested that this kind of sexual harassment made young women feel their workplace isn't safe.
Within hours, after a few apologies, the perpetrator had gone free. Crossing the floor of the House, using vulgar language and grabbing a fellow MP — which had never been done before, mind you — was forgotten. At the top of the news now was Ruth Ellen Brosseau, that big crybaby. From across the country — accompanied by the crudest words anyone has yet thought up to call women — came sneering accusations and vicious threats.
The anonymous army of trolls on Twitter were egged on and backed up by the legitimate commentators and pundits, standing in line to save us beleaguered Canadians from a woman who doesn't seem to know the difference between an elbow that hits her by accident and a man who wallops her on purpose. A prominent headline in The Globe and Mail proclaims Associating elbowgate with violence against women is an insult to victims.
Of course she knows it was an accident! What are you, kidding? You'd have to be an idiot to believe he did that on purpose.
But here's a question: so what? She was hit in the breast by an elbow. It hurt. Is she supposed to act as if nothing happened? Is she wrong to have been upset by what happened? There are many women — some of whom have experienced violence in their homes and elsewhere — who are unsettled and frightened by a man showing such blatant anger. Should she apologize to the Prime Minister for having been in his way when he broke the most fundamental parliamentary rule by crossing the floor and "manhandling" another MP?
A group of friends are hanging out on the lawn. Suddenly, with no warning, a car careens off the street onto the lawn and hits one of them. Fortunately, she's not injured but she found it unsettling and she wanted to get off the lawn. She goes into the house.
The others are nervous and upset about what happened and one of them speaks sharply to the driver. But the driver is very much admired and before you know it, a crowd has gathered with many people saying, "He didn't mean it. It was an accident. She's making a big deal out of it. It's not as if he did it on purpose. How can he be held responsible for this inadvertent act?"
He drove his car on to the lawn! She was perfectly within her rights to be on the lawn. If he hadn't driven his car on to the lawn — which, by the way, is against the law — none of this would have happened. It may have been an accident but it was an accident that was his fault.
Is it possible she'll feel a little nervous the next time she's on the lawn with her friends? Is she expected to shrug it off and say, "Well, hey, it could happen to anyone. You're hanging out on the lawn and a guy drives his car on to the lawn and hits you — it was an accident. Get over it. Let's move on to something much more important than the fact that a guy drove his car on to the lawn and hit me with it!"
This makes me so angry, I can't even tell you. Male columnists — here and everywhere — can't get enough of it. When is Ruth Ellen going to grow up?
Meanwhile, that guy who drove his car on to the lawn and hit her is accepting flowers and boxes of chocolates from all those people who believe that Ruth Ellen done him wrong.
Remember, he didn't mean to do it and as for her, she should deal with that bruise behind closed doors and when she comes out, she should smile and be nice.